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Core aeration saved my lawn

Posted by Marylin02 none (My Page) on
Fri, Feb 24, 12 at 17:20

My front yard used to be nice and green. But for some reason, it's been going down in the past few years. Although I applied fertilizer and water regularly, it didn't help much at all. I was really puzzled. Last year, a friend asked me if I aerated my lawn. I was like "huh? what is that?" He explained the benefits of aeration to me and suggest my lawn might need aeration. So I did the core aeration. To my surprise, more grass grew back on the once sparse area. Now I am a true believer of core aeration.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

That's good that it worked for you, but for good soils, with the correct amount of nutrients and beneficial microbes, regular manual core aeration shouldn't be necessary. Many lawns have soil that is out of balance, and very tight, thus depriving your grass roots of oxygen. The same thing can happen if your soil is too wet, the grass "drowns" due to lack of oxygen. Core aeration will get oxygen down to those roots and help out grass that isn't as healthy as it should be. Some of the organic liquid aeration treatments do a good job aerating the soil without the hard work of aeration, or the possibility of bringing up weed seeds. I would suggest a comprehensive soil test to see what condition your soil is in, and what you might need to add.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I agree. After years of reading here it seems that people resort to core aeration because they don't understand the reasons for their issues or the alternatives to aeration.

Marylin02 if you want to discuss the underlying issue, please let us know where you live and what kind of grass you have. What is your watering schedule and what fertilizers were you using.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

My lawn is primarily clay soil. Although I apply fertilizer and water the same way, the back yard is much better than the front yard. When I used a manual core aerator to punch holes, I felt the soil at the front yard is harder than the soil at the back yard.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Golf courses are aerated yearly. Seems like a good thing to do, or are they a special case?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

"Golf courses are aerated yearly. Seems like a good thing to do, or are they a special case?"

Definitely a special case. Golf courses have a lot of human traffic, as well as a lot of heavy mower and cart traffic. If you combine this traffic with the soils they use (high sand content) you get compaction issues.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Ditto tiemco.

When paying customers start complaining about their approach shots bouncing off your lawn, then it's time to core aerate.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Clay! Okay that's a good start. I was afraid you were going to say it was sandy and that would have changed the solution.

You can soften your soil very inexpensively by spraying it with baby shampoo. I use the generic brand from Wal-Mart. Any kind of soap will do but not anything that is antibacterial. Shampoo is never antibacterial so that's why I always suggest baby shampoo. I put it in a hose end sprayer and spray until it's gone. First, figure out how many square feet your lawns are. Use 3 ounces of shampoo per 1,000 square feet. So if your yard is 2,000 square feet, then put 6 ounces of shampoo into the sprayer. Then spray at any rate until the soap is gone. Try to be even about it. Apply the soap and then irrigate a full inch. If your soil is so hard the water will not penetrate (or you get runoff), stop watering immediately and let the water soak in for 15 to 30 minutes. Then resume watering until you get an inch with no runoff. You can measure an inch with tuna or cat food cans. Then, unless you live somewhere hot and dry, at this time of year you will not need to water again until April. You can probably skip the soap treatment in April but repeat it toward the end of April. That should soften your soil for the rest of the season.

Your soil is hard because you have lost the population of beneficial fungi that keep your soil loose. When they are healthy, well fed, and well watered, those fungi live in the soil like bread mold lives in a bag of bread. They fill the soil with those strands of "mold" just like in the bread. The strands are called hyphae (HIGH fuh or HIGH fay). When the soil gets wet, those hyphae fill with water, swell, and push the particles of clay apart. When you step on the soil those hyphae squeeze back together giving you that soft feeling. When the soil dries out, the hyphae shrink back leaving only the dry soil. That dry soil has microbial glue holding it firmly together when it dries. Think of how hard a dirt clod gets when dry and how soft when wet. That is sort of the idea only on a micro level. Your soil will act like a sponge when it is healthy with beneficial fungi. When a sponge is dry it will not accept water until the first surface tension is broken. Once that happens the sponge will absorb all the water it can hold.

By spraying with shampoo you will release the surface tension of the water you apply. That will allow the water to penetrate deeper into the soil. That deep penetration will hold the soil moisture much more constant for much longer. What the fungi need to repopulate is an even moisture level but with plenty of air. The surface tension release effect of the shampoo helps provide that. If you want to punch up your spray solution, add 3 ounces of molasses at the same time as the soap. Molasses also releases the surface tension but also adds nutrients to the soil in the form of carbohydrates. Any kind of molasses will help. Some people prefer unsulfured molasses.

The way soil turns hard again is by letting it dry out so completely that the soil fungal population dies. Then you have to start over with the shampoo. It happens to all of us. You just can't count on Mother Nature to help you with this one.


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RE golf courses

A friend of mine, woodycrest, from GardenWeb years ago, was the new greens keeper for two golf courses just north of Lake Erie. He said when he took over the courses, the greens would bounce a chip shot another 40 feet. Dandelions were everywhere and the grass looked mostly dead. The owners gave him free reign to do anything knowing that he'd be fired if the courses did not improve dramatically. At that same time he discovered organic lawn care and started doing things much differently. After he eliminated the overdosage of chemical fertilizer and insecticide, and started mowing much higher during the week (when nobody played), his turf became extremely soft. On Thursday he would mow the rough. Friday he would mow the fairways to regulation. Saturday mornings he would arise very early to mow the greens down to regulation. Within a few months the weeds disappeared and the worms returned. By Labor Day of his first season, his greens became almost too dead. After the transformation he had some of the regulars asking if he would install a putting green at their homes. He was a photographer and had great pictures documenting the progress of his courses. He never aerated, sprayed, fertilized or really did anything but mow. Clover joined the bentgrass to help keep things loose and fertile. Unfortunately he got crossways with a couple people here who refused to believe that was all he did, so he stopped posting here. Haven't seen him in six years or so. Too bad. His courses currently look terrible (on Bing Maps) so I'm afraid he might have had a calamity that has taken him out of the game.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Thank you for the shampoo method. I will do some research on that.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

The best research on shampoo is on another forum which I cannot mention here (terms of service). For the cost of a bottle of shampoo you can do your own research.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I found the following statement online. It says the shampoo method doesn't aerate lawn. I'm confused.

