Q. I read that good lawn maintenance involves aeration. Exactly what is this and when should it be done?
A. Aeration is a process that creates openings in turf to reduce thatch and help with water infiltration, nutrient absorption, and air movement to roots. It is often done to improve heavily compacted soil. There are three different types of turf aeration. Core aeration removes cores of soil that are deposited back on the lawn. Walking, mowing, and watering break up the cores of soil and help redistribute them over time. Slicing is a method that cuts narrow slits in the turf with rotating blades. Spiking uses spikes to cut holes in the turf, but soil is not removed, so it may actually contribute to compaction. Core aeration is the most effective method of aeration because it allows the most room for water, nutrients, and root development.
The best time to aerate lawns is in the spring or fall when the turf is actively growing but not under stress from disease or insect problems, drought, or heat. The soil should be slightly moist but not saturated. Aerating in the spring opens up the turf, which can favor weed production, so fall is generally the best time.
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