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Thatch, Aeration, and Your Healthy Lawn

by Gabby Hyman, All About Lawns Columnist

There's really nothing complicated about lawn thatch and soil compaction. Core aeration is not part of routine lawn care, but you definitely want to fix any problems that threaten the life of a healthy lawn. There's an old saw that you can check soil compaction by trying to slide a wooden matchstick into your soil. If it won't go in without force, you may want to have a local lawn service out to your home to aerate your soil for a fee, sparing you equipment rentals and labor.

If your lawn shows considerable foot wear, drains slowly, or browns up quickly when dry, the soil is probably compacted. Thatch is the organic layer of material that wedges between your grass and the soil. If it gets thicker than ½" to ¾" it could lead to moisture starvation, foster insect growth, and festering lawn disease. In both cases, your lawn is most likely a strong candidate for aeration.
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Cores and Plugs

Aeration equipment--the right kind--has hollow tines that pull ½" to ¾" plugs of soil from your lawn, boring down as much as 6" deep, drilling several inches apart. The benefits can be immense. Aeration is known to improve grass rooting capability, enable the "watering in" of fertilizers and pesticides, to increase air and water flow to the soil, and enhance the generation of microorganisms that will keep your thatch in check.

If you chose to rent your own aerator at a local lawn and garden shop, be sure you ask for one that draws plugs to the surface -- else you're probably wasting your time and money. Water your lawn several days ahead of the procedure.  Your soil should be moist, but not wet and soaking. Run the machine in at least two different directions to ensure adequate coverage.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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