"This unique product is not simply a wetting agent (surfactant) that simply alters the surface tension of water in order to penetrate into the soil deeper. Wetting agents will not loosen or aerate soils or promote the formation of water stable aggregates."


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Here is the rest of that paragraph?

What is Turf2Max?

Turf2Max is a liquid, organic blend of environmentally friendly components that loosens and aerates compacted soils, even in high traffic areas, or where plant growth is difficult to maintain.

This unique product is not simply a wetting agent (surfactant) that simply alters the surface tension of water in order to penetrate into the soil deeper. Wetting agents will not loosen or aerate soils or promote the formation of water stable aggregates.

Don't confuse it with products that are surfactants, wetting agents, or penetrants. Turf2Max is scientifically designed to do much more and last much longer than those other products.

Turf2Max is a non-toxic and non-bioaccumulative (does not uptake into plants) soil amendment that is environmentally friendly.

What are the Benefits of Turf2Max?

Lawn aeration is one of the keys to healthy grass growth. It allows essential water, air and nutrients to infiltrate deep into the root zone (where they are needed). The deeper vigorous root systems created results in thicker, greener grass.

The enhanced functioning of the soils natural organic processes means that there is reduced need for fertilization.

Turf2Max increases beneficial microorganism activity. Earthworm size and population actually increase within 60 days after the application, due to a better living environment. (Think what it will do for your turf!)

The best thing about Turf2Max is you spray it on the whole lawn, garden, or sports field. And then it works, and keeps working, and keeps working.

When you use a machine, you're pulling out plugs here and there and that's it. End of story. Sure, mechanical aeration is good for turf. However, Turf2Max is better, easier, and more economical!

I would only be guessing as to their ingredients but if I put together a mix of shampoo and molasses I could make the same claims. If I wanted to really spruce up the mix, I would also add milk. Milk spoils on the shelf, though, so that can't be one of the ingredients. There are a few naturally occurring surfactants. Aloe vera juice and yucca extract are others. Molasses and any other sugar will help reduce surface tension and enhance the penetration of water into the soil.

What wetting agents do is allow water to penetrate deeper. When moisture is deeper in the soil, the deep moisture does not evaporate like the shallow moisture does. That allows the soil to have a more constant moisture level, which is what the beneficial fungi need in order to populate and send out their hyphae.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Fro Colorado State 2008

The websites for these products contain testi-
monials from homeowners and the results of poorly
conducted scientific product evaluations. It is simply
wishful thinking to believe that a highly diluted solu-
tion (a recommended rate is one ounce of product per
1000 square feet of lawn area) will reduce soil bulk
density or increase soil aggregation.

Simply stated, there is no "chemical" substi-
tute for physical remediation of soil compaction in
turf systems. Stick to traditional cultivation tech-
niques that are proven to be effective for compaction
relief on all types of turf areas. At best, liquid lawn
aeration products might act as a minor wetting agent
and nothing more.

Tony Koski, Department of Horticulture and Land-
scape Architecture, (970) 491-7070,
tony.koski@colostate.edu

Along with much good advice that is dispensed on this forum there is some of questionable value.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Based on the above comments, I'd better stay with my little EZ CORE manual aerator. At least I know it gave me great results.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Ai dios mio!

What can I say? The entire purpose of the liquid lawn aeration products is to be a "minor wetting agent and nothing more." That is all the soil needs in most cases. So you've spent all this time and done all this research and you're not going to spend $0.15 on a little shampoo to spray YOUR OWN soil? Believe me, it works! If you try it and it does not work, I have another method that also works but it takes all spring and part of summer (if you lawn is very large). You'll need about $100 in hoses and soaker hosed to make it work...and all it does is what the soap does...provides more even moisture to a deeper penetration. I used my hose system several times over a couple year period and it worked every time. When I saw that soap method and it made sense to me, I tried that. Now I have completely abandoned the soaker hose method and don't even discuss it. The soap is just too easy, fast, and inexpensive.

I can't say I didn't see this coming, though. For anyone else who is a skeptic AND is willing to spend fifteen cents, give the shampoo a try as described above and see if your soil does not become so soft you'll be afraid to walk on it when moist.

The purpose of these forums is to share what works. Performing perfect scientific studies is really impossible with biological systems like this. For example in a scientific study you need to have a test case and a control case. The control case is an area of land where you don't do anything different. The test is where you spray the soap. In this case, when do you water and for how long? Do you use the control area to determine when to water or the test area? It makes a HUGE difference which way you go.

The use of plain shampoo developed out of trials with the commercial soil softeners. For $50 per quart you can get a soapy soil softener. Or for $2 you can get a pint of generic shampoo. Both work equally well. You can decide for yourself or you can read the forums and listen to people who are actively using the products and methods described.

Good luck with your EZ Core. I'm sure you'll agree it's great exercise.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

dchall: I am interested in this soap method of aeration (like you said, the price is right, and what do we have to lose?) I have a lawn that is dried out from last summer... especially in certain spots where the grass died. (it got up to 112 degrees here last summer!).

How often do you recommend applying the soap, and how do I hook it up to my hose?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Be sure you use soap that is plain and generic. Baby shampoo is always a good choice. Antibacterial soap is the worst. Put the soap into a hose end sprayer like the Ortho or others. I've always had Orthos and they work well...until you drive over it with the car or leave it out in the sun (plastic embrittlement). The way the hose end sprayers work, if you have any product left over, it remains undiluted and reusable.

Apply the soap two times. Once now (or whenever) followed by a full inch of irrigation water. Next time you irrigate don't do the soap. Then the next time after that, repeat the soap before irrigating.

