Fall Aeration: Cultivating Your Organic Lawn
Aeration is a less intense form of soil tillage and is paramount to keeping growing systems alive and well fed by the elements. Charles Waters advises in Weeds: Control Without Poisons:
“Fall tillage is an important key to weed management. It is certainly one way to diminish the chances for foxtail and grass type weeds. If fall tillage is used to put soil system into ridges, those ridges will drain faster in the spring. They will warm up a week to ten days earlier. They will have germinating capacity restored earlier so that the economic crop can get a head start on weeds.”
Let’s unpack this.
It all comes down to a matter of degree. Full tillage and the turning of soil is a rare phenomenon in nature, however agriculture stands by this practice. Air is let into sub-surface soil structure every time a tractor or hoe digs into the surface of the earth. Cultivators do this to remove weeds and break up surface compaction. The ideal outcome is that nutrient transfer is facilitated via the movement of water to the roots of the plants you actually want to grow. While we do not rip up your lawn every season with a full till program, we do provide the less intense but nonetheless cultivating service of heavy aeration. So how does this all apply to your lawn and what we do as the season changes from hot to cool?
Your grass is a dense layer of erosion-controlling roots and photosynthesizing leaves (blades) that thrives in a well draining structure and beneficially bacterial biology. Holes are driven one to three inches into the soil when we pass over this living mat with our aerator. This creates a pock-marked surface of those “ridges” Mr. Waters speaks of above.
In Permaculture – Bill Mollison’s systemization of the world’s sustainable agricultural practices, aka Permanent Agriculture – three principles are said to describe this process.
- Slow it. Digging into three-dimensional space creates more surface area. More surface area to traverse as water passes from high ground to low ground means that your lawn gets to…
- Spread it. With more time to sit on top of your lawn, water is able to penetrate root systems and soak into subsurface mineral soils. This brings us to the last principle.
- Sink it. The benefit of repeated aeration over the seasons is having water sink deeply and slowly. This leads to healthier topsoil and subsurface mineral soil structures. You will store more water, and with more water retention, you will build organic matter (OM)!
Increasing organic matter in your lawn’s soil is the number one goal of Pleasant Green Grass’s mission: building a healthier planet, one lawn at a time, through best organic practices.
And the reason for increased OM? That brings us to the second part of the fall aeration program. The overseeding that we complete after tillage has that much more of a chance to germinate. Mr. Waters also mentions this in the above quote. The “economic crop” in our case is your lawn’s main grass species. The hormone processes that generally orchestrate chaos in unbalanced ecosystems is neutralized with a nice, hydrated and oxygenated ground cover when the winter thaw is induced.
The Big Picture
Mr. Waters continues:
“Needless to say, the bio-grower has to depend on proper decay of organic materials in the soil. Root residue and crop stover are always present, and these have a direct bearing on how prolific weeds might grow. This means farmers, one and all, must learn how to manage decay of organic matter better…
… While adjustments are being made in the soil – soils are sometimes out of equilibrium for years – it is unrealistic to expect the situation will be corrected in a single season or a single month. We can speed the process with the application of [compost].”
There is a lot of wisdo
m to be gained here even though he speaks of farming. It helps to think of yourself as a farmer of your property and managing systems the way a farmer would.
The soil plugs that come to the surface and are cast aside when we aerate your soil are digested by the organisms just as they would digest the Certified Organic Compost we spread. Corn is a grass. Did you know that? Think of your lawn as a crop field. When you mow regularly and let the clippings lay where they are (this is that “crop stover” he mentions above) you are continually giving food to the soil in the same way.
This process takes a while. The pH of your soil is balanced as you mow your lawn and call us to come and treat your soil. This is crucial. If you’re interested in taking the leap towards a healthier environment for your family and your surroundings, we are offering a 20% discount on fall aerations and seeding for new customers. Feel free to order a compost topdressing as well! Please help us help you and in the process help our earth heal from the wounds created by industrial chemical violence.
Farmer Keith, Foreman & Resident Blogger, signing off.