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Old 04-21-2011, 09:35 AM
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lawn aeration: beneficial, or bullshit?

professional lawn maintenance folks all offer lawn aeration as one of their services. It doesn't seem to me like pulling a plug of soil every foot or so would make much difference, but then again my yard looks like shit, so my opinions on these things probably shouldn't be trusted. OTOH, the folks who offer these services get paid for it, so I'm suspicious of their pitch as well.

So what's the straight dope on lawn aeration? Is it truly as beneficial as the service providers claim, or is it the "muffer drive belt" of lawn maintenance?
Old 04-21-2011, 09:43 AM
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It's the best thing you can do for your lawn. Better than any chemical you can pay for.

Lawns aren't natural and one of their biggest issues is that they have shallow root systems and are prone to both thatch and compacted soil. Aeration allows spaces for water, oxygen and nutrients to reach the roots.
Old 04-21-2011, 09:45 AM
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I can only report that my mom's lawn does look better (well, after the dog turd looking clumps have disintegrated) when she gets it aerated. She doesn't do any of the other chemical intensive lawn care stuff, just a little low tech fertilizer twice a season, and she only does the aeration every few years when the lawn starts getting patchy, and it does seem to help.

Don't know if there have been any actual studies on it, so take the anecdote for what it's worth.
Old 04-21-2011, 09:49 AM
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My research (from asking here) says that it's a great thing to do in fall. Doing it in spring gives the weeds a great chance to take over.

My course of action is to aerate in fall, overseed in spring (which is easier then overseeding in fall since it rains so much you don't need to water it).

Last edited by Joey P; 04-21-2011 at 09:51 AM.
Old 04-21-2011, 09:50 AM
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FALL ONLY. Agreed^^^
Old 04-21-2011, 09:51 AM
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We rent the equipment at the equipment rental store. With the cost split between the interested neighbors, it's dirt cheap, and easy to do. I'm not bragging, but just dispelling the idea that it has to be profitable as a hard-sell service.
Old 04-21-2011, 09:52 AM
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It's a good thing to do if the ground has been packed down over time and looks thin because of it. Water runs off of it rather than soaking into it and new growth can not occur. It won't do a thing for other lawn problems though like crabgrass, weeds, etc.
Old 04-21-2011, 09:59 AM
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If your yard is compacted or you have a lot of clay, then yeah, it'll definately be of great benefit. You can also do it with a soil pitchfork, provided the area's not too large. I mention this option because having rented one of the motorized aerators before, they can be very heavy, hard to transport and a bear to run in your yard. Perhaps there's smaller models but the one I rented was an absolute beast to handle.
Old 04-21-2011, 10:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lieu View Post
If your yard is compacted or you have a lot of clay, then yeah, it'll definately be of great benefit. You can also do it with a soil pitchfork, provided the area's not too large. I mention this option because having rented one of the motorized aerators before, they can be very heavy, hard to transport and a bear to run in your yard. Perhaps there's smaller models but the one I rented was an absolute beast to handle.
How much do they cost to rent? It might be worth it to have someone do it for you. I pay about $50 to have mine done by a service once a year.
Don't forget to factor in the cost of not having to lug the machine around, not having muddy feet or a sore back etc...
Old 04-21-2011, 10:31 AM
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Your lawn, take a look at the thatch, the dead grass clippings at the base of the grass. If it's like a mat covering everything, time to aerate/dethatch. If little or no matting, you should be good to go.

Cutting more ofter and leaving small clippings helps. The cuttings decompose faster. If you're like me (shame), I tend to let things get a little too high between mowing and end up with having to rake up the excess.

Definitely beneficial based on commercial enterprise experience. Golf courses do it routinely for the greens. Improves the drainage and decreases thatch. Depending on the climate and type of grass, up to 4-5 times a year. The aeration machines have different diameters and depth punches for removing the plugs. For the small punchs, the greens are still good to putt on and completely "healed" in a week. The large diameter punches (more typical) require a sanding and raking of the greens and take two to three weeks to heal.

Fairways get an aeration as well typically yearly or as needed.
Old 04-21-2011, 10:34 AM
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Joey P, probably $40 to $50. The way to come out ahead vs an aeration service is for 3 or 4 neighbors to go in together on one. Again though, the one I saw online from HD was 288 lbs and it's not just the transport weight but steering and turning it that is a real workout.

