For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS
Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
It is too early to fertilize your lawn, but it is an ideal time to aerate and top dress. Aeration and top dressing with compost opens up a heavy soil to improved water, air and nutrient penetration. It is the only way to add organic material to an established lawn. The net result of aeration and top dressing is more water efficient, healthy, attractive lawn.
The best aerator is one that cuts plugs rather than a spike that forces a hole. The plug cutter is hollow and cuts a cigar like plug out of the sod and lays it on the ground. With the plug cutting action there is less compaction against the sides of the aeration hole and against the bottom than with a spike aerator.
A core aerator rents for $50 for four hours. Most lawns can be aerated in one hour. It is a good idea to share the rental with a neighbor. Rental companies will often deliver and pick up the aerator for you, or you can borrow their trailer.
Among the San
Antonio area rental companies with core-type aerators are A to Z located at 9067 FM 78, Northeast Rental, 13034 Nacogdoches
Road, Sunbelt Rentals, and 11718 I.H. 35 North, Blanco Rental (A-1), 5415
Blanco Road, Aztec located at 3439
Aeration is good for your lawn in itself. It should be done at least every two years. The aeration becomes especially effective if you top dress the lawn right after the aeration.
Top dressing is the practice of applying compost or compost and sand to the lawn at a depth of about .5 inches. I do not recommend the top dressing with sand. The sand is basically filler. The real impact comes from the compost. Top dressing with sand and compost cost about the same, $30/cubic yard, so you may as well purchase the better material for the job at hand.
Compost suppliers like Keller Material, Fertile Garden Supply, New Earth, and Garden Ville will deliver the material to you for about $55 for a five yard load bringing the total price to $185 per load. Five cubic yards will cover about 1,080 square feet of lawn at .5 inches deep. Figure about 216 square feet of lawn per cubic yard of compost.
You do not have to be fussy about spreading compost. It is a good “daydream” job. Think about your vacation, your favorite movie star or another Spurs World Championship as you shovel. It is also great exercise. Plan on an hour per yard if your compost pile is close to the lawn.
If your schedule does not allow you to handle the job yourself or you prefer getting exercise in another way, many landscape companies will aerate and top dress for you. Some even have a compost spreading machine that replaces shovelers. Check with your favorite compost supplier for a firm to do the work if you need a referral.
Aeration and top dressing with compost is one of the best things you can do to have a healthy attractive lawn. It is also high on the list of environmentally appropriate lawn care techniques.