Here at Heritage Lawns & Irrigation, we get plenty of questions about lawn aeration and verticutting. We thought we would create a little tutorial to answer some of these questions. We also hope to help you understand the purpose and advantages of aerating and verticutting.
What Is Core Aeration?
Removing plugs of dirt from your lawn
Aeration is the process of removing small plugs (or cores) of dirt from your lawn with a specialized machine. The plugs are usually about ¾” in diameter and just a few inches long. There are many lawn aeration benefits. Over time, soil can get compacted and hard. Aeration allows your lawn to breathe by making room for roots to grow and allowing air, water and nutrients to get to the roots. It also helps to remove the layer of thatch (a layer of dead leaves, stems, twigs, and other organic matter that settles on top of the dirt). This builds up keeping sun, air, and water from reaching your grass.
What Is Verticutting?
Cutting horizontal lines into your lawn
Verticutting is similar to aerating in that it gets rid of the layer of thatch too, but it’s a little more disruptive to your turf. Verticutting is done by using a special machine that cuts horizontal lines into the lawn versus pulling small plugs out of the lawn. A verticutter has blades that cut down into the thatch breaking up that dead layer and bringing it to the surface so it can easily be collected and removed. Verticutting also decreases lawn compaction by cutting in the rows, but not to the degree that a core aerator does. Verticutting creates the best bed for seeding.
Should I Aerate or Verticut?
It depends on your lawn
Aerating and verticutting are not the same and don’t do the same thing. Aerating is used to decrease compaction, control thatch buildup, and encourage rooting in the lawn. Verticutting cuts grooves through the thatch layer which allows the seed to get to the soil for better germination and establishment.
Overseeding Your Lawn
Adding seed to an existing lawn
Verticutting and aerating are often followed by overseeding. Both processes provide good seed-to-soil contact for better germination. If your lawn is really thin or damaged, verticutting will provide a little better seed bed, so we suggest verticutting over aerating. If your lawn is in pretty good shape, aerating may be all you need.
When Is the Best Time to Aerate or Verticut my Lawn?
September in KC
September is the prime time to seed your lawn in Kansas City. You can aerate and verticut anytime the lawn is not under stress, which means most of the time spring and fall. We recommend fall because, if you are going to seed, fall is a better time to seed. If your lawn is heavily compacted (perhaps from lots of traffic) then a spring and fall aeration is recommended. With our heavy clay soils and hot summers baking the lawns into a brick we recommend at least an annual fall aeration.
Lawn Coach Tips for Aerating and Verticutting
Struggling lawn – verticut
Healthy lawn – aerate
When we asked Lawn Coach, Jason Clarkson, what advice he gives his homeowners who are trying to choose between aerating and verticutting, he explained, “Because we can seed after aerating, this is the best choice for lawns that are fairly healthy and just need to be thickened up. A thick healthy turf stand will help prevent any weeds in the lawn. Verticutting is designed for seeding in an existing lawn and it’s your best option for any bare or very thin areas. For a very thin lawn I recommend a verticut one time and for bare spots I recommend to verticut 2 times [plus] seeding.”
Next, we asked Lawn Consultant, Sean Campbell, his opinion on the matter and this was his response, “For seeding, I like verticutting over aerating because it provides a better seed bed for seed germination. When verticutting, go one direction on the lawn then put the seed down and go over it again in the opposite direction.”