The benefits of aerating grassed areas
One of the most important things to remember about your grassed areas, whether they are greens, tees, fairways, or football pitches, is that grass roots don’t grow in soil. They grow in the spaces in between the soil particles. It is an important distinction for your turf maintenance, because it helps to explain why aerating is such an important element of grass management.
COMPACTION SQUEEZES THE LIFE OUT OF GRASS
When soil becomes compacted, as a result of heavy footfall or regular turf-maintenance traffic, it compacts the soil particles together leaving no space for grass roots to grow. It also makes it harder for air, water and nutrients to penetrate the soil. Compaction literally squeezes the life out of your soil, which in extreme cases forms a hard anaerobic environment known as black-layer. This can be identified by root-zone samples which will have a characteristic sour sulphurous smell. Compacted soil is also more prone to weak shallow rooted grass which quickly turns yellow in dry weather, then puddles and scuffs off when wet.
WHAT IS AERATION?
Aeration in its simplest form entails piercing the soil to alleviate compaction, and to create an open soil structure where air can penetrate and water can freely drain. It is such a vital and beneficial treatment, that it needs to be done as frequently as conditions will allow, hence the need for equipment with a rapid work rate.
Routine aeration is usually done with a tractor mounted slitter, spiker or hollow corer. Slitters use knife-like tines which slice into the soil profile as the aerator rolls forward, and then lift the soil as they withdraw which has the effect of cracking open the soil structure. Spikers usually use solid round tines which penetrate and withdraw vertically to create minimal disturbance, whilst hollow corers remove plugs of compacted soil to allow the soil particles to expand into the new space and relieve the compaction.
Other forms of aeration include disc slitters which cut continuous slits to provide maximum surface area for gas exchange, and sarel rollers for lightly spiking the turf to prevent surface sealing. Sarel rolling is a very vital treatment in its own right, and will be discussed in more depth in a future article.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF AERATION?
There are many benefits that come from aerating compacted soil, including:
- The relief of soil compaction, allowing turf to breathe
- An opening up of soil structure to improves drainage
- The stimulation of deeper roots which resist drought in summer
- The creation of stronger turf that is more resistant to wear
- Slicing grass roots stimulates a vigorous new growth
Conversely, if you do not aerate your soil, then you risk it becoming hard and stagnant, leading to bare patches on your turf or pitch that can be difficult to renovate and reseed.
WHEN TO AERATE YOUR TURF
Aeration is best done during the growing season, especially during the spring and autumn. It can also be done in summer, ideally before dry conditions set in.
If your soil is compacted and dry, it will be difficult to penetrate with aeration equipment, so it is best to avoid the hot, dry periods in the summer months. For outfield aeration on winter games pitches, regular slitting throughout the playing season will relieve compaction and maintain drainage, avoiding a sealed surface with standing water which quickly spirals into an unmanageable mud bath.
AERATORS FROM GREENTEK
The Aero-Quick tractor mounted aeration system from Greentek offers a wide range of aeration options, from deep and fine slitters and disc slitters, which cut into the soil surface to allow air and water penetration, to hollow corers that remove plugs from the soil to create breathing space. The Aero-Quick system is compatible with most tractors and utility vehicles and offers a choice of attachments to service everything from immaculately manicured golf green’s to hardwearing football pitches. The system even incorporates a built-in ballast tray to allow you to vary the pressure to suit the conditions.
For even greater productivity on larger sports pitches, you can aerate, roll, rake and brush your turf all in one pass with the combined Double-Quick system. This is a tractor mounted interchangeable turf maintenance system, which is available in 6’ (1.8m) and 8’ (2.4m) working widths, making it ideal for councils, sports turf contractors, and larger school and university sports grounds.
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