3. Power raking – Along with mechanical aeration, power raking the lawn is another spring clean up item on most folks to do list. The purpose of power raking is to remove dead grass from the last year, and to stimulate new growth. Think of it as giving your lawn a massage.
My dad would have us go out with a dethatcher and rake the lawn every spring. It was hard work, and I was the one who needed a massage after a couple of days of raking. Today most folks hire a contractor to mechanically power rake. The equipment will have metal or rubber tines. Observing many lawns after treatment, it appears the rubber tines are gentler on the grass. I don’t think it really matters what type of tine is used. However it is important power raking isn’t overdone. Whether you hand rake or power rake, be careful not to be too aggressive as rough treatment affects the lawn’s recovery time. I’ve seen properties after an aggressive treatment that left all the grass crowns exposed and roughed up, making it difficult for the grass to withstand spring temperature and moisture changes.
Newer lawns shouldn’t have thatch build up; so wait for three years for seeded lawns and at least two years for newly sodded lawns before power raking.
The core sample will also tell you about thatch conditions. Thatch is the spongy organic material. How much thatch is built up? Measure and record its thickness. (No thatch isn’t good either. So make a note). If the thatch is more than ¾” it needs to be addressed as it’s an indicator that the soil microorganisms need help to do their job. Once again, our SoilPerfect Rx Soil Care program can help you improve thatch conditions.
Next up… overseeding and top dressing. Watch for it early next week!
Spring is so late here in central Alberta! Snow is still covering our grass and gardens. A far different scene from last year’s early spring and snow melt. But when it comes to looking after your lawn regardless the conditions, you will be spring cleaning. (Though around here it will likely be closer to May 15 before we can get anything done.)
There are some things you can do to help your turf recover from winter hibernation and encourage the grass to green up and grow quickly. So take a moment to review your best practices, keeping in mind it is the soil microbiology that is your greatest asset and ally:
1. Survey winter damage to the turf – Look for evidence of snow mold, mice activities, and winter kill. A vigorous brushing with a fan rake is generally all that is needed to lift and clear away debris. Make a note of damage to the root zone. You will need to overseed and top dress these areas.
2. Aeration – The purpose of aeration is to physically create holes in the soil to give air and water access to the root zone. The cores can be left on the lawn for the soil biology to break down; or if you don’t like the look you can remove the core. As with power raking, wait three years before aerating seeded lawns, and at least two years for newly sodded lawns.
Timing of aeration is everything. The ground needs to be moist so irrigate a couple of days before the scheduled aeration treatment (not the day of) if it is required. Generally I can count on the soil being moist so I prefer to aerate in the spring though it can be done in the fall.
Other than mechanical aeration, there are strategies you can incorporate into your practices that encourage the soil biology to address compaction issues. We have had phenomenal success in reducing compaction, and eliminating the need for mechanical aeration with our SoilPerfect Rx VIE. Applying this soil amendment in spring and fall for a couple of years will do wonders with compaction issues.
If you do mechanically aerate, it’s a good time to evaluate the condition of the core. The core can tell you a lot about the condition of your lawn and how well the biology and your management practices are working. In an ideal world a 4” tine aeration will give you a 4” core depth to evaluate. Whatever the depth, measure it. Ask yourself, “from the bottom up how much of that core is soil”? Are roots growing in the soil? Can’t get a good core sample? This is an indicator of compaction and poor soil conditions for soil microorganisms. The core sample will also tell you about thatch conditions. Thatch is the spongy organic material found between the soil and the leaf.
More about thatch and what to look for in my next blog – coming right up!
According to Cornell researchers, soil microorganisms need electrons for everything they do, biologically and chemically. Biochar, a highly porous charcoal byproduct of heating biomass in the absence of oxygen, is a favorite source for soil microorganisms looking for electrons. In fact, soil microorganisms seem to thrive in the presence of Biochar!
They do so with the help of carbon to create ‘high definition’ systems to move electrons through the soil; an important and under- appreciated known function that has huge benefits on plant growth.
Biochar can be an important tool to recover severely depleted soils and in areas where organic resources are scarce, and water and fertilizer access inadequate. According to the International Biochar Initiative, its primary use is to increase carbon concentration in soils and for atmospheric carbon capture and storage.
Other benefits using Biochar include:
Want to learn more about Biochar? Give us a shout!