Last edited by lieu; 04-21-2011 at 10:37 AM.
Old 04-21-2011, 11:31 AM
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What's the best way to dethatch? My lawn definitely needs it this year. I've got about an acre and a half, and a lawn tractor.
Old 04-21-2011, 01:14 PM
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The aerator costs us $75, but that's delivered.

I rented a de-thatcher once (not delivered) for $50.

There's a difference. You can de-thatch with a power rake, but that's labor intensive. The motorized power rake (I simply called it a de-thatcher at the rental store; unsure of its real name) is very easy to use.
Old 04-21-2011, 01:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthisar View Post
The motorized power rake (I simply called it a de-thatcher at the rental store; unsure of its real name) is very easy to use.
Does this require a tractor? My yard is only 1/3 acre but the thatching is terrible. I don't have a tractor and can't stand the idea of doing it by hand with a rake.
Old 04-21-2011, 02:52 PM
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They have de-thatching blades in the lawnmower sections of larger stores. It's got a couple of arms pointed down mounted on springs. The springs are for when the arms contact something that's immovable and allow the arms to swing out of the way temporarily. They tear up the lawn pretty good; looks like you've killed it but the grass comes back. You need to rake the lawn after to get up all the thatch that's been tossed all over. Just putting the regular blade back on and using a bagger attachment works well if raking isn't your thing.
Old 04-21-2011, 03:13 PM
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We have a thatch rake, which is very effective on small areas - but also one of the most back-breaking, labor-intensive types of yardwork I've ever had the misfortune to do. If you have a dead spot that you want to clean out and reseed, though, it's worth looking into.
Old 04-21-2011, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smithsb View Post
They have de-thatching blades in the lawnmower sections of larger stores. It's got a couple of arms pointed down mounted on springs. The springs are for when the arms contact something that's immovable and allow the arms to swing out of the way temporarily. They tear up the lawn pretty good; looks like you've killed it but the grass comes back. You need to rake the lawn after to get up all the thatch that's been tossed all over. Just putting the regular blade back on and using a bagger attachment works well if raking isn't your thing.
This.

No more work than mowing twice. And the results are great. I believe similar blades are made for lawn tractors, so the folks with big yards can play too.
Old 04-21-2011, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
We have a thatch rake, which is very effective on small areas - but also one of the most back-breaking, labor-intensive types of yardwork I've ever had the misfortune to do. If you have a dead spot that you want to clean out and reseed, though, it's worth looking into.
It is absolutely exhausting work to do by hand.

I use a standard hard rake (i.e. not a leaf rake, but the one with rigid metal tines) and do it by hand. It's less about the de-thatching and more about getting a workout. I figure that half an hour four times a week and I'll have 1) dethatched my lawn by the end of summer and 2) saved the cost of a gym membership.

The experts have told me that dethatching should not be necessary if you keep the lawn mowed regularly and don't let moss build up. However, I live in the Pacific Northwest, where the word "lawn" is often used to describe a large, flat patch of moss.
Old 04-21-2011, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Skammer View Post
Does this require a tractor? My yard is only 1/3 acre but the thatching is terrible. I don't have a tractor and can't stand the idea of doing it by hand with a rake.
No, it's a self-contained machine like a power mower. It runs on gasoline, and you push it back and forth like a power mower. Doing it by hand with a power rake (or "thatch rake" as said in another post) sucks. I've never done it, but I paid a company once to de-thatch my lawn thinking that they'd send a dude with a machine, and instead they sent some guy with a power rake. I hurt me to watch him work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smithsb View Post
They have de-thatching blades in the lawnmower sections of larger stores. It's got a couple of arms pointed down mounted on springs. The springs are for when the arms contact something that's immovable and allow the arms to swing out of the way temporarily.
Totally on my shopping list! I'm going to look for this.
Old 04-22-2011, 12:44 AM
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An aside: I'm going to start my clover lawn this year (one part white clover and 15 parts drought-tolerant grass). I'll let you guys know how it goes.
Old 04-22-2011, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Cat Whisperer View Post
An aside: I'm going to start my clover lawn this year (one part white clover and 15 parts drought-tolerant grass). I'll let you guys know how it goes.
Please do.

