Lawn has been aerated and top-dressed with compost or compost tea

 

What is this?

Core aeration is a mechanical process that pulls many two- to three-inch cores of soil from the lawn. Though noticeable at first, these break down within a few days (note that this is different from – and for these purposes, better than – spike aeration, in which spikes puncture the soil). Core aeration is then followed by spraying compost tea or spreading a thin layer of compost (one-fourth to one-half inch thick). 

Compost is decomposed organic matter made of such ingredients as autumn leaves, vegetable kitchen scraps, grass clippings and straw, used as a soil amendment and fertilizer. It looks like rich, black soil and smells fresh. Compost tea is a cold-brewed liquid compost extract, teeming with live beneficial microorganisms, generally sprayed on grass (and other plants). There are several different ways to make compost and compost tea, and you can also purchase them. 

How do I do this?

On my own

  1. Many home improvement stores rent core aerators. To reduce the cost, you can perhaps team up with a neighbor or two. Be sure to use a core aerator (not spike) that can pull plugs of grass and dirt out to a depth of two to three inches.(This is best done in fall, but early spring is a good time, too, so long as the lawn is not soaked from snowmelt or rainfall: heavy machinery compacts wet soils. Whether spring or fall, be sure the lawn is actively growing and not dormant.)
  2. Next, choose either compost or compost tea. The benefit of compost is that it adds texture to your lawn’s soil, but most people don’t want their lawn covered with black “dirt” so they choose compost tea or use a thin layer of fine-textured compost, which quickly sinks into the lawn.
  3. If using compost, spread a thin layer over the lawn with a rake, or use a clean fertilizer spreader. Aim for a depth of one-fourth to one-half inch. To calculate how much compost you will need, figure that for every 1,000 square-feet, you’ll need between three-fourths and 1 ½ cubic yards of compost.
    • Click here for more information on composting for the lawn. 
    • Click here for general information on how to compost.
  4. If using compost tea, this video shows how to make and apply compost tea to both large and small properties. It starts with large properties and ends with small. For another good resource, click here. You might find it at garden centers but will likely have to make your own. 
    • One simple method is to fill a burlap sack with one-part compost and suspend it in a clean garbage can filled with five parts water for several days. Aerate with a  fish tank aerator, pond aerator or similar device.  Make sure the sack has air flow around it. Keep cool and out of sun for best results.
    • Note that compost tea can be sprayed on the lawn either full strength or diluted 1:1 with water, using a pump sprayer or hose-end sprayer.
    • The best time to apply is in the spring when the grass starts to green up, and then once a month while the grass is actively growing.

Hire some help

  1. Most lawn care companies offer aeration services. Be sure to specify that you want intense, deep core aeration so they don’t just spike your lawn.
  2. Ask your provider to follow this with a top-dressing of compost or compost tea as described above. If your provider seems hesitant about this request, you might consider having a load of fine-textured compost delivered, and then hire a local teenager to spread it.
  3. See our local vendors who may offer compost or compost tea applications.

 

Why is this important?

  • This is one of the best treatments you can give your lawn. Healthy soil is the key to growing strong, resilient and ultimately attractive lawns and gardens. By aerating and then enriching the soil, you are treating the cause – not the symptom – of most lawn problems.
  • The organic matter in compost will increase aeration and water-holding capacity and promote development of beneficial soil organisms – all critical to soil health. Traditional fertilizers  - even the organic ones – do not have the organic matter to do this and can harm the beneficial soil microorganisms that are crucial to root development. Feeding the soil, not the grass, leads to healthier grass than looks good.   

 

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