Homeowners often overlook problems associated with soil compaction. Insects, diseases, nematodes, improper watering and a lack of fertilizer are often blamed for a lawns decline when the real culprit is compaction. The problem starts when the top 4 inches of the soil become compressed, impeding the movement of air, water and nutrients to the grass roots. This stresses the grass plants, making them less able to compete with weeds and slow to recuperate from injury. In time a compacted lawn needs renovation.
Compacted soil contributes to the accumulation of thatch because restricted oxygen levels in highly compacted soils impair the activity of earthworms and other thatch-decomposing organisms. Left unmanaged, thatch can lead to serious maintenance and pest problems. Thatch accumulates faster on compacted soils and heavy clay soils than on well-aerated soils. Therefore, some lawns may require frequent aeration to aid in thatch control.
If soil is compacted, the solution is straightforward: aerify. The practice of physically removing cores of soil and leaving holes or cavities in the lawn is defined as core aeration or aerification.
Benefits of core aeration
- Loosens compacted soil and increases the availability of water and nutrients.
- Enhances oxygen levels in the soil, stimulating root growth and enhancing the activity of thatch-decomposing organisms.
- While removing cores of soil, the spoons or tines also sever roots, rhizomes and stolons. Grass plants are stimulated to produce new shoots and roots that “fill up” the holes in the lawn and increase the density of the turf.
- Reduces water runoff.
- Increases the lawn’s drought tolerance and improves its overall health.