It gets up to 112 in a lot of places. If you water you can keep your lawn. If you don't water, you'll be redoing the lawn. There are a couple secrets to saving your lawn in the heat. One is deep watering. You should always water deeply - a full inch at a time if you need it. With my soil, grass type, grass height, temperatures, shade, humidity, and wind, I can get away with 3/8 inch for most of the year. Every lawn situation is different. In a hot drought I have to go up to 7/8 inch per week in the summer.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

It's not I don't want to spend a few bucks on shampoo. It just sounds too good to be true. Well, I might still give it a try.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

LOL...it really kinda too good to be true. If I was selling you soap for $50 per bottle, you would have a great argument. I'm not selling you any soap and only asking that you use some of what you already have in your house. The only way to mess it up is to use an antibacterial soap. Those don't go on the soil. You want to improve the bacteria, not kill them.

Spending $0.50 on soap and 20 minutes of your time is the alternative to spending $75 to rent an aerator and breaking your back for 3/4 of a day horsing that thing around. You should feel the results after the second application of soap. With the core aerator I doubt you will ever feel any results.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Spending $0.50 on soap and 20 minutes of your time is the alternative to spending $75 to rent an aerator and breaking your back for 3/4 of a day horsing that thing around.

Not if you want to aerate your lawn. One more time with feeling-

Simply stated, there is no "chemical" substi-
tute for physical remediation of soil compaction in
turf systems. Stick to traditional cultivation tech-
niques that are proven to be effective for compaction
relief on all types of turf areas. At best, liquid lawn
aeration products might act as a minor wetting agent
and nothing more.

Show me some links that aren't homeowner testimonial's or a business promoting a product. I want to believe you, but things that sound to good to be true...


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Years ago I developed a method of softening soil using a soaker hose (mentioned above). It worked for me every time I tried it. A guru on another forum tried it and it worked for him, so I was fairly confident that I had a good alternative to core aerating. When the soap idea came along, I thought it was wacky except that the guy suggesting it is very good at lawns. It made no biological sense to me. I tried it half hoping to prove the other guy wrong. But it worked.

So just to appease lrvjim, and since he/she was not willing to Google it him/her-self, I started a little search. Unfortunately that was back on March 23 and I've changed computers several times since then (I live in two places). Anyway as I remember what I found indicated that the reason sports complexes (like golf courses) core aerate is to counteract the damaging effects of organic matter in their soil. I, being an organic kind of guy, had to wonder what that was all about. Apparently golf courses are so highly reliant on having pure sand that when organic matter inevitably develops, they hate it. Here's why. Some of the bacteria exude a slime substance that, when dry, has a waxy effect. The soil becomes hydrophobic. There is no concern about compaction; they are completely concerned with water penetration. Core aeration, or even spike aeration, works well for golf courses as a means to penetrate the organically induced hydrophobia (hydrophobicity???). More recent research on golf courses indicates that surfactants work just as well as aeration to penetrate the waxy surface. Here is a link to a site which provides one of the better surfactants.

So the story comes full circle. Even the pros are using surfactants. For the price, though, I'm sticking with baby shampoo.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

i can also say that the soap technique works. i used it 4 times last season and once already this season and my lawn is noticeably softer. it sounds ridiculous i know, try it for yourself and see. i used a product that basically is the same as soap (called a wetting agent) and paid about $25 for a 1/2 gallon. on my dads lawn we used walmart brand baby shampoo and got equal results.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

jdo, you did the same thing they did on the other forum. Thanks for sharing.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I have to throw my hat in with dchall on this one. I've seen that quote from CO State multiple times, so I was pretty skeptical. But my soil was rock hard when dry, sticky when wet "gumbo" that you hear about. When I would water I could get about 1/4" on and then everything else would just run off. Lawn would dry out in the heat after a few hours and everything would be rock hard again. Lawn would start to dry out after 2 days sprinklers.

After baby shampoo and molasses everything got really spongy for a couple months. Almost to the point where I was scared to walk on it. I could water 1" without runoff no problem. Started watering every 4 days.

We originally laid sod on top of that "clay-like" sub soil, so there was only the 1.5" of good organic topsoil that came with the sod. After doing the baby-shampoo and molasses, I started with alfalfa fertilizer for the entire summer/fall last year. I just had to dig a hole in the lawn a couple weeks ago and I have nice organic soil about to a depth of about 4-5" now and grass root runs to about 5". We also had no worms before, but now we do, which also helps with the aeration.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

After baby shampoo and molasses everything got really spongy for a couple months. Almost to the point where I was scared to walk on it.

What he's talking about is the feel under foot. It is so soft it is like walking on loose beach sand.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Anyway as I remember what I found indicated that the reason sports complexes (like golf courses) core aerate is to counteract the damaging effects of organic matter in their soil.

Share the link that points to the info you found. Like I said, I want to believe you. Show me some science that supports your claim.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Hey lrv, how about you just try it and see for yourself. I have not tried it personally but these people aren't on here to get you to destroy your lawn. Quit being a skeptic and just do it yourself. It's not like it's going to make your lawn any worse than it already is if that's the case.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Hi lrv. If I had the info when I posted before I would have shared it. I have computers up and running in three different locations and use them on a roaming basis. Now I'm back to where I had the link so here it is.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

dchall, Just wondering if the shampoo liquid aeration would have any negative effect on grass seed. I dormant seeded last fall and it should be germinating in the near future. Thanks!


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

That's a good article dchall and I thank you for taking the time to share. The reality is golf course greens, which are 80% or better sand, and lawns across suburbia have very little in common. In addition LDS, localized dry spots, and compaction are not the same thing.

This quote comes straight from the article you linked to-

The neglect of routine turf management practices (i.e. aeration, topdressing, fertilization, and protection against traffic stress) also may cause soil hydrophobicity and localized dry spots. Core aerations allow oxygen and water to reach the tips of roots and help to keep the grass from dying in hydrophobic soil. Topdressing with sand helps with the dilution of organic matter in the rootzone and with the protection of aeration holes against macropore clogging debris. Core aeration and topdressing are considered the two most effective means of controlling organic matter content in turf soil (O'Brien and Hartwiger, 2003).

