Aerators perform a key role in helping everyone from gardening enthusiasts to golf course superintendents bring out the best in their lawns and greens.
Although not carried out as often as lawn care maintenance such as mowing, fertilizing and watering, aeration provides just as important of a role in the overall process.
What is Aeration?
Aeration is the process of perforating the soil with lots of small holes. Doing so allows air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the soil and reach the roots of the grass.
This alleviates soil compaction, which typically happens where laws get the most foot traffic. When soil becomes compacted, it is more dense and is not able to “breathe”.
As a result, the quality of the soil suffers and grass does not grow to its fullest potential.
Aerating a lawn can be as simple as poking holes into the soil with a pitchfork or some other spiked tool (often referred to as spike aeration). But to perform it properly across a large area, you need to use aerator equipment or machinery.
How Do You Know If You Need To Aerate Your Soil?
Once you’re experienced with using aerators and how they improve the look and feel of greens, it’s easy to see when it’s required.
If you’re considering using one for the first time, however, there is an easy way to test if your soil is compacted.
Cut out a section of your lawn that receives a good amount of foot traffic. You need to go down about 6” deep, then measure how deep the grass roots extend.
If the roots are less than 2” deep, your soil is likely compacted and will benefit from aeration. Other signs include seeing a thatch later of ½” or more, and patchy soil that’s clearly in need of some help.
Benefits of Aerating Golf Greens
One of the “secrets” behind how golf greens look so green and healthy is because the superintendents use aerators.
The benefits of doing so include:
All of which contribute to creating that smooth, luscious green golfing surface in combination with other lawn maintenance.
Types of Aerators
There are two main types of aerators; Spike Aerators and Plug Aerators. Here is a look at how these two types of aerators differ:
Spike aerators perform a similar function as using a fork or some other type of spiked tool by poking holes into the ground.
In fact, there are some very crude and simple spike aerator tools. Such as aerator shoes, which are essentially shoes with spikes on the sole. As well as small hand tools. Both of which are better suited to small lawns than large golfing greens.
The drawback of spike aerators is that they provide short term soil decompaction. You’ll typically need to repeat the process several times a year.
The main pros of using spike aerators are that there is a range of easy-to-use inexpensive equipment, and it’s quick to do.
Plug aerators are generally seen as a better, long-term option. Not only do they spike the soil to allow air to penetrate deeper, but they also have hollow tines that remove about an inch of the soil.
By removing plugs of soil, they allow more air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the ground. Meaning you will not need to aerate the area as often, and the results are generally a lot better.
The only real drawback is that you need to use specialist equipment. However, if you want high-quality greens you have no option but to use a plug aerator.
How Often Should You Aerate a Green?
There are a lot of factors that contribute to how often you should aerate a green. Often there is no right or wrong answer unless you’re green is in obvious need of aerating.
Major factors are the quality of the green, environmental factors, what type of aerating you’re performing, and some other small things.
With all things considered, as a general rule of thumb most large golf courses aerate their greens between one and three times a year.
In climates that are generally warm year-round, core aeration is performed when the grass is growing most aggressively. That means summer, and possibly spring and/or fall.
If you want to get the most out of aerating your lawn, green, or whatever area you’re working on, here are some tips: