After a winter of compaction April is a good time to consider aerating your lawn. Here at the gardens, with such an extensive grassed area, such a practice is essential in order to open up the soil structure and allow the lawn to breathe. Our lawns are the pathway around the garden, unlike gardens where the lawn is surrounded by hard surfaced paths.
The lawns here were created over the existing soil and as such, there is not a dedicated drainage system to relieve wet areas. We have over the years added drains to help this situation, however we would rather have a naturally moist green lawn in the summer, so prefer to not over-drain.
As a result, we prefer to leave the lawns more compacted going into the winter- this allows for foot traffic and prevents the turf becoming so saturated as a result of rain filling the loose soil structure.
When the lawns are at a suitable moisture level ie moist but not wet (too wet and the tines go through like butter and too dry the turf is lifted) we use a 1.8m wide verti-drainer which is in effect 6 large forks mounted on the back of our lawn tractor - it is a heavy machine but needs to be to keep it on the lawn in tough, stony areas such as our carpark. The tines we use are 25mm diameter and 250mm long so they really penetrate and break up the compaction, ideally, a finer tine used mid-season would help but often the lawn is too dry for this to happen.
The verti-drainer is set to the required depth by adjusting the height of the front roller and there is also an option to adjust the heave from vertical to more of a lifting motion as the tine is withdrawn from the turf. While this can help reduce the compaction in poor turf rooting areas it can pull tufts out which then require replacing.
To operate requires a set engine speed and also a set speed of travel which can be programmed into the tractor, this is a very slow walking pace and as such, is not a quick job. We aim to have a travel spacing equal to the gap between tines.
We have to consider both the weather and visitor numbers when planning the job. One final thing that needs considering is the layout of the garden, with so many curved, sweeping beds it is hard to accommodate working in straight lines which the machine is designed to do. We have to remember the pond exit pipes along the water course as they are just below the surface.
We look forward to seeing you soon, maybe to watch us spiking.
Gerard Page. Estate Director, April 2017.