Aeration. What's that? Well, most likely you've seen it, but weren't sure what to call it. Reminiscing on my middle school days, I remember bolting onto the soccer field during recess and finding these little dirt plugs scattered across all over the field. No one was sure what had happened or why these dirt plugs were there. Aeration was the process that produced these dirt plugs.
Aeration is a specialty lawn care operation involving the extraction of tiny plugs of dirt from your lawn, thus relieving compaction while exposing the roots to air, water and valuable nutrients.
Wait…so what does it really mean when my soil is compacted? Well as time goes on, more and more people and animals may walk across your soil. Does each individual person/animal make a significant compressional impact? No, but the sum of forces down against your lawn leads to it being pretty darn compacted! Especially if left unattended.
But what's so bad about it being compacted? Well, what many people don't know is that when the soil is compact it makes it extremely difficult for it to absorb nutrients and water. Through the process of aeration, you alleviate the compressional pressure and water nutrients can be absorbed more effectively.
But what exactly is used to go about this process? It should be no surprise when I say tell you the very device that aerates is called an aerator! Aerators can cost anywhere from $400 to $600. An aerator? I don't have one of those. Can I just use spikes? No! It's common for homeowners to think this may be an effective method, when in reality spikes just make holes in the soil. This will expose some roots to more nutrients, but even further compact the pushed in areas. It's not good to solve one problem if the solution simply increases another.
So how often should I aerate my lawn? Once a year will get the job done; once every two years is usually fine too. Fall is the best time to aerate.
Another key thing to note is that it's common for recently constructed houses to need aeration (along with several other lawn care services). This is so because typical home builders just sprinkle grass seed across previously compacted soil. To make matters worse, during home construction, there are many heavy machines that travel around the grounds. These further compact the lawn and increase the need for aeration.
The average price for aeration in Austin, Texas ranges from $100-$200. The process is well worth the money, strictly because there really aren't any other ways to relieve compaction in your lawn. You could go through the hassle of renting an aerator and learning how to effectively perform the operation, but it's probably easier to hire a trusted Austin lawn care service to handle the task. Take the day off and come back to a fully aerated lawn.
If on the fence about fertilizing your lawn, please do it. It's one of those lawn care services that simply isn't optional. Fertilization will provide your lawn with a visually appealing, rich, green lawn. To make the case even better, fertilization helps keep away weeds. Just understand that with great looks and care for your lawn, you'll need to sustain a given level of devotion. For example, when you increase fertilization you'll probably need to increase the frequency of mowing.
Most grasses in Austin, Texas are warm season grasses (in fact, I'd say that close to 100% of Austin lawns consist of warm-season grasses). With this type of seasonal grass comes a specific time period to optimally fertilize. The ultimate goal is to fertilize right before grass hits its highest-rate growing spurt. For Austin, fertilize grass at the beginning of summer or towards the end of spring. Another round of fertilizer should be dispersed toward the very end of summer. Try your best to complete this before September.
Broadcast or Rotary Spreader:
Rotary and broadcast spreaders are extremely efficient ways of ensuring you evenly disperse fertilizer across your lawn. This method works best for larger fertilization areas. When using this method, apply fertilizer around the edge of the lawn to begin. Once completed with that, begin to move in a consistent pattern, back and forth within the fertilized perimeter you initially established. Don't fear about the risk of doubling up in some areas that you may have missed. It's better to ensure you tackled the entire lawn vs missing a few spots.
For a more controlled yet still relatively large scale fertilization operation, utilize a drop spreader. Just like the broadcast or rotary spreader method, ensure your movement is in an orderly path. Additionally overlap the previous path you took slightly on the current pass. Drop spreaders can be a little more expensive. If you're really are passionate about giving your lawn the best look it can get, a drop spreader is definitely one of the best methods.
Handheld Broadcast Spreader:
For smaller scale fertilization methods, a handheld broadcast spreader may be the best bet. Take your time with this operation and ensure to follow a consistent pattern like all other methods. Overlapping distribution is also key once again in this method. This method also is great if you have some specific shady areas of your lawn that require additional or a different kind of fertilizer.
