When is the Best Time to Aerate Your Lawn?

If you aren’t familiar with what aeration is or why it is helpful for your lawn, you are not alone. It’s something that can easily go unattended because it happens under the the surface. In fact, only 25% of homeowners in the United States aerate their lawn.

What is Aeration and Why is it Important?

Aeration is a process by which air is allowed to circulate through a substance. You can aerate a wide variety of things, such as milk, blood and also soil. It allows air to circulate through the lawn, but also provides a pathway for water and nutrients to reach the roots in a more direct manner. Aeration is usually accomplished by poking holes in the soil or by taking plugs of soil out of the ground. Core aeration requires heavy machinery that has been designed specifically for this purpose. The use of aerators creates exposed roots and surfaces of the plant are cut open, this can result in the plant dying out a bit before it heals. This process can take up to a couple weeks. 

There are natural soil aerators, like bugs and other soil-loving creatures that dig in the dirt – but they are not as effective or as capable as humans are, especially professional lawn care technicians. Following the service, you will notice a stronger turf beneath your feet after a few weeks.

When is the Best Season to Aerate in Cedar Rapids & Iowa City?

Before you go and buy yourself a lawn aerator or hire someone to come out, you should know that there are better times to aerate your lawn than others. While the long-term effects of aeration are beneficial for your lawn, it is also stressful to the plants if not done a the right time. We want to target the times of the year when the lawn is healthy and growing. In Iowa (specifically Cedar Rapids & Iowa City), we have cool season grasses. So spring and fall are the best times to both aerate and seed your lawn.

Now that its narrowed down to the season, the other huge factor is the weather. We know how unpredictable Iowa weather can be and it has an impact on when your lawn entering its “growing” stage. Because we tailor our lawn care program to take advantage of the weather conditions, we have found that these ideal times present themselves in the spring and late summer/fall for Cedar Rapids & Iowa City.

Ideal Weather Conditions for Aeration

In the spring, it’s best to wait until the grass is starting to or is consistently growing. For this to happen, the soil needs to be approaching 50+ degrees. There are a couple indicators we can use tell when a lawn is fit for aeration:

  • Green Grass – Every fall/winter, the plant goes dormant. As a result, it tends to turn a yellowish/brown color. In the spring, the new growth pushes out the dormant material, which is eventually mowed off and decomposes. When a lawn has consistently green grass, we know it has grown out of dormancy and it healthy enough for aeration.
  • Mowing frequency –  Mowing should be done often enough that you remove no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade. When the lawn needs mowed more than once a week, it is a strong indicator it would recover quickly from aeration. Mowing frequently is also a great way to break up the cores that have been pulled during aeration, allowing the soil to fall back into the holes and decompose naturally. 

In the early fall (August through October), growth of the plant isn’t as rapid as it was in the spring. However, this is when the root growth is accelerated as the plant is recovering from the heat of the summer months. There is always a chance your lawn goes dormant in the summer months, so you may need to wait until the grass greens again before aerating. Also if there was a summer drought, the soil may be too hard to even penetrate well. So waiting for cooler temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and increased rainfall make the fall a perfect time of year for the lawn. 

Don’t have time to aerate your lawn?

Your time is valuable. We know you have family, hobbies and work so give us a call and we would be happy to provide you with a no obligation quote.

Brown & Yellow Streaks in Your Lawn May be Ascochyta Leaf Blight

Ascochyta leaf blight on iowa lawns

Do you see bleached tracks on your lawn that typically follow the path of your mower? It could be Ascochyta Leaf Blight, which is a grass fungus that is found primarily on Kentucky Bluegrass, the most common grass in Iowa. This disease causes irregular patches of straw-brown color and will make your grass appear dead. This can pop up overnight, having a great looking lawn one day and a streaky yellow lawn the next. Weather can have a factor in it as well, as it is typically preceded by wet weather that turns hot and dry. You will start seeing these damaged lawns near the beginning of June, but they can also occur anytime throughout the summer.

This is a foliar disease that kills the leaf tissue, not the root system. This also means that the disease is transferred by infectious spores that sit on the surface of the grass. The “dead” patches are commonly seen where your mower tires track because your tires will easily spread the spores as you mow your lawn. Given that the outbreaks are so random, you typically won’t notice your lawn is affected until after the patches are already there. Once they appear, there is little you can do to make them go away. The good news is that recovery should only take 3-4 weeks, depending on how the growing conditions are over that time. There also are some practices you can perform regularly to relieve stress on your lawn and lessen your chances of a yellow, patchy lawn appearing overnight.

