Aeration and Power Raking

This is the time to aerate. The soil temperatures are warm enough and we have some good moisture to make it a little softer. According to those in turfgrass academia, aerating twice yearly is important for multiple reasons. It reduces compaction allowing nutrients into the soil easier, and helps the roots to expand and grow more easily. Additionally, if you have a thatch problem, which you probably don’t if your in Denver metro, it will be the first step in fixing it. As you pull the plug up to the surface, it gives it the chance to decompose and that layer of thatch to break down. It is also a practice used by golf courses. If that’s not enough to convince you it’s important I don’t know what is.

Keep in mind there are a couple important components to aeration. First, it is a requirement that each area gets aerated twice. The plugs pulled need to be around two inches apart, more turfgrass studies…. The aerators pull them four inches apart and therefore it needs to be gone over twice. Sadly, as I watched a competitor aerate a neighbor I watched how little they cared. It’s a company that hires contractors and pays them by the job so they have incentive to rush. They sloppily did some ugly circles, didn’t get close to the edges and missed huge chunks here and there. We meticulously go around the perimeter twice, then side to side, then turn the aerators at a 45 degree angle and do it again. We RARELY miss any spots. Additionally, we pull the plugs out of the aerator after each yard. If this isn’t done there is a chance diseases, weeds, etc. could be moved from an unhealthy yard to a healthy yard.

Every year I get asked about power raking, “thatching,” whatever. We do not do it and never will until the technology changes. Current power rakes pull up more healthy, living material than dead, thatch-like material. This is directly from studies done by those also in turfgrass academia. Pulling up this much living material is said to be harmful to the turf. Here are a few facts about thatch…
-A small amount is healthy, it acts as a layer of insulation while still allowing nutrients in. There is ALWAYS a small amount of thatch, and it’s ok if it’s not too thick.
-Thatch is rarely a problem on the front range. This is from an article written by CSU turfgrass, here in Colorado. It is a slight problem on the western slope, but not down here.
-If you genuinely do have a thatch problem it may very well be from too much fertilizer or watering. Thatch will build up excessively from dead grass clippings that haven’t been decomposed properly. If you are over watering and over fertilizing, and not bagging that could be a problem.
-Finally, if you have thatch the best way to get rid of it, according to CSU turfgrass, is twice yearly aeration. Spring and fall. I recommend April-May and September.

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