Haven't you also come out against the practice of topdressing? I'm not trying to be difficult, I just don't believe that wetting agents can be a replacement for core aeration if relieving soil compaction is your goal.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Sun's going down and I need to mow. I'll be back, though. So much to say. I was kind of hoping you would see that paragraph. In a nutshell, a golf course and a home owner's lawn are two very different environments.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I hope I can stay coherent on this. The excerpt and comments provide so much to talk about.

lrv said, "I just don't believe that wetting agents can be a replacement for core aeration if relieving soil compaction is your goal."

And he also said, "In addition LDS, localized dry spots, and compaction are not the same thing."

I would add to that that compaction and hard soil are not the same thing. I would further suggest that we have not been talking about soil compaction thus far. Lrv might have that in the back of his/her head because 99% of lawn owners think hard soil = compaction. Compaction is what happens when soggy soil is disturbed repeatedly until all the air is driven out of it. Adobe bricks were originally made by pouring wet soil into brick shape molds and stepping in them over and over. When the mud dried they were more solid (compacted) than the original soil and were more durable. Compaction happens around ponds where livestock are allowed access to the water. It also happens in pastures when it rains hard for several days. Farmers and ranchers learn quickly when it rains to pull their animals off the good pasture and put them into the pasture that was ruined in a previous rainstorm. Compaction also happens in construction zones when mechanical equipment is used on soggy soil. I worked in construction in college and believe this happens less frequently than you might think. Construction workers never go to work on even drizzly days.

Up until you mentioned compaction, I was talking about hard soil and the relief brought from core aeration. The article I linked to states that the golf community has solved the compaction problem by building the courses with 90% sand. So when the article speaks about core aeration, it is not to solve a compaction problem, it is to solve a water runoff (hydrophobia) problem. The rest of the article presents an experiment and data showing which of the surfactants tested is the best at resolving water penetration. Presumably the liquid surfactant would be replacing the combination of core aeration and top dressing in relieving soil hydrophobia.

Core aeration and topdressing are considered the two most effective means of controlling organic matter content in turf soil (O'Brien and Hartwiger, 2003).

Note how my emphasis is different from yours. They are not interested in compaction or even in hard soil. They are only interested in getting water to penetrate the surface and go to the roots. But wait. In the sentence behind that the paper says,

Traffic (or compaction) stress may actually be the severest of stresses depending on other soil conditions. [remember this is golf courses only] Fertilization with increased nitrogen levels may offer some relief depending on the severity but can cause higher levels of organic matter in the surface soil profile. Because organic material retains more moisture, the soil becomes softer and more vulnerable to traffic stress (O'Brien and Hartwiger, 2003).

Whoa! Because organic material retains more moisture, the soil becomes softer and more vulnerable to traffic stress.

Softer soil is what we are talking about. Home owners want soft soil. Golf courses want a soil that is firm enough to not become compacted with hundreds of people walking the same path all day long. Then for a golf course they want to minimize organic matter. Organic matter seems to hold all kinds of evil for a golf course. Whereas in a home lawn achieving 10% organic matter is the Holy Grail of perfection. What is the difference between a golf course and a home lawn? A golf course is 90% sand (coarse and sterilized); a home lawn is a mix of sand, silt, and clay along with 50 different minerals and micro nutrients. Then the questions is, should we be turning to the golf (or any sport) industry for advice on home lawns? But where else can we get scientific research? They have the money to pay for the research. I believe we have to take the tidbits where we can find them - buried in the sports turf research. With that in mind,...

I'll start with topdressing. What is the other difference between a golf course and a home lawn? The home lawn has a house in the middle of it and the perimeter border is often surrounded by concrete. It is a bowl with a building in the middle. A golf course is located in a huge pasture with no homes and has no hardscape border. It usually has a clubhouse and maintenance shed which are carefully located to be high up out of the flood zone. When a golf course is top dressed the level of the surface goes up 1/16 inch because they have special equipment. When you topdress your home lawn, it is nearly impossible to apply less than 1/4 inch. If you did that every year for 40 years, the level might rise about 10 inches. With a house in a bowl that can be a serious problem. You cannot raise the level of the house. The soil level goes up and the house sits there. When you raise the level of soil around a home, you have important drainage issues to consider. Will the topdressing change the escape route for rainfall? Or will that rainfall now pour into your basement - or your neighbor's basement. You also will have mud flowing all over the surrounding concrete. This may not happen the first time you top dress, but over the years the subtle changes can amount to a problem. I'll include pictures of topdressing gone wild at the end of this.

Now look at the reason for topdressing on a golf course. The reason is to dilute that pesky old organic matter that seems to infect golf courses even in the face of all the chemicals they use. Second reason is to fill the "macropores," those core holes left after they aerated.

Then what about core aeration? It allows O2 and water into the soil. I'm not sure anyone has identified oxyphobicity as a problem for soil but the holes certainly allow water down into the soil. But (expensive) core aeration requires (expensive) top dressing to get back to the productivity of the course. Once again, the thesis of the paper is about replacing the core aeration and top dressing processes with a spray of surfactants. It is about replacing what lrv apparently does with a process something like I am writing about.

At the top level of the discussion in the paper, the reason the earlier study (O'Brien and Hartwiger) was quoted was to demonstrate the importance of keeping the soil open. Then the rest of the paper is about how you can use surfactants to do the same thing without all that machinery. Furthermore you can spray surfactants without having to withhold traffic from the turf. When you core aerate, all golf play stops until they can get the cores swept up (or crushed back into sand grains) and the holes filled. I am suggesting, as does the paper, that surfactants will do the same thing with a lot less hassle.

Top dressing gone wild

In the image above look down the sidewalk toward the red truck. You can see grass growing over the sidewalk. That is because the soil has leaked out of the yard from the right for so long that the grass is growing out there. It actually grows all the way to connect to the hell strip.


