Spring Lawn Care

Aeration and compost beat fertilizer this time of year

       If you cut your grass with a riding lawnmower or your lawn is a frequently used playground, most likely the soil is compacted and the turf would benefit from a good aeration. The purpose of aeration is to loosen the soil to improve both drainage and air flow. Grass roots breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This is entirely opposite of what leaves do.
      Select the proper aerator for the job. Aerators with long, solid, pointed spikes add to the soil compaction problem. The spikes actually compress the soil as they enter the ground.
       An aerator should remove cores of soil as it rolls across the lawn. Its hollow tubes should penetrate to a depth of three to four inches or more. You may need to weigh the aerator down with cement blocks to go that deep.
       For maximum effectiveness, use the aerator in two directions.  Run the aerator the length of the lawn, then across the width of the lawn.  By using this two-directional method, you achieve better and more uniform distribution of cores.
       To maximize the benefits of aeration, spread compost over the aerated area immediately afterward and rake the compost into the holes made by the aerator. Raking will not only help fill the holes but also will crush the plugs of soil made by the aerator.
       Early spring, when the ground is generally soft and spongy, is generally the best time of the year for a good aeration. If the lawn has a layer of thatch, core aeration with the addition of compost will cause the thatch to rot.
     If you have not limed your lawn for several years, I strongly recommend soil testing. Once you have adjusted the pH of the soil as recommended by the results, the pH can be maintained by spreading 30 to 40 pounds of dolomite limestone per 1,000 square feet every three to four years. As fertilizers are acid in nature, limestone is especially crucial if you fertilize the lawn yearly.
      Calcium is more important in maintaining a healthy lawn than nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium. Calcium is the element that cements plant cells together. It is to cell walls as mortar cement is to bricks and blocks. Magnesium is the center of the chlorophyll molecule. Yet these two essential elements are not included in lawn fertilizers but are abundant in lime. 
    I have always found that a good aeration in the spring provides a stronger and healthier turf than simply applying lawn fertilizers.