Updated: Sep 17, 2021
Aeration Mechanical aeration, simply, is the process of poking holes into the soil. This is done for two main reasons: to increase air exchange between the soil and the atmosphere and to relieve compaction. Aeration can increase nutrient uptake and water penetration into the soil as well. Aeration can be performed by a variety of different tools and can go by many different names, such as aeravation, coring, aerification, and vibra-coring. This information will help you sort through the various options and decide what the best method is for your turf.
Compacted Soil in Turf
Just like turf’s leaves, its roots also need air to survive. Over time, soils naturally become more compacted and soil compaction can happen more quickly in areas with equipmant and foot traffic. This compaction reduces the pore space between soil particles, making it more difficult for roots to survive. Turf grown in compacted soil is low in vigor, has poor recovery, and can have weeds present that thrive in compacted soils. Examples of these “indicator” weeds are bluegrass, chickweed, goosegrass, mustard, dandelion, nettle, and plantain.
How to Properly Aerate
Aeration helps relieve compaction and increase air exchange, so it is important to aerate deep into the root zone, usually to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Since deep holes will be created, the operator should be careful to avoid any in-ground hazards, such as irrigation components and tree roots. The frequency of aeration required will depend on the accrual of compaction. Home lawns may only need aeration every couple of years, where heavily used sports turf fields may require several aerations per year. Heavy clay soils usually require more frequent aeration. Aeration should be done uniformly across a turf area. Aeration should be done to healthy turf under fairly dry conditions. This may seem odd since aeration can be used as a rescue method for unhealthy turf, but the idea is to use aeration as a preventative measure.
Solid Tine or Hollow Tine
Solid or hollow tine refers to the mechanical component that is being forced into the soil to perform aeration--they are usually ¼” to 5/8” in diameter. As the names imply, a solid tine is solid, and a hollow tine is hollow. Think of a solid tine like a nail--if you drive a nail into a piece of wood, and remove the nail, a hole is left in the wood. With hollow tine, think of a hole saw (those cup-shaped drill bits for making big holes). You drill through a piece of wood and you’re left with a hole in the wood and a core from drilling. This is the main difference between solid and hollow tine, with a solid tine one is simply poking holes in the ground, whereas with hollow tine, a “plug” or “core” is removed from the soil. There are pros and cons to each type. Some argue that solid tine aeration is more temporary, whereas others would argue hollow tine aeration creates a mess. While turf managers generally agree hollow tine is superior, their methods of dealing with the cores vary. The cores can either be mulched up with a mower, or picked up and removed. Either way, like most things, turf managers consider environmental conditions and the customer’s needs when choosing between solid or hollow tine.