With seeding season on the horizon, it’s important to know the two most common methods to achieve a lush lawn. Aeration and verticutting work in different ways, and sometimes together, to help create the look you desire for your grass. These two methods can often be confused with one another, so it’s helpful to know the difference before you start working on your lawn.
Verticutting can be compared to the process of mowing the lawn. A verticutting machine has several vertical blades, as opposed to one horizontal blade, which cut grooves into the dirt. The more grooves you have in the soil, the better seed to soil contact. The better seed to soil contact, the better results you’ll achieve from overseeding. Verticutting is highly recommended for most lawns prior to overseeding. Verticutters loosen the topsoil so that seed will have better contact with the soil for germination. This is recommended in September to give the seed the maximum amount of time to germinate.
Verticutting works to minimize thatch, which is a layer of dead roots and stems that build up on the lawn, causing a barrier that makes it difficult for grass to obtain necessary nutrients and moisture. Small amounts of thatch can be beneficial by reducing compaction in high traffic areas, but when it exceeds a half-inch, verticutting is needed.
The process should be done in two passes. Once to remove the thatch and slice, and again to spread the seed. The seed can either be applied before or after the verticutting process.
Aeration involves puncturing the soil with small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to permeate the grass roots. This is done so that grass seeds will create a strong root structure and better results will be obtained after overseeding. The main goal of aeration is to loosen compacted soil, therefore this must be done before the seed to your lawn is applied. This will help the grass roots grow deeply and produce a stronger, more dense lawn. Typically, aeration is recommended once a year in the fall season.
After you aerate, leave soil plugs in place to decompose. These cores will help minimize thatch. After the plugs dry, run over them the next time you mow as this will break them up. You can then fertilize and seed the lawn immediately following aeration.