Importance of aerification in turf
Mechanical aeration, simply, is the process of poking holes into the soil. This is done for two main reasons: to increase air exchange between the soil and the atmosphere and to relieve compaction. Aeration can increase nutrient uptake and water penetration into the soil as well. Aeration can be performed by a variety of different tools and can go by many different names, such as aeravation, coring, aerification, and vibra-coring.
Compacted Soil in Turf
Just like turf's leaves, its roots also need air to survive. Over time, soils naturally become more compacted and soil compaction can happen more quickly in areas with equipment and foot traffic. This compaction reduces the pore space between soil particles, making it more difficult for roots to survive. Turf grown in compacted soil is low in vigor, has poor recovery, and can have weeds present that thrive in compacted soils. Examples of these "indicator" weeds are bluegrass, chickweed, goosegrass, mustard, dandelion, nettle, and plantain.
How to Properly Aerate
Aeration helps relieve compaction and increase air exchange, so it is important to aerate deep into the root zone, usually to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Since deep holes will be created, the operator should be careful to avoid any in-ground hazards, such as irrigation components and tree roots. The frequency of aeration required will depend on the accrual of compaction. Home lawns may only need aeration every couple of years, where heavily used sports turf fields may require several aerations per year. Heavy clay soils usually require more frequent aeration. Aeration should be done uniformly across a turf area. Aeration should be done to healthy turf under fairly dry conditions. This may seem odd since aeration can be used as a rescue method for unhealthy turf, but the idea is to use aeration as a preventative measure.
The information in this article comes from the Louisiana Turfgrass Association. For more information on lawn care contact the LSU AgCenter office in Port Allen at 225-336-2416 or the Plaquemine office at 225-687-5155.