Aeration

Aerating a Bermuda lawn is essential for maintaining its health and vigor, particularly in compacted soil environments. The process involves perforating the soil with small holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. Bermuda grass thrives in warm climates and can become dense, regular aeration ensures that the lawn remains lush, green, and resilient against foot traffic and environmental stresses.

Basic Steps

  1. Mow the Lawn: Cut the Bermuda grass to a lower height than usual to prepare the lawn for aeration, which helps reduce thatch buildup and allows easier soil penetration.
  2. Water the Lawn: Irrigate the lawn thoroughly one to two days before aeration to soften the soil, making it easier to extract cores and more effective in penetration.
  3. Select the Right Equipment: Use a core aerator that removes plugs of grass and soil from the lawn. This equipment is more effective for relieving compaction than spike aerators.
  4. Core Aeration: Pass the core aerator over the lawn in a uniform pattern. Make sure to overlap passes slightly to ensure adequate coverage without leaving untreated patches.
  5. Pre-emergent: Post-aeration is a good time to apply a pre-emergent if weeds are a recurring issue, as aerating just broke the weed barrier of any previous pre-emergent application.
  6. Level the Lawn: Spread a thin layer of masonry sand over the lawn to fill in the holes and level the surface. This helps in smoothing out uneven areas and further enhances soil structure and drainage. If you don’t want your lawn level, use a mix of sand and soil/compost.
  7. Rake Gently: Use a leveling rake to distribute the leveling mix evenly across the surface, ensuring that the mix settles into the aeration holes without smothering the grass.
  8. Water Again: Irrigate the lawn to support turf recovery after aeration. Water will also help the sand self-level.
  9. Fertilize: Apply a nitrogen fertilizer after aeration to provide essential nutrients that will help the lawn recover and thrive.

Comparing Spike Aeration vs Plug/Core Aeration

Plug/Core Aeration: This method removes plugs of soil, creating space for air, water, and nutrients to reach grass roots. It’s best for compacted soil, making it ideal for Bermuda lawns suffering from heavy use or clay soil. It’s crucial for deep aeration, helping overseeding by giving seeds a place to germinate. It is the only type of aeration the relieves compaction.

Spike Aeration: Spike aeration pokes holes in the soil without removing it. It’s less aggressive but increases compaction, suited for Bermuda lawns that aren’t heavily compacted but need better air and water flow. Perfect for prepping for overseeding and top-dressing, as it breaks the thatch layer, allowing seeds and nutrients to reach the soil.

Why Core Aeration? For Bermuda lawns with deep compaction and thatch, core aeration is key. It opens the soil, improves nutrient uptake, and aids overseeding by enhancing seed-soil contact. Ideal for high-traffic or clay-heavy areas, ensuring a healthier, denser lawn.

Why Spike for Bermuda? Bermuda lawns, dense and thatch-prone, benefit from spike aeration before overseeding with cool-season grasses or applying top-dressing. It ensures materials reach the soil, not just sit on top.

Conclusion: Use plug/core for heavy compaction and deep soil issues. Opt for spike when maintaining an already healthy Bermuda lawn, especially before overseeding or top-dressing.

Pick Up Plugs

Whether or not to pick up plugs depends on your soil. If you’re not in the ideal sand/silt/clay ratio then it’s best you pick them up. If your soil is amended properly already and has a nice balance, you can leave them. They’ll break down on their own, or you can run a rotary mower over them to mulch them.

Alternatively, you can use the plugs as sprigs to add growth to other areas. Don’t expect great things from it, but it’s a great option if you have quality F1 sod in an area and want to move some of that F1 hybrid to another area of your properly.

Photo of plugs by Mark Rattay. He shows his soil quality after 2 sand levelings and 4 treatments of Humichar over the last 10 months.

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