If perfection were possible, then Rosslyn’s lawns would be dethatched and perforated deep into the soil every spring and every autumn to ensure healthy circulation of water, nutrients, and air. Needless to say, most years (every year?!?!) perfection eludes us. But, in keeping with our holistic approach to gardening, orcharding, and landscaping, we’ve come to rely upon at least once yearly (autumn aeration is preferable when we only have time for once-a-year) to ensure robust lawns. Experience has shown us that a healthy diet of organic fertilizer, zero pesticide, and aeration nurtures not only an attractive ground cover, but a resilient heterogenous sod that rebounds quickly after drought, etc.
Before continuing, a quick thought on why I favor autumn aeration over spring aeration, all things being equal. September and especially October offer the perfect balance of still-warm soil, ensuring efficient coring (spring can be muddy, gumming up the aerator) and cool temperatures slowing the growth of the grass as it approaches winter dormancy. It’s always better to prune, trim, and aerate with a minimum of impact to the plants, so the closer to dormancy, the better.
The photographs in this post show the indispensable Tony Foster, jack of all trades (master of all that requires physical exertion), patiently aerating. Shortly he will follow up with organic fall fertilizer and grass over-seeding. These bedfellows will slumber together over the long winter months, and by springtime they’ll be ready to fortify the lawn for another season of dog and human activity.
Tony has also aerated the lawns for us up the lake at our ADK Oasis vacation rental properties, so his perspective is informed when he explains the benefits of autumn aeration.
“It’s very loving, very caring for life. It gives air to the roots. And water. We need these things to live.” — Tony Foster
If only I’d been so succinct! Tony is spot on. Autumn aeration (and spring aeration, when we have the luxury of time) provides to our heterogeneous mix of grasses what it needs to thrive.
It takes about 3 hours to aerate a lawn depending on acreage. It’s simple. It involves punching holes into the ground sending oxygen and water to the roots. There are professional size aerateors to cover more ground. Similar to mowing a lawn, Aerating lawns relieves packed soil and allows air water and essential nutrients to reach grass roots. Almost Any lawn can benefit from this process given the low water table in the area causing lawns and gardens to grow poorly.
In our area early fall and spring are some of the best times of year to do this. Aerating can be tough to do in dry soil, so you are best to aerate when the soil is damp or a few days after it rains.
The equipment can be rented if you would like to do your own lawn from several lawn and garden stores or you can hire someone proficient in the process.
You want to stay away from roots or stumps because it can damage the machine. — Tony Foster
Autumn Aeration for a Tennis Court?
Back on May 8, 2012 I posted a thinly fictionalized account of aerating the lawn, and I focused on a specific area of Rosslyn’s yard. Adjacent to the icehouse now being rehabilitated, once upon a time there was a clay tennis court. This area has long since returned to grass, but it’s still recognizable despite the fact that we’ve removed almost all vestigial indications (actually one steel net post remains as a sort of memorial… for now.) The perfectly level lawn and the outline of a tennis court were until recently notably if you wandered uphill as Tony is doing in the photo above. We’ve used this area over the years as a perfect volleyball and croquet court.
In that post we decided not to aerate the old tennis court area of the lawn.
“You don’t want me to run that thing on the tennis court, do ya?” he asked, referring to the lawn aerator we had rented…
“Good question, Wes. I didn’t think about that.”
“I was just thinking about the clay, you know?”
“You’re probably right. You don’t want to get bogged down in clay. Let’s skip the tennis court and focus on whatever else remains around the carriage barn and back around the gardens.” (Source: Rifle & Eggs)
In recent years I’ve recently second guessed that decision to forgo aerating the tennis court. After all, the clay is especially compacted and it drains poorly. What better candidate for aeration? And so we now include it in the acres of green that Tony patiently nurtures with autumn aeration, fertilizing, and overseeing.