Fall is the time to aerate your fescue lawn

If your lawn is struggling, you have heavy clay soil, a heavy layer of thatch, or compacted soil, it may be time to aerate your lawn! (And now is the right time to do it!)

Aeration involves the removal of small soil plugs or cores out of the lawn and is important for a number of reasons, including:

  • Increasing the activity of soil microorganisms that decompose thatch.
  • Increasing water, nutrient and oxygen movement into the soil.
  • Improving rooting.
  • Enhancing infiltration of rainfall or irrigation.
  • Helping prevent fertilizer and pesticide run-off from overly compacted areas.

What tools to use: Although hand aerators are available, most aeration is done mechanically with a machine having hollow tines or spoons mounted on a disk or drum. Known as a core aerator, it extracts 1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter cores of soil and deposits them on your lawn. Aeration holes are typically 1-6 inches deep and 2-6 inches apart.

What about spiking? Other types of aerators push solid spikes or tines into the soil without removing a plug (spiking). These are not as effective because they can contribute to compaction. Core aeration is recommended on compacted, heavily used turf and to control thatch buildup.

In Virginia, the best time to aerate cool season lawns of tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass is in late August to mid September. This is when these lawns are coming out of summer dormancy and beginning a period of vigorous growth. Lawns will recover quickly from aeration at this time. Competition from weeds is also minimal during this time. Warm season lawns like bermuda grass and zoysia grass are best aerated during June and July, as this is their period of rapid growth.

Learn more about aerating your lawn: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/430/430-002/430-002_pdf.pdf
Learn more about fall lawn care: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/430/430-520/430-520.html