Over the past two weeks I have seen several lawn care companies doing all the prep work they possibly can before the lawn mowing season starts. Starting all the way back in the first week of March, I began to see different companies in town start their services to commercial and residential properties, which includes lawn aeration. Although aeration is one of the single best things you can do for the health of your lawn, if it is not done right you may be wasting your money. In Reno, water activation is normally done around the first to second week in April due to the freezing temperatures during early spring nights. The best time to aerate is normally after a lawn has been soaked throughout the night. This enables deep cores to break through the thatch layer and allows water and nutrients to penetrate all the way through to the soil. The problem with aerating your lawn so early in March is that the ground can still be frozen and has not had a chance to be watered. Due to Reno's extremely dry winter this year, many of the lawns that were aerated before the irrigation had been activated have produced very minimal soil penetration, which results in extremely small core removal.
Since I have not activated my water yet, I just went outside and attempted to aerate my lawn to show exactly what I am talking about. The cores that were removed are extremely small compared to the picture above and have hardly even penetrated through the thatch layer. Since most companies, including myself, use a self propelled drum aerator, it is necessary to have moisture in the lawn so as to get deep core penetration and the maximum benefit for the time, money, and effort.
What should I do?
If you have already had your lawn aerated and your cores are small because the irrigation had not been activated yet, you can either: 1) get it done again, or 2) just wait until the fall to get it done right. If you hire a company to aerate your lawn, ask if they use a self propelled drum aerator or a piston driven aerator. If the company uses a piston driven aerator, then the aeration process can be done at any time, as long as the ground is not frozen.
Finally, you get what you pay for! A neighborhood boy this year went and rented an aerator for a day and was only charging homes $20.00 to aerate their lawn. Due to the amount of people that signed up for this cheap rate, his aeration jobs resulted in very few plugs being removed because he was in a rush to return the aerator by the end of the day.
Just make sure when you aerate this season that the process is done right!