The picture above is a neighborhood established in the early 1900s. I don't know the owner but you can see the topdressing has accumulated several inches above the concrete at the edges and roughly a foot toward the middle of the hell strip.


This is another corner from the same neighborhood.


The picture above is what a hell strip should look like.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

The article you linked to is a thesis submitted by a grad student to the faculty of the university he was attending in order to complete course requirements. That given, it nowhere states or suggests (that I could find) the use of wetting agents as replacement for core aeration on golf course greens. From the author of the paper..

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of thirteen soil surfactants in eliminating LDS and in maximizing root zone soil moisture on a sand based USGA golf green located on the California Central Coast.

This is not new and it is not news. These discussions, of treating hot spots in greens with wetting agents, have been ongoing for decades and the benefits of core aeration are well established, especially for golf courses.

I asked you to show me some science that supports this statement, not made by you, but which you defended in a subsequent post-

Some of the organic liquid aeration treatments do a good job aerating the soil without the hard work of aeration

I'm still waiting for you or anybody to lend some legitimacy to this statement. I would love to see it, seriously. All I can come up with is this, from Colorado State, which you have heard before..

Simply stated, there is no "chemical" substitute for physical remediation of soil compaction in turf systems. Stick to traditional cultivation techniques that are proven to be effective for compaction relief on all types of turf areas. At best, liquid lawn aeration products might act as a minor wetting agent and nothing more.

and that's what I'm sticking with till you can show me a better way. I don't mean to be difficult, but in this case anecdotal evidence just won't cut it.

Sorry about the reference to topdressing, not the subject of this thread.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

dchall, this is an interesting thread so far. In my situation I live in SW and the soil is mostly sand which is similar to most golf courses. Would the shampoo treatments work ok in my situation?

The sand when dry tends to be so soft the ground moves underneath already without using shampoo which sounds like it will become even softer. High traffic areas are solid where they feel too compacted. The sand that is native here isn't the coarse sand that does lock into place, but is sugar sand which sort of resembles quick sand more or less.

The last few years I've been fertilizing with organics but since soil is mostly sand, I'm not sure this is making much progress. Any advice as to whether organics are a waster of time and $$$$ in my situation and if the shampoo treatments will make any difference given the high sand content and the type of sand (sugar sand)? Would it just be more wise to just treat it like a golf course and use synthertic fert. and coring principles?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

This is interesting. It seems two legitimate treatments are being discussed about two different ailments.

Ailment #1: true soil compaction
Ailment #2: Hard soil, LSD, etc.

Treatment #1: core aeration
Treatment #2: liquid aeration, wetting agent, � (whatever tag you want to associate)

I think it is a matter of making the correct diagnosis and then subscribing to the appropriate treatment.
As dchall stated "I would add to that that compaction and hard soil are not the same thing. I would further suggest that we have not been talking about soil compaction thus far. Lrv might have that in the back of his/her head because 99% of lawn owners think hard soil = compaction."

There is no need to use a shotgun to kill a fly. It will kill it though.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Looks like a good summation, grassboro.

lrvjim: I have some thoughts on your query. For what it's worth, I consider myself a fairly rational/logical person, and definitely require empirical evidence for things like medicine, machinery, etc... but you have to remember that a lot of farm remedies don't have scientific research behind them. This does not mean they are not valid options.

Simply put, there is no need or demand to put together a research team to back up the assertion of every farm remedy. People figure it is easier just to buy the $3 bottle of soap, or $10 bag of manure and find out for themselves.

Nothing will be "proven" until a company decides to remarket a product, and is willing to spend the dough on a research team (and new advertising, and new labeling...). And let's face it, Johnson and Johnson probably doesn't think it is worth it, especially if any old (non antibacterial) soap will do, and they are already making millions off of baby marketing.

I am not saying that we should buy in to every claim that is made, but perhaps don't rule out everything on the basis of a lack of research, either. When someone as experienced and knowledgeable as Dchall says something, I think it is owed some merit.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Oh my. lrv, check out the site where your Colorado state quote comes from. It says,

ere is no indication that ANY of these products has ever been scientifically evaluated for effectiveness.

And then, apparently without any scientific evidence, it makes the bold statement,

Simply stated, there is no "chemical" substitute for physical remediation of soil compaction - namely the traditional core cultivation techniques that have been used for years on all types of turf areas. At best, these "wonder products" might provide some minor degree of wetting agent effect - and nothing more. Wetting agents increase spreading and penetration of liquids across surfaces and into or throughout surfaces.

If no research has been done, how does Colorado State know they don't work?

I'll continue to look around if you'll look for the proof that these surfactants don't work to SOFTEN THE SOIL. I don't care about compaction because 99.9999999% of home owners and forum participants do not have compacted soil. Hard soil is the issue. And that statistic was picked right out of the air by me who has read 50 billion forum messages over the past 10 years. There is a GW Lawn Care topic about leveling the lawn that was posted today. He has compacted soil from driving a car on it all the time. That is a rare event that those people write in here.

lrv, as long as you are looking for scientific evidence, you might look for the scientific proof that plowing a field is a good thing to do. Everyone does it. In fact the invention of the plow is probably the single biggest landmark in agricultural history. But what is it about plowing that makes farming better? Why go to that much trouble? The alternative is called no-till, so you can use that in your search.

pickapeck - your sand doesn't need any soap to achieve water penetration. Core aeration will not do anything either. Sugar sand will not form a cohesive wad in your hand when wet. One thing you might benefit from is the micorrhyzal fungus products. I would never recommend one of those to anyone with normal soil. The only places I've seem them make a difference is in golf courses located in desert sand. Those products will not work in a chemical environment. They need the continued organic feeding schedule. Your might open a new topic to discuss that. You won't get the visibility of anyone else if you leave it here.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Dchall I posted my question of the Florida gardening forum considering most of the answers I see in the regular lawn forum doesn't address the issues I am talking about with sugar sand. I will disagree with you though about not needing anything to achieve better water penetration as it is extremely hydrophobic this sugar sand with water that runs off and maybe my adding organics is making it more so with the waxy type of layer/coating that organics leave on the surface one it starts breaking down.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I think it's probably technically correct that chemicals don't directly aerate soil.... BUT the Colorado State opinion is also misleading.... It seems to be implying that there is no way on God's green earth to soften soil so that things grow properly without plowing it up - and this just isn't true.... It happens in forests all the time without OUR intervention... not to mention that current research is pushing towards less and less mechical soil disturbance on farmland for a multitude of reasons....

