Turfgrass, with its extensive below ground root system and its above-ground network of plant material, offers under-appreciated environmental benefits, such as removing dust and pollutants, reducing soil erosion, and filtering water.
When turf and commercial lawns are new, maintenance is basic: mowing, fertilizing, and irrigation, with little need for weed control or other management practices. However, as turf areas age, growth patterns change and roots from maturing trees encroach on lawn areas, competing for available water and nutrients. Heavily-used areas become compacted, leading to thin turf and exposed soil.
To counteract the effects that compaction, insufficient water, heat, and age have on the health of turf and commercial lawns, ELM recommends core aeration, a process performed in early fall, followed by overseeding – broadcasting new grass seed throughout the turf with a spreader – and fertilization. This 3-step protocol will improve soil, bring in air, water and micro-nutrients, allow turf seed to germinate during cooler weather, and boost root growth for healthier landscapes overall.
Step One: Aeration.
ELM uses specialized equipment to add air and space in your lawn. The aerator pulls out plugs of soil (cores) from the turf, approximately ¾ inches in diameter and up to 4 inches deep, about 2-3 inches apart across the turf area treated.
Aerating, double aerating – even triple aerating – in different directions opens up clumps of grass, which creates an explosion in growth at the crown and introduces oxygen, water, and fertilizer straight into the root zone via a core aeration. The plugs will breakdown naturally and the holes will start to fill in with new roots, indicating that soil and root health is already improving.
Step Two: Overseeding.
ELM uses region-friendly, cool season grass blends that contain tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass and other fine and chewing fescues, depending on soil and light conditions.
Advancements in turf science allow us to provide our customers with good options. Tall fescue is by far the most durable grass type on the market especially with the different cultivars they have created over the years. It is a deep rooting turf grass with very good insect resistance and drought tolerance. Some of the newer cultivars that we are experimenting with contain endophytes in their roots which actually help with relieve grub damage. An annual overseeding with ELMs premium grass seed blend custom spec’d and ordered will allow roots to establish before next summer.
Step Three: Top Dressing.
ELM uses a wide array of soil amendments, fertilizers, and soil conditioners, to soil improve turf health and growth. The right mix will improve soil structure, balance soil pH, supply nutrients, and reinvigorate root health. ELM’s compost and organic matter used as a top dressing will also increase beneficial microbial activity. Gypsum, a naturally occurring mineral, and a source of calcium and sulfur, is often added when soil stability and improved filtration is needed, and is excellent for root growth and a healthier soil profile. Synthetic fertilizers kill off the soil flora and can create more problems down the road.
ELM recommends aerating turf once a year, in the fall, although depending on soil health and use patterns, turf may need more or less frequent aeration. The service is typically performed early morning before commercial properties begin their business day in order to minimize any disruption.
For information on repairing turf areas suffering from summer stress or how this program can provide value to your property, contact your Area Manager or ELM’s Turf Care Specialist, Charles Andrianus at 203-316-5433.
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Photo: Mill River Park, a 12-acre urban park located in Stamford, CN and a habitat restoration project of the Mill River Collaborative, was awarded a 2015 Design Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects for OLIN Studios. ELM considers it an honor and a privilege to care for this urban sanctuary and all of its riparian plantings. The park’s heavily used lawn is annually aerated and overseeded by ELM to keep the turf healthy and hearty for the public to enjoy all year long