Hardly anyone thinks about the dirt the grass grows in, but the health of the soil is a key component to a great lawn. Grass does best in soil that drains well and has a rich, loamy texture.
Poor soil invites many lawn problems, including weak growth, which makes the grass subject to damage from insects, disease or weather conditions. If the soil is compacted or made of heavy clay, it may not drain properly. If it’s sandy or silty, it won’t hold water and will dry out too quickly.
Core-aerate the soil every fall or every other fall. This process pulls 2- to 3-inch-long cores from the ground. Cores from aeration should be left on the lawn until they disintegrate in a couple of weeks, feeding the soil as they do. Core-aeration helps to keep thatch, or dead root matter, under control and loosen compacted soil. The holes allow water, oxygen and other nutrients to work their way into the soil. Don’t aerate when the soil is wet or frozen.
Core-aeration is particularly important in areas where there is a lot of foot traffic, such as where children play or people walk on the lawn to the mailbox or garage. In high-traffic areas, the lawn will benefit from core aeration two or three times a year.
Lawn care companies offer core aeration services or core aerators can be rented at tool stores, garden centers and other retailers. When doing it yourself, be sure to follow a pattern for the aeration, crisscrossing the lawn and punching holes that are about 3 inches apart.