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Core aerating is an important part of regular lawn maintenance

Core aerating is an important part of regular lawn maintenance, especially for renovation and maintenance of cool season fescue lawns. Core aerating penetrates the soil and pulling a portion of soil out of the ground providing an open space about a half-inch wide and 3 or 4 inches into the soil. Increasing soil pore or air space is important to growth and expansion of fescue and other grass root systems. Aeration also allows fertilizer and lime to have quicker access to the plant’s root system for faster nutrient uptake. Soils requiring extra phosphorus benefit from these nutrients placed in the grass root zones. Clay soils with a low pH inhibit uptake of phosphorus which is tightly bound in the upper layers of soil.

The only disadvantage of coring are the castings left on top of the soil.

Spike-type aerators punch holes into the soil and leave no castings. However, spiking lawns is not recommended because spikes actually compact clay-type soils. The core casts from core aerators melt away in a few weeks.

Recent rains help soften tight clay soils for fall renovation as tight clay soils in the Piedmont are virtually impossible to effectively aerate during periods of dry weather.

Core aerating helps with fescue growth and helps fertilizer have easier access to roots.

Those that want to renovate fescue lawns can core aerate, fertilize, lime and seed on the same day. Coring is also an excellent alternative to tilling a lawn that needs to over-seed. Be sure to aerate first before adding seed and fertilizer. Those with bare or weak stand will benefit by adding straw mulch to maintain sufficient moisture levels.

Core aeration should be done every other year for well-established lawns. Avoid coring in the spring since as newly established grass roots are damaged and the open soil from the cores provides the perfect growing medium for dormant weed seeds to germinate. Lawns that are weak and thin can be cored on an annual basis until desired stand is achieved.

Local equipment rental dealers rent core aerators for homeowners. Both power walk-behind type or the towable pull-behind-the-tractor rentals are available. Those that rent the self-propelled core aerator won’t have to go the gym that day. These machines will give you a workout, trust me. Those with physical limitations should consider hiring a lawn care company. Most lawn care and landscape companies offer this service as a part of their normal fall landscape maintenance and can be done quickly.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu .

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