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Core aerator on rocky, rooty yard?

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by tip184, Apr 10, 2003.

  1. tip184

    tip184 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 52

    I'm a homeowner in south-central Michigan with 1.5 acres of wooded yard. The lawn is in terrible shape (not much sun because of the MANY trees, lots of moss) and I want to try to help it. I'm not inclined to cut down trees (all very tall, branches start at around 60 feet). I leave the clippings when I mow, and I fertilize once a year.

    I want to aerate with a (rented) pull-behind core aerator before I fertilize and reseed this spring. However, there are some roots near the surface, and rocks at the surface in places - too big to dig out easily, and low enough that they pose no hazard to my mower blades. Can I pull the aerator over the roots and rocks without damaging it, or do I need to avoid them? I realize that when I go over the rock or root the aerator won't penetrate at other places along its length - I can deal with that. I just don't want to damage the aerator.

    Thanks. You guys gave great advice when I bought my Scag 48" walk-behind - don't fail me now!

  2. Catcher

    Catcher LawnSite Member
    Messages: 166

    Well, first off - I'm not sure if fertilizing once a year is going to make a huge difference for your lawn.
    The other factor is how well your your soil is suited for growing a nice lawn.
    I had similiar problems and finally went to the local co-op here in town where I had a soil test done. These are pretty cheap (~$10) and will let you know which nutrients your lawn is lacking or which elements it has too much of. After this has been determined they can help you adjust PH, acidity etc. to give you the best conditions for a lush lawn.
    The other service they have is a complete fertilizer program. I tried it and I think it is very effective.
    As far as core aeration is concerned, I would probably make a berth around the surface roots I know of; just to avoid un-necessary injury and stress to the tree.
    The rocks obviously won't be hurt, but they can bend your prong on the aerator to where it won't penetrate anymore.
    If you know where they are and you don't have too many of them I would just circle around them all.
  3. Green Pastures

    Green Pastures LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,457

    Not enough sun. Hence all the moss.

    If you want grass you have to have sun, proper soil nitrients and ph levels and water.

    You have 2 choices.

    Cut down some of the trees and then

    1. Get soil test done.
    2. Fix the problems the soil test shows you.
    3. Prep the soil, top dress, aerate, seed then fertilize.
    4. Water and wait for grass to grow.

    I have many potential customers in your exact position. You have to make a decision. You either want grass and are willing to do what it takes or you are not.

    I will not bang my head against the wall trying to help someone get a lawn who is not willing to do what it takes. It reflects bad on me.

    No flames to you sir just bottom line advice.
  4. tip184

    tip184 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 52

    Thanks for the replies so far. I realize that lack of sun is the major problem, and I don't expect the worst of the property to have a nice lush lawn. However, there are places that get some light where grass is growing, and I want to give it more of a fighting chance - thus the desire to aerate.

    The soil test suggestion is a good one, as is taking care of any problems revealed by the test. I suppose applying something to eliminate the moss in the poorly-lighted areas (iron sulfate?? or whatever it is they sell for that purpose) is probably a waste of money without getting more light to the area?

    And Scott - I don't want to bang my head against the wall either. I like my trees (except when the leaves come down) and realize that my lawn will never be perfect. I just want to help along the few struggling blades of grass that I have.


  5. Green Pastures

    Green Pastures LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,457

    You have good information here in this thread for a good start on what you want to do.

    Soil test is paramount.
  6. John Gamba

    John Gamba LawnSite Fanatic
    from ct
    Messages: 10,812

    Thin Out the Trees!!!!!!!!!!!
  7. Catcher

    Catcher LawnSite Member
    Messages: 166

    I hate cutting down trees too.
    If your spread is on an acre and a half, you could probably use some of that moss to create a nice comfy seating area.
    I mean, moss really is not that bad, arranged with a few large boulders you can achieve a nice effect of a relaxing area in the shade.
    Food for thought.

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