I've been encouraging the clover in my backyard, and the lawn is much healthier where the clover is. I tried "harvesting" the seeds from the clover, and dispersing them into the cloverless area, but I don't think any of them took.
Old 04-22-2011, 09:25 AM
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Hmmm. I have a hilly .60 acre lawn and I own a lawn tractor. When I bought it (used) the guy tossed in an aerator, one of those big watering/seeding wheels and the mulching attachments.

I've attached the mulching stuff, but the aerator is still in the box and AFAICT, its never been used. I wonder if I'll ever get tired of moving that heavy box out of the way just to get the mower out of the garage each time or if I'll ever use it.

I've never used one before. I'm assuming its some kind of a spiky wheel that I tow behind the tractor?
Old 04-22-2011, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Cat Whisperer View Post
An aside: I'm going to start my clover lawn this year (one part white clover and 15 parts drought-tolerant grass). I'll let you guys know how it goes.
Another "please do." For five or six years all our efforts have gone into our front gardens--the back "yard" was left on its own. Moles. Carolina Creeper. The works. Aeration? Hahaha... no, really. We've heard of clovered lawns and would love to hear how it goes.
Old 04-22-2011, 10:06 AM
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+1 for the clover updates. What I really want feedback on is how the clover winters. I can't seem to find information about that anywhere.
Old 04-22-2011, 10:10 AM
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Another 'misery factor' with power raking- it raises a tremendous amount of dust. If you don't want to get really dirty, let a professional do it.

Power rakes are not strenuous to operate if the height of the tines is properly adjusted. The machine should pull itself along, mostly. Doing a good job with a power rake is somewhat tricky. Your pace should be slow enough to do a thorough job but fast enough so as not to tear up the turf too much. It should be done before the lawn gets very green in Spring or too much of the new green grass will be torn out.

Stay away from power rakes which have a bag/catcher attached. They raise much more dust, are less maneuverable and you will spend too much time emptying the bag, which fills up every 30 feet more or less. It's way more efficient to use a hand rake to gather the loose clippings.

Aeration holes are not a foot apart as stated in the OP. It's a half inch hole every 5 inches or so. Core aeration is better than spike aeration,

Last edited by Mr. Duality; 04-22-2011 at 10:12 AM.
Old 04-22-2011, 11:58 AM
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So, my lawn (1.25 acre) is super moist, with 2-4" soil and (hard gray & red) clay ~10-14" under the soil. Would aeration do anything for that? Water permeation isn't an issue, except through the clay, but that is over a foot down.

Our lawn will remain squishy-wet for days after a rain.

Last edited by thinksnow; 04-22-2011 at 11:59 AM.
Old 04-22-2011, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by TruCelt View Post
+1 for the clover updates. What I really want feedback on is how the clover winters. I can't seem to find information about that anywhere.
I'm curious about that, too - I know the white clover I already have in my lawn is overwintering just fine.

Here's a website on starting a clover lawn. I can't give you a link to my clover supplier because they can't ship seeds across the border easily (which is a good thing), but it shouldn't be too hard to find (my local greenhouse has started stocking mixed clover and grass seed just this year).
Old 04-22-2011, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by TruCelt View Post
+1 for the clover updates. What I really want feedback on is how the clover winters. I can't seem to find information about that anywhere.
In my lawn, for even the patches that are thick with clover during the summer, it just kind of disappears. I was out looking at it a couple weeks ago, and there were a few tiny new leaves, but no old ones I could see. The grass had lots of brown blades, and some new ones coming out. Now there are more and bigger leaves, but from ten or fifteen feet away, it just looks like grass (which is also greening up). I'm in southeast Michigan, for reference.

I suspect maybe rabbits or something eat the clover over winter, but I don't really know where it goes.

ETA: I should clarify it's just the leaves that disappear. The plants survive just fine.

Last edited by ZenBeam; 04-22-2011 at 12:50 PM.
Old 04-22-2011, 12:54 PM
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Every golf course aerates twice a year, just before Spring and again around Labor day. Pain in the ass if you ask me. The process befouls the course with dirt corks.

Last edited by Lukeinva; 04-22-2011 at 12:55 PM.
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