Well everyone, it’s that time of year again when we take seemingly beautiful greens and punch them full of holes and cover them with sand. Contrary to what many golfers may think we do not do this just to terrorize and irritate them. There are many reasons why we do this and if we did not we may not have the beautiful putting surfaces that we strive for. So, I thought I might explain those reasons in a little more detail since these practices are not only beneficial to a putting green. It can be very beneficial to a home lawn as well.
First, the timing of normal aeration is usually spring and fall because of the milder weather in these seasons. Since it is a stressful practice for the turf the milder weather helps the turf recover easier and if seeding is needed it will have a much better chance of growing in these seasons. Though on occasion mid-season aerations are necessary if problems arise.
Now one of the many reasons why we aerate is to relieve compaction. Greens and other playing surfaces are compacted every day from constant mowing, rolling, spraying, and foot traffic. Over time this all adds up and begins to affect the health of the turf since no turf likes to grow in compacted soil. Our aerators loosen the soil up nicely and give our roots some room to grow once again. At this same time it does what the word “aerate” implies. It allows air to get back into the soil and to the roots which makes for a good growing environment.
Another reason for this practice is to improve drainage. When soil gets compacted it drains poorly so by opening pathways back into the soil and filling them with sand it helps to get the water down to the roots and not just run off the surface or stay wet on the top.
Also, if there is a reason to seed a green such as thin turf or adding different varieties this is the perfect time since the aeration holes make a perfect seed bed to protect the seed and help it grow.
Now the sand used to fill the holes has many benefits. As stated before it helps with drainage. But it also creates a thin layer on the top of the turf and helps protect the crown of the plant from mechanical damage. This thin layer also helps to smooth the surface and help with ball roll.
All of these benefits to the turf are necessary to keep the turf happy and healthy and able to withstand the stress of the golf season. Though it may be a nuisance to the golfer the sub-par conditions caused by aerating only last a short while but are vital to the long-term health of the golf course as a whole.
Now these practices are not just reserved for golf courses. Aeration can be very beneficial to a home lawn as well. Especially if you have high traffic areas or thin turf this is the perfect way to get your grass healthy again. Throwing grass seed just on the top isn’t going to do much except feed the birds. A lawn aerator can be rented at most “rent-all” places and they are very easy to operate. Just remember to seed afterwards and take the seed in, and of course water daily. Don’t wait too long since the fall is the best time to seed. Plus doing this yourself will definitely give you bit more appreciation of what it takes to maintain 100 plus acres of turf.
Best of luck,
Golf Course Superintendent
Raceway Golf Club