Every soil needs to be permeable to air somehow or another... The harder the soil, the less permeable it becomes - and then everything declines or dies... That can be reversed by bringing the soil back into balance - and Minerals get into the soil by Water carrying it down into the soil... If water can't permeate the soil well - then necessary minerals can't get into it do their job either...

When you do things to bring the soil back into balance - it naturally softens - it becomes more water and oxygen permeable... Part of this is that it becomes an easier place to live for worms and bugs - which do the yeoman's job of "aerating" soil for you....

So.. For the OP - I would suggest a soil test.. Likely there is something out of balance (Perhaps the Calcium/Magnesium balance is off, or maybe too much Sodium, or very low in Organic matter... You won't know until it's tested) You can use amendments to push the soil back into balance - and these sort of problems seem to sort themselves out pretty nicely....

On the studies of wetting agents - they are well studied and verified... Golf courses use them A LOT.... UGA found that Wetting agents were critical to Summertime performance of Bentgrass on greens... Without them - the Bent declined significantly in the summer - it just couldn't get enough water...

Here is a link that might be useful: UGA study


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

This is interesting. It seems two legitimate treatments are being discussed about two different ailments.
Ailment #1: true soil compaction
Ailment #2: Hard soil, LSD, etc.

Treatment #1: core aeration
Treatment #2: liquid aeration, wetting agent, � (whatever tag you want to associate)

This thread was about core aeration.

The OP core aerated her yard and was pleased with the results. dchall, in subsequent posts, maintains that not only did she waste her time and money, the benefits of that aeration were available to her via chemical means, e.g. baby shampoo and a hose end sprayer.

Spending $0.50 on soap and 20 minutes of your time is the alternative to spending $75 to rent an aerator and breaking your back for 3/4 of a day horsing that thing around. You should feel the results after the second application of soap. With the core aerator I doubt you will ever feel any results.

Really? I'm sorry, I find that hard to accept and would like to see something that backs up this claim. I will gladly jump on board with this idea if and when that happens.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

lrv, I'm not going to play your game any more. You have wasted far more than 50 cents of my time with your shenanigans. If you really had an interest in this, you would google it yourself. I'm not here to google things for you. And please don't call the non academic articles "academic" simply because they are published by a school. You are quoting advertising, not science. The university extension service is famous for forwarding propaganda based on the whims their financial sponsors. In fact they will even go the extra distance to perform 'sciency' experiments designed to favor their sponsors. Find some real science by yourself and we'll talk again.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

very well said mr hall. all i know is it has worked on the only 2 lawns i have tried, as well as 2 of my friends lawns, who laughed at me until they tried it.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

There's nothing that says Aeration doesn't work... Especially on hard, heavy soils... NO one is claiming that... The Famous Organic pioneer Dr. Albert Howard himself showed how Mechanical cultivation could be substituted for Calcitic lime additions on many heavy/hard soils in England... but he also showed that the results of Mechanical cultivation were very short lived... that the soil went back to rock hard/impermeable within a season or 2...

What we are saying is that the more recent research is showing that there is another solution that potentially can cost a whole lot less, and brings up a whole lot less weed seed too... because it aims to deal with the underlying root causes of the compaction/hard/impermeable soil itself...

My own contention is that besides possibly "Disturbing" shallow electrical wires and piping in the yard.... and spreading weed seed nicely.. Aeration doesn't do anything to correct imbalances in the soil that CAUSE Hard/impermeable soil in the first place... You will be out there Aerating your "Hard, Compacted" turf every 6-months or so... because it's still the same hard, heavy, imbalanced soil... and fighting more and more weeds (Not to mention fixing shallow buried wiring and piping while you are at it.....)

That's all...

Thanks


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

What we are saying is that the more recent research is showing that there is another solution that potentially can cost a whole lot less, and brings up a whole lot less weed seed too... because it aims to deal with the underlying root causes of the compaction/hard/impermeable soil itself...

John- I have looked for this research and I cannot find any work that supports these claims. Obviously I am using incorrect search terms. My last search "core aeration vs. wetting agents", returned business sites selling a product although I did come across this on Walter Reeves website-

Q: What is your opinion about using surfactants (wetting agents) as part of a residential lawn care program? I recently used a surfactant lawn care product (bought on the Internet) on my yard. I hoped for better water penetration into my hard clay soil. I have read that this breaks up compacted clay, in essence "aerating" your soil and allows for better absorption of minerals and fertilizer. I have learned that golf courses are regular users of surfactants. If its good enough for a golf course is it good enough for use on a home lawn?

A: Your question was way beyond my experience so I turned to Clint Waltz, Extension Service turf specialist, for an answer. He says that wetting agents are used as a means of correcting hard-to-wet soils.

"In my experience, surfactants work best on sandy soils with some organic matter, like that found on golf course putting greens. Contrary to promotional claims, I am unaware of research that has shown these materials to alleviate soil compaction on sandy or native clay soil.

"I do not see wetting agents as a need for most homeowners. If they are having problems with soil compaction and water infiltration, the soil should be aerated with by core cultivation and, if possible amended with organic matter. Wetting agents may act only temporarily and not correct the real problem."

That said there is no date on this article. Other articles do document the benefits of wetting agents used in conjunction with core aeration, not as a replacement for. No shenanigans here, I am interested.

Could you point me in the direction of this recent research? dchall, unfortunately, has been no help in this matter.

Thanks- Jim


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Right... Notice the guy in the Walter Reeves article makes no mention of whether or not the soil had any trouble draining or with dry spot? He also talks about breaking up Clay specifically...

