Professional Lawn and Landscape Care

Consider also that aerification is merely a short-term disruption that has long-term benefits for the lawn. When you see them, remember that without those little holes, the grass would eventually die.

Preventative maintenance is an integral part of successful lawn care management. Golfers view aerification as an inconvenience that takes the greens out of play for a day, pulling cores from the greens and leaving holes that can affect putting for many days before healing. To add insult to injury, aerification is best done in many parts of the country during mid to late summer, at the height of the playing season and when most greens are in prime condition.

Aerification achieves three important objectives. It relieves soil compaction, it provides a method to improve the soil mixture around the highest part of a grass plant's roots and it reduces or prevents the accumulation of excess thatch.

Like so many things, the quality of a good turfgrass stand is more than skin deep. In fact, the condition of a lawn has a lot to do with what goes on below the surface. In order to grow a high quality lawn, it must have deep, healthy roots. Good roots demand oxygen. In good soil, they get the oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles.

Over time, the traffic from people as well as mowing equipment tends to compact the soil under the lawn, particularly when the soil contains a lot of clay. When soil becomes compacted, the air pockets on which the roots depend are crushed, and the roots are essentially left gasping for air. Without oxygen, the grass plants become weaker and will eventually wither and die.

Aerification is a mechanical process that creates more air space in the soil and promotes deeper rooting, thus helping the grass plants stay healthy. In most cases, it’s done by removing cores (those plugs you sometimes see near a green or in fairways) from the compacted soil, allowing for an infusion of air and water that brings a resurgence of growth.

Finally, growing of turf adds to a layer of organic matter on the surface. This layer, called thatch, is an accumulation of dead stems, leaves and roots. A little organic matters makes for a resilient lawn, but too much invites diseases and insects.  Aerification is one of the best ways to reduce an existing layer and prevent an excess of thatch from becoming established.

Other aerification techniques use machines with “tines” or knives that simply poke holes through the soil profile. A new technique even uses ultra high-pressure water that’s injected through the soil profile to create small holes that relieve some compaction but heal quickly.

There are many types of aerifying machines with different attachments that address different problems in the various stages of the life of a turfgrass plant. The bottom line is that aerification is a necessary practice usually done during the growing season to allow the aerification holes to heal before winter arrives.

Advantages:

  • Relieves soil compaction
  • Allows deeper, faster penetration of water, air, fertilizer, and pesticides in the root zone.
  • Allows for the atmospheric release of toxic gases from the root zone.
  • Improves drainage, helping to dry out saturated soils and prevent the formation of puddles.
  • Improves water penetration into dry or hydrophobic soils.
  • Penetrates the soil layers that develop from topdressing with dissimilar materials.
  • Provides thatch control by stimulating the environmental conditions that promote healthy soil microorganism activity for thatch decomposition.
  • Increases rooting by constructing a medium more conducive to active root growth.

Disadvantages:

  • Temporarily disrupts lawn surface.
  • Increases turf surface desiccation as roots are exposed.
  • Produces coring holes that provide a better habitat for insect pests.
     
Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources