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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Do your lawn a favor. Aerate and fertilize!

The timing couldn't be better. Mark-the-Aerator-Man has a date with my lawn this week. And right on cue, Mother Nature has delivered a nice soaking storm. The moisture in the soil will help Mark's machine (and Mark, of course...) pull lots of lovely aeration plugs of out of the lawn.

If your area didn't get this weekend rain and snow, a deep soaking from your sprinklers will work just fine. Either way, the lawn should be well-watered to make the aeration effective.

We want holes in our turf? You bet!

A deep core aeration will help open up the top few inches of this lovely Colorado clay that so many of us like to complain about. That means less compaction and more air for your lawn's root zone. A little "breathing room" can be a very big deal if you're a root.

Increased air circulation helps fight the different types of fungus that can be so hard on our lawns. Greater air flow near the soil surface reduces the higher humidity that the fungal spores need to thrive. The spores are there in our lawns anyway. That's a given. Our goal is to make the spores' job of reproducing as tough as possible, and aeration can help us do just that.

And there's more!

There are lots of benefits from aeration besides increased "breathing room" for your lawn's roots. For example, when you apply your fall fertilizer after you aerate, those helpful little grains of nutrients can reach even farther into the soil when they drop down into the aeration holes. It's as if you're giving them a two- to three-inch head start.

As long as your lawn is still green, it's a great time to ferilize. Tagawa's Garden Experts at Dick's Corner can recommend just the right lawn food. There are several that do especially well here. "Colorado's Own" and "Richlawn Winterizer" are among Tagawa's recommended choices. They're slow-release, which is just what your lawn needs. Apply the fertilizer at the recommended rate, then water it in well. Fall fertilization is a big deal, so don't neglect that piece of the puzzle!

Aeration can also be helpful if you're over-seeding a lawn. Again, the aeration holes can capture some of the grass seed and help "baby" it a bit so it doesn't dry out as quickly. Tagawa's has several kinds of grass seed in bulk so you can buy just what you need for your particular setting.

By the way, there are two schools of thought re: the aeration plugs. Do you leave them where they fall or rake them up? I'm adhere firmly in the "leave 'em" approach myself. The plugs have lots of nutrients that will break down and go back into the soil. Besides, I can always find more pressing gardening chores than raking plugs. But gathering up the plugs and recycling them to another part of your landscape is fine, too.

Spring and fall, that's all!

My first couple of years as a Master Gardener convinced me that aeration is one of the best things we can do for lawns here. I make a point never to aerate in hot weather. That would be too much air circulation and moisture loss during an already-challenging time. But Mark-the-Aerator-Man knows to expect my calls every spring and fall, when the weather is cool.

Despite a host of other challenges.... less than ideal soil, hot dry winds that make gardening "interesting," and more dog traffic than I care to mention, my lawn rarely has problems.

I'm convinced that the secret to having a strong, healthy lawn starts with some T.L.C. in the fall and the spring. Good care in between (including winter watering, which we'll talk about down the road a bit) is important, too. But if you've had problems with your lawn, and don't aerate regularly, you might want to change your routine. There's a very good chance your lawn will thank you.