There is also no mention of soil tests or other amendments that would cause or help correct an underlying soil imbalance that causes it to bind up hard as stone....

It's true that Surfactants won't break up clay by themselves... They won't loosen hard soil by themselves... but they will let water in - and that's the starting point that's needed....

You need to understand what Aeration is specifically doing.. and why it's used.... The research talks about Aeration as 'Diluting organic matter in the soil' and 'breaking up the Organic soil structure so water will penetrate'... It doesn't claim to have anything to do with 'Hard Soil'....

They talk about 'Organic matter' in soil breaking down and leaving a hydrophobic film on the surface of soil particles... It was first discussed in conjunction with certain types of fungus - but was later found that it didn't have to have the fungus to happen.... so they bust this stuff up and it will take water again....

Here's one that talks about this: http://turf.lib.msu.edu/2000s/2003/030301.pdf

Notice how they talk about thatch and layers on the very top of the soil that prevent water penetration?

Dr. Waltz did some interesting research himself on organic matter and other inorganic amendments to soils... It turned out that the higher the Organic matter content in their sand.. especially in that top inch or 3 - the more hydrophobic the soil would ultimately become... Increasing the clay fraction only made things worse....

Here: http://www2.gcsaa.org/gcm/2003/aug03/PDFs/08Inorganic.pdf

But.. you can see the trouble here.. We want more Organic matter in our soil to improve the fertility and to hold nutrients and moisture.. but it's a double edge sword in that it can stop up the soil structure as well...

You can mechanically aerate to break up that soil structure to get water back into it... or you can use a surfactant to get water back into it....

Anyway - I was able to find a Surfactants test on Clay loam soil out of UC Polytechnic... The conclusions are basically the same as the tests on Sand... Surfactants do what they are supposed to do... Surfactant treated Loam Soils take and retain water better and for longer - especially in drought conditions...

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/grants_loans/water_recycling/research/02_007_01.pdf

Any of that helpful?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Here's a couple more...
The first one here is an overview of where surfactants are useful and where they aren't...
Notice the emphasis on organic material becoming hydrophobic... especially that material in the top layers of the soil... like in a lawn..
http://irrigation.wsu.edu/Content/Fact-Sheets/Soil-Surfactants.pdf

Here's another good one - specifically on using Surfactants to reduce compaction in corn fields... These were Sandy loam with a Sandy clay loam subsoil...
http://www.hlboustead.com/ag/symposium_overview.pdf

An interesting finding in the Corn study was that Surfactants did in fact increase yields where intra-row ripping to mechanically break up compaction did not.... AKA mechanical tillage is not as beneficial on their specific soils...

Anyway - in a way, I appreciate the challenge to find more papers, because that last one is new to me - and it addresses exactly what the trail of bread crumbs and clues was implying, but none of the golf course studies directly studied...

Unfortunately, there's just no money in research for home lawns... so we loose out to golf courses and corn fields...

Thanks


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Here's my situation: last fall in a snit I chopped up the entire tiny expanse of my Brooklyn backyard, hoping to level out the bumpy, uneven tufts of grass. I neglected to seed it then, so I seeded it about a month ago. The grass is only half coming in; much of it is very thin and straggly. Would this qualify as hard? Does it need any special considerations, or should I head out to a dollar store and get a bottle of baby shampoo?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

(incidentally, I think I broke up the root structure so it's hard.)
Also, is baby shampoo really safe? Wouldn't something "green" be better, like Dr. Bronner's?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

What do you mean by "chopped up my lawn?"

Anyway - I think it would be worthwhile to start your own post and include some pictures - as well as a full description with details of what you did? Like... Did you do a soil test? Did you use any fertilizer? What sort of seed? Etc...


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

What is unsafe about baby shampoo that is not similarly unsafe in Dr Bronner's? Dr Bronner's uses organic coconut and olive oils on the front end. Baby shampoo likely does not use organic coconuts, but they do use coconut oil as the base. I suppose some people believe Dr Bronner's is more safe because it starts with organic oils. However, once the oil reacts with the strong lye (in this case, potassium sulfate) the oils have been stripped apart resulting in a vat of chemical salt. For liquid soap they are potassium salts. These salts are not edible, but they are salts by the technical chemistry definition. In fact the Dr Bronner liquid soap might be called potassium coconate or potassium olivate after the two main oils used in the process. In baby shampoo they would use sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate (almost interchangeably depending on cost). Those are both made from refined coconut oils using a slightly different process. Point is most liquid soaps start out as coconut oil and potassium sulfate.

Most of the bar soap in the world is made from cattle or sheep fat (tallow). Most of the rest of bar soap is made from hog fat (lard). The rest of the bar soap is made from vegetable oils (coconut and palm). Only specialty soaps like Dr Bronner's are made from the exotics like olive, cottonseed, and other plentiful plants with oily seeds. But after saponification the regular bar of Dr Bronner's is a sodium salt similar to Dial or Zest.

But I'm digressing. What is safe about Dr Bronner that is not safe about other shampoo?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I can't tell you what the relative "safeness" of Dr. Bronner's would be; I'm speaking strictly off the hip, and appreciate any chemical analysis, as you have provided. Someone mentioned that baby shampoo might not be safe (after all it's full of "chemicals"!), and so I posted out of curiosity. I do however, make a distinction between green cleaners (from orange extract, etc.) in the house, and stuff like 409K which at least at first glance looks awfully toxic. On to my chopping up the lawn: keep in mind it's only about 15' by 20'. I took a metal rake to it and stabbed it to bits and turned it over and raked it smooth thinking it would stay flat and germinate easily. (It's my first lawn.) And now it's as hard as a rock! I did no lab test on it and can't recall the seed I used although it was not Scott's - it got such awful ratings. I posted here because that was my solution to aerating. It wouldn't have been worth the expense of an aerating machine. I love the suggestion of using baby shampoo. I'm going to try that; and I suppose I should get it tested - although really, with such a tiny lawn, I'm not sure the expense is worth it. What is the expense, anyway? How do you go about testing it? Get a kit at Lowes?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I think you meant potassium hydroxide, not sulfate Dchall.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

LOL - right tiemco. Hilarious!

naomin you can't get a kit at Lowe's. If you could it would be a waste of money. A really good soil test costs $20 from Logan Labs. You can get lesser tests for more and for less money. But as you say, you might not need one at this point.