Pre-fertilization, it is imperative to ensure your lawn is heavily watered. Once the lawn has absorbed most of this water and the grass has dried, you should strike with the fertilizer. Follow this fertilization with another light watering. If you're clever about it, you can also schedule fertilization between rainstorms and let nature do the work for you. Just make sure it's not too heavy of a storm following the fertilization. This can have a really negative effect and wash a lot of the fertilizer away with it.
It's a good idea to follow aeration with fertilization. If you're going to go through the process of aeration it might as well be timed with an efficient follow up of fertilization as well. Through aeration, you open up the grass roots and soil to a greater opportunity for contact with fertilizer and fresh nutrients. Best aeration is done through utilizing a core aerator which unearths multiple plugs of soil from the ground (but you already know this from the previous section!).
Grasscycling is the process of leaving grass clippings sprawled across the lawn, after cutting it. These grass clippings alone can actually give your lawn nearly 30% of required fertilizing. This is because about 95 pounds of lawn clippings can produce almost four pounds of nitrogen, an ingredient necessary for lawn health. You do not need any kind of special mower to partake in this process.
Think about the addition of clover to your lawn. This gives your soil a natural nitrogen source. What few people know is that previous to the creation of modern herbicides, the ingredient, clover, is a prime component of many lawns. These strong plant actually mix well with the grass and offer many additional benefits. Clover also helps to repel many common pests (especially grubs) and helps to prevent varying lawn diseases.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that the sole purpose of mulching is for decoration. In reality, mulching can be used to help conserve water and protect your plants' roots from pests and especially drastic temperatures. Additionally and most importantly, mulching will help discourage growth of unwanted plants and weeds.
So knowing all the benefits of mulch, you probably want to go ahead and lay some down. Before you act on this, follow these steps to properly do so. It is a simple process, yet if done ineffectively, all of that effort was wasted.
This consists of taming any out of control weeds, whether this be through removal or snipping. Also if you are aspiring for mulch usage for water conservation and to help grass regrow ultimately, enrich the soil it will be placed on. This gives the mulch the opportunity to preserve the nutrients.
Also make sure to make room for the mulch that is to be put into the yard. Many people put mulch in a driveway or a solid surface that will be unaffected by its placement. This is temporary and used for convenience in terms of delivery.
Is your mulch purely decorative? Is your mulch used to kill weeds? How about if it's used to save water? Not only may your purpose dictate the type of mulch to use, but may also dictate the means of application. There are many decorative mulches that really don't service other purposes.
Also be aware of what the mulch is made of. Many mulches are made with a large component of plastic. This material discourages weed growth; however, also hurts the grass' ability to conserve water. The plastic makes the mulch impermeable.
If you're looking to save water for a period of time because a specific section of the grass is dry, biodegradable mulch may be your calling. This mulch is composed of grasses, wood chips, and other natural ingredients that slowly become one with the ground. Biodegradable mulch stores water for a given period of time, but then break down and decomposes.
See the specific casing for the mulch or consult a sales representative at point-of-purchase. Both methods should lead you to an answer in regards to the very purpose of the mulch. Always remember though; if you are ultimately unsure of the best approach to take and the best mulch to use, consult a lawn care professional. Mulching seems very easy to many, but can ultimately be confusing and labor intensive. LawnStarter is a way to find a reliable lawn care service.
Obtain the mulch from a trusted commercial store like Home Depot or Lowes, or consult a professional to perform the service. If ever on the edge it's best to consult the professional. Why? Well, consulting a quality lawn care professional makes sure the job is done 100% correctly. If you use a credible enough professional and they mess up the job or use the wrong mulch, they will fix or refund the service. I can't promise many lawn companies do it; however, I can promise LawnStarter does. Also you must take delivery into account. Many transporters or mulching companies are available to drop off mulch, but if using a commercial store, make sure not to hurt your back carrying the mulch.
