Aerating

Aerating Lawns on Vancouver IslandAll soil needs air, water and nutrients for its plants to thrive. In the case of a lawn, when its soil is compacted, these resources become trapped and its grass roots are unable to access them. The result is always the same; crabgrass, weeds and moss take advantage of the lawn’s weakened state and gradually establish themselves. Aerating is the process of releasing the compaction so these vital resources are made available and the lawn can continue to grow lush and healthy. Aerating should ALWAYS follow power raking. There’s no point in trying to aerate through moss.

Not all aerating is created equal. Those spikes on the bottom of your shoes, for instance, add to your compaction problem rather than solve it. If you are going to aerate you must rent a Core Aerator from your neighbourhood rental shop. A typical Aerator weighs in excess of 400lbs and makes operating your lawn mower seem like that plastic toy you bought your grandson. Plus you have to transport it…and anchor it to your trailer….yes, you need a trailer. In the end, its much easier to hire someone and only marginally more expensive.

Once the entire lawn has been aerated, (hopefully you marked your sprinkler heads first) there will be thousands of holes with corresponding soil plugs. Just leave the plugs to decompose. Your lawn is now literally open to the possibilities of new growth. Best time to aerate is early spring and fall. If you’re aerating as part of a lawn renovation, you have just finished the tough phase 1! Congratulations! Phase 2 involves the much more fulfilling topdressing, seeding and fertilizing!

Power-raking

Thatching Vancouver IslandIf your lawn is currently covered in moss and it meets the two conditions for renovation (adequate sun, good drainage), it all starts with a vicious power raking (some call it de-thatching). We say vicious because most homeowners and even landscapers fail in this regard. The point of power raking is to remove all the moss (not some, or quite a bit). If patches of moss remain on your lawn, grass will not be able to establish in those spots so you’re best off to go vicious. Warning: Your lawn will look like a sandbox when you’re done 🙂 This is normal, it will have to get worse before it gets better.

Power-rakers/De-thatchers can be rented from your local rental store or Home Depot/Rona. They weigh a few hundred pounds and you’ll definitely need a trailer to transport them. Once you have managed to get them home, they are fairly easy to operate. Similar to a lawn mower, you walk behind them and they self propel forward ripping out large amounts of moss (and grass) as they go. Remember, this is all normal you need to get it all. Once you’ve gone over the lawn once, you’ll need to begin the process of manually raking it up and transporting it to a local farmer who may kiss you on the mouth for this great gift of compostable materials. If there is still moss visible in the lawn, you’ll need to go over it again and continue until all the moss is removed. Believe me, this is a weekend you’ll likely wish you had back so this is a service that is probably worth hiring a (Lush) professional 🙂

Once all the moss is removed, you’ll be shocked at the amount that came up plus your lawn will look terrible. Before you collapse into the fetal position, remind yourself that John said this is normal. Don’t stay down for too long though, aerating is next.

Moss Doesn’t Care

Moss removal Depending on your tolerance level, moss is either lawn that you don’t have to mow, water or fertilize (yippee) OR… the bain of your existence. For most of you living on Vancouver Island it’s probably the latter. It’s the same every spring…the rain slows the sun starts to peak out and the yellow fuzz monster returns on your lawn – again! Why me, you cry! I’m a good person, I pay my taxes, I floss occasionally…

Here’s the thing …Moss doesn’t care if you floss. It simply likes what it likes; shade and waterlogged acidic soils – aka the West Coast. Unless you plan to sacrifice a goat to appease the sun god or cut down all those beautiful trees lining your property, moss is likely to remain a constant pain in your grass. (nice one John). There is hope, but it hinges on the answer to one question, ok 2.

1. Does your moss-covered section of lawn receive more than 4 hours of sunlight a day?

2. Is that same section well drained? i.e. no water pooling

If the answer is no, you need to forget trying to grow lush grass there and instead plant something that wants to grow there (like moss 🙂 or shade loving plants) or forget planting altogether and instead cover the area with gravel, mulch, cedar chips, pavers or another low maintenance alternative.

If the answer is yes, the lawn does have adequate light and good drainage, its time to renovate, and it all starts with a vigorous power raking!