What did you do to get the seeds going? Did you roll them down? Cover them with anything? Water daily, 3x per day?

d-limonene (orange extract) has its own issues. I'd keep it out of the soil, but inside it should be okay.

I'm still chuckling...


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Hi dchall - none of those things! Just pushed them down into my tilled soil and watered twice a day, when I was home from work and in the morning. I'm quite the novice! I'll apply the baby shampoo, see what happens, and make a plan next time.

Thanks for the tip on the orange extract and the soil kit.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

"LOL - right tiemco. Hilarious! "

I can never tell, is this sarcasm, or are you laughing at yourself Dchall?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Yes, I am laughing at myself. You are correct and I see how it could be misconstrued as sarcasm.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

"Chemical/liquid aeration" is not aeration anymore than jumping out of a tree is "flying." Use the least expensive method that works. If any process/method/amendment was permanent, it wouldn't be called lawn care.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I have to agree with the originator of this post. I bought a newer colonial home with an absolutely tragic lawn. There was little or no grass left and the moss had taken over in areas of full sun. The fall I bought the house, I applied a generic iron supplement to get rid of the moss (outstanding BTW), raked it all off with a dethatcher, and sucked it up with the bagger. I then rented a core aerator, fed, adjusted the pH, and over seeded. This spring the lawn is 180 degrees from when I bought the house.

Granted there are some methods that are less back-breaking but this was instantly effective and a sure-fire fix. There's nothing like mechanical aeration to turbocharge your lawn rehabilitation efforts. You know the treatments and water you apply to your lawn are getting deep into the root beds where they need to be.

I think of myself as a real lawn rookie at best so I ask a lot of people in the know a lot of questions. I'm just astounded how much care lawns take now that I own a home. Happy turfing everyone!


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I have read this thread with much interest. I live in Orange County, CA and have mostly clay soil. Two sections of my lawn are having much difficulty staying green. The lawn was new sod in Nov 2011 and since then has deteriorated in two patches, with a third one doing great. I think it may be a combination of the clay and compaction in the two problem areas and the shampoo method seems like a worthwhile approach given it will only cost a few pennies to try. One question I have is if there could be any potential harm to any other plants. I have rows of box-woods and some trumpet vines on the perimeter of the patches. Could they be harmed by the shampoo runoff?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

SoCal.

Where are you in Orange County? It makes a difference if you are in, say Balboa or Seal Beach versus Yorba Linda or Trabuco Canyon.

What kind of grass do you have/want?

Is shade an issue in the spots that aren't doing well?

How about low spots in the lawn collecting water?

What is your watering regimen? frequency and duration?

There won't be any shampoo runoff. It soaks in. That's why and how it works. And anyway it won't hurt anything.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

The way my dad aerates is to wear his old spiked golf shoes when he cuts his grass. He has very nice, thick green grass, so I will be heading to the local Goodwill store to find a pair of metal spiked shoes. Aren't Dad's Always right?


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I live in FL and have St. Augustine grass. It has allot of Thatch. I heard Core Aeration helps with that? I bought a Liquid product for the grass at $50 for a gallon, ouch I put it on the grass yesterday. Will using Baby Shampoo help at all with Thatch? With the thick layer of Thatch my grass probably isn't getting all the water and nutrients it needs.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Why revive such an old thread instead of just starting a new one?
Are you sure you have thatch?
If you do:

Shampoo will not reduce thatch or cure actual compacted soil.

Aeration will cut holes in the thatch and allow water and nutrients to reach the roots. The plugs of soil spreading over the top of thatch can help create an environment conducive to microorganisms that will decay the thatch.

Aeration is emergency care, it is not a cure. You need to adjust your lawn care habits to reduce the creation of thatch and to create an environment capable of removing the thatch that will invariably occur with some grasses.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

I am actually glad this thread got revived. I didn't read all of it but it got me thinking. I am in NC and have clay soil and Bermuda. I had my back yard sodded a few years ago (pretty sure it's tifway 419) and right now it looks pretty good for it to be mid May. My front yard was sodded by the builder (don't know if it's common Bermuda or tifway) and just hasn't greened up like the back. The ground is definitely hard. I am following the Bermuda bible but am looking to going to a more hybrid program of synthetics and organics. I currently do use milorganite more so for the iron then anything. Anyways, my plan was to aerate next month and immediately follow it up with 10 lbs of alfalfa per 1000 sq. ft. That way I could get it deep in the soil and let the microbes do their thing. I was going to follow it up 3 weeks later with 20 lbs of alfalfa. Now that I'm reading this I'm not sure what to do. Any advice? If I do the shampoo is there any restrictions on applying fertilizer or herbicides to my yard before or after? My back yard looks good but I have this God awful broadleef weed that is spreading. I sprayed it at the beginning of the month with good results and will need to spray again at the end of the month. I also plan on fertilizing in a couple of days.

Thanks in advance for the help.


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RE: Core aeration saved my lawn

Uh, yeah...Sherm you should have posted a new thread, too.

Turf farmers only grow Tif 419, so your front is the same thing as the back. You were on the right track - no problems with shampoo and anything else.

Toprok, St Augustine does not normally get thatch. The only time I saw anything like thatch the owner watered very lightly every day and fertilized with liquid fertilizer every month. The result was the entire plant sat on top of the soil - roots and all. The roots never needed to get into the ground because they got water every day and foliar feeding.

How are you watering now? Chances are that simply correcting your watering will get rid of your thatch situation. Many people have completely ripped out their St Augustine by running a dethatcher over it. Never do that. Aerator is a different story, but I don't think you need it. How long do you water and how often?


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