When distributing the mulch, understand the cardinal rule: it's better to overdo it then under do it. A thick layer of mulch is essential for the underlying soil's water retention, and will form a barrier to prevent new weeds from sprouting up. Use a rake or other type of spreader to distribute the mulch evenly.
Also, there is no need to evenly disperse the mulch right off the main pile. That is an inefficient method. Create estimated given piles of mulch to be spread over the varying allotted areas. Mulching is not a precision task.
One more important note to consider though as you're mulching is to avoid covering tree and other plant roots.
So the job is complete. But wait, what if you want to plant something after the mulching is completed? Just pull back the mulch and plant away! It's pretty simple, just be sure you don't smother the new plant with mulch. That would just block the plant from sunlight and kill it.
Let's begin by discussing exactly what overseeding is and why it is important for your lawn.
Overseeding is the procedure of sowing seed throughout an already existing lawn, thereby avoiding the whole process of having to restart your lawn. It is certainly one of the most essential components to maintain a strong, lush and consistently impressive lawn. This is because the rates of which plants regrow becomes slower over time. Not only does this weaken the lawn's appearance, it opens up the door for unwanted weeds. Overseeding avoids both of these conflicts and is in fact much cheaper and simpler that re-creating an entire lawn.
Now that we've covered exactly what overseeding is, how can you know the time is right for you to overseed?
The first step is the simplest: take an honest unbiased look at your yard. Does the grass just not have the same shine it once did? Even though you have not deviated any of your normal lawn care practice for some reason the results just aren't consistent.
Next take a nice stroll through your lawn, observing it in detail. Pay attention to some of the poorer looking areas. Can you feel that the soil is loose, pretty consistently leveled, and well drained? If not, ask yourself the next question…
How old is your yard? Has it been over twelve years since the grass was last replanted and your yard underwent a major change? If the answer is yes yet again, your lawn is a prime time candidate for overseeding. Especially in light of the fact that the newly engineered varieties of seed are far more resilient to insects and other lawn diseases.
So now you have decided that you will indeed undertake this overseeding process, when is the best time to begin?
It is imperative you choose the right time and season to overseed. In past experiences it has been documented that around mid to late September into early October is an ideal time to go about this process. If time passes and it's already mid-October, the next greatest thing is to wait until the dawn of spring.
So now you know when to aerate. As someone who is sincerely concerned about the appearance of your lawn (which you should!), it's time to understand how best to go about the process. Let's run through this in three main parts:
To ensure the best overseeding job, you must properly prepare your lawn. Go about this by first mowing to a consistent height of 1 to 2 inches.
Next select a process such as roto-tilling or aerating to help break-up highly compacted soil. By performing this step, you hurt the roots of the previous existing plants to help make way for the new grass that will germinate from the overseeding process.
The final step before you go about dispersing grass seed is to spread compost levelly over the entire area. If you're not sure how much compost to apply, too little is better than too much, so err on the side of sparseness. This compost will provide the new growing grass seed with necessary nutrients.
No matter what seed you use, always make sure it goes well with your existing lawn. You don't want to look silly by having different types and shades of grass colliding across your lawn. Also consider going with a higher quality seed. Understand that you have already saved a good amount of money by using this process, when you consider the cost of redoing your whole lawn. Do not discount quality time you put into the process by selecting a poorer, cheaper seed.
Now here we are…finally getting to the actual process itself. Dispense grass seed evenly across the entire area you are overseeding. This process can be done by hand, a drop spreader, a rotary spreader, or any other method you feel comfortable using that gets the job done right. Next gently rake the areas you performed this operation on to help the seeds intermix with the soil.
Make sure to finish strong by applying an extended time release nitrogen fertilizer. Follow this process by watering your lawn right away. Apply water as much as you can the next two weeks without drowning the lawn, and still following the water regulations of Austin, Texas. Once the new grass begins to germinate, mow the lawn to a consistent height 1 3/4 inches to 2 1/4 inches for the next two months. Follow these procedures, and you can be sure that the overseeding process will do wonders to your lawn.
(Example of over seeding, before vs after below- second picture taken at slightly more right angle than first)