The first time I ever encountered plug aeration was on a golf course many years ago. Aeration did not improve my golf game, but the golf course did improve in the months that followed. With the soil we have in this area, plug aeration is the preferred method of opening up the turf.
By removing a small plug of soil and turf, fertilizer, water and air can reach deeper into the lawn. Another benefit is, on hilly terrain the little holes catch water before it has a chance to run off. In our heavy clay soil, plug aeration allows fine grass particles and debris to fall into the holes making mini-compost piles. The addition of organic matter helps make the soil rich and over a period of time and multiple aerations, even poor clay soil can support a healthy lawn.
Another trick I learned from watching greens keepers, was the addition of sand after aeration to improve drainage. The lawn I was aerating this weekend suffers from clay soil in some areas, compacted dirt in others and frankly any attention paid to the yard would be well received. Considering that acreage was involved, I used a tow-behind plug/core aerator.
The model I used was a 48” Plug Aerator by Agri-Fab that I picked up at my local Lowe’s. When you are aerating a large piece of property I recommend the tow behind models. Depending on the amount of weight added or needed, even a mid range lawn tractor can pull an aerator. Here I am using Husqvarna’s 26 Horsepower Garden Tractor and even with weights added and going uphill, the GTH-26 showed no strain. One of the lessons I learned the hard way, was when using concrete solid capstones as weights, a little construction adhesive placed between the blocks worked wonders. The adhesive locked the blocks in place and on the hilly terrain where this project took place, it saved me from stopping and chasing blocks down the hillside. Next I will add handles to the blocks so I can move them back and forth between different attachments more easily.
I have noticed one of the problems people encounter when aerating is trying to do the project when the soil is too wet or too dry. I watered the area I was aerating. The moist soil allowed for deeper penetration of the cutters and proper removal of the plugs.
If the soil’s moisture content is correct, the aerator will eject little plugs of dirt and grass. Maybe the little plugs are ugly to some people; I just see them as more organic matter that will work its way back into the lawn. You can blow the little clods away, but it’s not necessary. Left alone they will soon disappear.
I have read various opinions on how often to aerate, and depending on the condition of the soil and lawn, you can aerate several times a year or in some cases, once every three to four years. Hard, compacted soil requires more frequent aeration. But with repeated aerations, the soil will loosen up allowing water and nutrients to penetrate deeper, encouraging deeper root growth and healthy grass.