Aerate or Power Rake?

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by White Gardens, Apr 8, 2011.

  1. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Got a call from a customer saying he wasn't sure what his lawn needed.

    In a nutshell, I took a couple of plugs out of the yard and noticed the thatch layer is a bit thicker than I would like to see.

    So, considering we are now in the time of year where the lawns are just starting to take off, and we might see higher temps soon, what would you do. If I aerate, I would do a double or triple aerate in order to break the thatch layer good. If I power rake, then that's self explanatory.

    If I were to do either, I would have liked to have done it about two weeks ago in order to be able to get pre-em down after the fact. Now I feel I'm running the risk of doing either and having a CG outbreak later in the season.

    What's your thoughts guys, and I appreciate the help.

  2. betmr

    betmr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,663

    In my opinion, Aeration is for compacted soil. Vertical Mowing is the right choice for De-Thatching. The idea is to thin that thatch layer out, and get rid of the debris.
  3. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,810

    Aeration sounds a lot easier to me. No need to rake the debris. No risk of damage thinning the lawn(unless you aerate sprinkler heads). Neither will have much long term effect on the thatch, in my opinion. Double pass is fine.
  4. Exact Rototilling

    Exact Rototilling LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,378

    My lawn I inherited here as of last October has just over 1/2" to upwards of 3/4" thatch in spots. My rolling tine lawn solutions unit struggled to punch really good holes. To be fair I rented a bluebird 530 and it was a noticeable notch down in performance from the LS WB. My plugr 850 did an outstanding job in punching through the thatch layer with dramatic increase in plugs. I realize the speed of the reciprocating tines great helps in punching and cutting through a thatch layer.

    I'd say a double pass with a plugr 800 series or a Ryan 28 reciprocating is the way to go. .... If you're going aerate. The true mathematical plug count of the Ryan 28 and plugr 800's with a double pass can only be exceeded with 4 passes of a rolling tine machine with more common spacing.

    If I was to grind out all the thatch with an aggressive flail blade dethatch there would be a tremendous amount of haul off.
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  5. Exact Rototilling

    Exact Rototilling LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,378

    Here are the pics in this thread:

    Customers often want instant results then go back to a thatch producing habit of low mowing then when hotter weather arrives requires more fert and water. Very common scenario in this area.

    Aeration customers need to understand that aeration is a slower recovery from thatch. Just in the last 3 years I've meet a fair amount of resistance in general from home owners that don't believe that aeration helps thatch that much? I'd have to agree a single pass of rolling tine machine is not enough.

    Fact is my Plugr 850 punched more holes - more cleanly than the Blue Bird or LS unit. and due to the tine design of the Plugr pop the plugs up on top of the lawn for a greatly improved top dressing effect of the dirt portion of the plug for thatch breakdown. If plugs are raked up or bagged on mowing you loose a good chunk of the top dressing effect.

    I absolutely hate mowing over a property I have aerated with even a single pass of my plug 850 especially when I have to bag.

    Double pass.....:cry:...:cry:

    One of the posters here has mentioned that in colder regions the frost heaves tend to un compact the soil in the early spring which is true. TurfcoBob has also mentioned repeatedly on this fourm the advantages of soil fracturing of rolling tine aerators vs. reciprocating aerators.

    I think those pics show the HUGE notch up on top dress effect of the Plugr.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  6. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,285

    And how do you know the thatch isn't be caused by compacted soil?

    Aeration is better for everything involved.

    Then make sure your\their cultural practices aren't making the problem worse.
  7. betmr

    betmr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,663

    I don't think that compaction causes thatch. I believe compaction causes weak or dead grass. Thatch, I believe is vigorous from growth.
  8. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,285

    There is not necessarily one cause of thatch, but compaction can be one of them.

    Besides, core aeration causes less injury to the grass plants than a dethatcher or or verticutting. And less mess to clean up. In addition to all the other benefits it provides that verticutting or a dethatcher don't.
  9. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Thanks for all the posts guys.

    Here is the concerns.

    We can go through warmer/dryer periods this time of year. My concern with heavily aerating is running the risk of drying the soil out too much and stressing the grass, making matters worse. That and I would like to apply a pre-em directly after, and I'm afraid of the punch holes not allowing me to create that weed barrier.

    Haul off shouldn't be to bad if I power rake. The lawn is around 7k. I would just tarp the worst of it, and use my mower and vac to clean up the rest. I wouldn't think it would be over 4 yards of material, I can haul up to 6.

    Property Perspective: Newer subdivision in the last 15 years, first three-4 inches of soil appear to be good black dirt, noticeable compaction under foot, and no real signs of worm activity.

    Ultimately it's a newer construction lawn, so there are a lot of decks stacked against it.

    In regards to Pre-Em, do you guys think I still have enough time to get it done by the end of next week and still be able to apply pre-em with results? Soil temps are still around 47*, Forsythias are in full bloom, but not the lilacs.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    This discussion brings up a lot of issues... check it out...

    To answer the question, the first thing I would do is not fertilize and not pre-m until after several mulch mowings.

    The Illinois extention agrees with the Appleton Wisconsin extension office and it is good to remember that our current schedule has been developed 40 years ago by fertilizer Salesmen and pesticide Salesmen.

    In the past decade Universities have started speaking out against their funding interests and are talking more along scientific and horticultural lines...

    Most importanly, what they are saying makes sense... :)

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