The four main cultural practices you can do properly for a stress-free lawn are: fertilizingmowing, watering, and core-aerating. If you haven’t already, please consider our Weed and Feed fertilizing program. We apply the best products available in the correct amount at the right time. Mowing frequency, height of cutting, and blade sharpness are very important. Please be sure 2.5” – 3” of height remains after you’ve cut the lawn. Anything shorter than this causes stress on the lawn and allows weed infiltration. Never cut more than one third of the grass blade when mowing. And avoid mowing in the heat of the day, especially if the lawn appears to be wilting or starting to dry out. 

A healthy lawn needs 1” – 1.5” of moisture a week. It is best to water over night. Keep in mind, recovery will be slow and over-watering will not speed it up and may cause more problems. Keep up with fertility to promote re-growth. Core-aeration should be an annual practice especially for lawns that frequently have disease issues. Aeration reduces thatch levels and increases air movement, which allows the grass plants to dry more efficiently.

With this particular disease, curative fungicide treatments are not recommended. There are preventative fungicides available, but they must be applied before the problem appears. If we find a recurring problem, we may suggest preventative treatment(s) or over-seeding problem areas with varieties of grass resistant to the disease. We offer fertilization programs, aeration, and mowing services. Please contact our office if we can be of further assistance.

Tips for Seeding Lawns in Eastern Iowa

Seeding grass growing with UltraLawn

If you’ve been waiting to seed those thin or bare patches in your lawn, we suggest timing it between August and September to get optimal results for homeowners in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Once the seed is down, it’s important to begin daily watering immediately. At least twice per day is a must in order to keep the surface soil moist. Depending on the heat, additional shots of water may be needed. If the seed has been properly irrigated, you should see germination (sprouting) within a couple weeks. Once the germination process has completed (around four weeks) you can begin to reduce your watering routine to two to three times per week – an application of 1.5” of water at a time is typically sufficient. Seeded areas will need to be watered and fertilized throughout the growing season to allow it to thicken. These first year seedlings will not take drought well and will require your attention to survive the remaining hot summer months.

Once seedlings reach around 3.5” tall, you can include those areas as you mow the lawn. Make sure to leave 2.5” to 3” of the blade remaining – mowing too short will stress this new grass which can allow weed infiltration. Remember, these areas of your lawn can’t receive weed control treatments at this time and you should expect some weeds to show up as the new grass matures.

Avoid heavy foot traffic on these new patches until they’ve been mowed four to fives times. It may take up to a couple full years until these seeded areas reach the full thickness and health of your existing lawn. The speed of recovery ultimately comes down to water access so keep this rhyme in mind – keep it wet to avoid regret!

Remember that Ultralawn is here to help. If you’d like us to assist you in seeding your lawn, give us a call or contact us online for a quote. Every invoice comes with tips and comments related to our visit. See why homeowners in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City know that the grass is always greener (and fuller) on the UltraLawn side of the fence!

Battling Yellow or Brown Grass?

Have you struggled to solve the puzzle of yellow or brown patches in your yard? Several factors could be at play:

Warmth/Sun Exposure

Warmth or sun exposure can be the most obvious. Some yards may slope south and get more sunlight while others are stuck in the shade. Shady spots will always be slower to green up than the sunny ones and will require more time to ‘wake up’ in the spring.

Nutrition

A yellow lawn can be a sign that your lawn is chlorotic or lack proper nutrition. Our late fall application is helpful in preventing this. Lawns are hungry for more than just water! We can help you find the right balance.

Soil Compaction

The more compacted the soil is, the less warm spring air gets down to the roots, slowing down growth. Aerating your lawn at least once a year can prevent this. Another simple tip to consider is a light raking of your lawn to reduce any matting that may exist. This will also help your grass breathe.

Species

Some species of bluegrass green up earlier than others. They may also have different healthy color characteristics – some may be a slow-growing dark green while another is a fast rising lighter color.

 

If you’d like answers, reach out for an on-site diagnosis. You can email us at info@ultralawn.com or call 319.378.0386

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