Homeowners may not realize that multiple trips mowing grass can create soil compaction. Walking, playing and other activities in the yard also can cause soil compaction.
As the soil becomes compacted, it reduces the ability for roots to grow as well as they should and constricts the optimum amount of gas and water exchanges within the soil.
Core aeration is a great first step in helping the roots. There needs to be enough moisture so that the equipment (rental or hired out if you don't own one) will pull great plugs.
Make sure there is adequate moisture at least 1 inch into the soil. Mark irrigation heads and other items in your yard that may be damaged during the multiple passes.
It will look like a pack of dogs attacked your yard when you are done, but this is additional organic matter that will decompose over time and go back into your soil so don't rake them up.
Mowing will also help break up the plugs. Reducing compaction will help grass plant spread it roots, thereby thickening up its crown.
When a grass plant thickens up, it starts to fill in thin spots reducing weed pressures that try and invade and over time, may reduce the need for lawn herbicides.
It also reduces a thatch layer that may have formed. Thatch layers can also dry out a yard quicker, so by breaking up the layer, you may be able to reduce the amount of watering during dry summer periods.
Aeration also increases water and fertilization absorption.
Core aerification can be done in spring and fall for cool-season grasses. It is usually done in June for warm-season grasses.
Email your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail your questions to Sarah Fernandez, c/o Quincy Herald-Whig, 130 S. Fifth, Quincy, IL 62301.