Trends, fads and fashions come and go in turf care but aeration remains a key topic for all greenkeepers, especially doing it properly. In previous eras, turf managers may have considered successful aeration to be using the biggest machine, working to the greatest depths. Whilst this may have yielded results in times of more predictable weather, with the patterns we now face and the growing demands on playing surfaces, a successful aeration programme requires a more measured approach. Nick Darking of Charterhouse Turf Machinery explores, and looks at why techniques should be altered depending on the both the time of year and desired result.
It is well documented that ideal soil conditions should comprise of 45% mineral, 25% water, 25% air and 5% organic matter. Any imbalance in any one of these components can result in the soil becoming inert, restricting growth or even killing the grass plant. For strong, healthy root formation and a free draining soil, maintaining a network of pores and fissures in the topsoil is essential. Aerating turf aims to do just that, allowing air to move throughout the profile to provide a healthy environment for the grass plant. However, as with most turf management activities, the method and timing of aeration is essential.
We all know about Verti-Draining and its benefits, but using your Verti-Drain should be seen as a year-round activity. Using the Verti-Drain® with a range of different tine options can maximise the effectiveness of aeration work conducted throughout the year. Micro-tining can be employed during periods of drier weather to help keep the surface from “capping” over and create a path down through the profile, helping to maximise the effects of irrigation and nutritional programmes. Aerating at the right time will reduce the costs associated with irrigation and feeding, maximise the utilisation of any rainfall, while creating minimal surface disruption.
If wet weather is on the cards, the linear aeration provided by the Redexim Verti-Quake may be a more favourable option. The rotary motion, combined with the forward speed, sets up a wave action which helps decompaction to take place. However, it should be used with caution in dry conditions as slit lines can shrink and open up if the ground is too dry.
Another complimentary aeration technique could be to use the Redexim Level Spike. While slitting does not de-compact the soil, the speed of the technique makes it an effective method of keeping the surface open, letting oxygen in. As the action of the Level Spike, or smaller Multi Spike model, does not produce any heave its results are not as long lasting as the work conducted by the more aggressive aeration techniques. However, it is a method which can be used effectively in most weather conditions – primarily a key tool in spring, autumn or pre-renovation works. As has been mentioned previously, the timing or work with the Level Spike is essential – too dry and you may struggle to get the machine down into the ground, too wet and you’ve missed the boat!
During the winter months, deep aeration to say 12 or 14” during any relatively dry periods will help to keep surfaces playable; draining and free from puddling. As soon as you can get a machine onto the surface, without causing issues, aeration should be conducted. This deeper aeration work can then be complemented by following up with lighter Verti-Drains through drier periods.
For the targeting of specific, problem areas Charterhouse recently launched the OxyShot, the latest product in their aeration range. The OxyShot is an air driven probe which penetrates up to 50cm into the soil before blowing a shot of air at up to 110psi to alleviate compaction, delivering air into the soil profile and creating drainage channels. The OxyShot can be used across a host of facilities from golf and winter sports surfaces, to arboricultural operations where aeration can assist tree roots growing in compacted, air starved soils.
Maintaining good surface drainage, gaseous exchange and a de-compacted root zone, will provide the required air spaces for the grass plant to thrive. With unhindered root growth, development and establishment, you stand the best chance of achieving uniform and healthy coverage to deliver surfaces worthy of top-level play. With the modern demands and expectations placed on golf courses, an effective aeration regime is even more essential.