Frequently Asked Questions about Aerating, Dethatcing and Overseeding

Frequently Asked Questions about Aerating, Dethatcing and OverseedingIf you want to go beyond basic lawn care to get a lush, green lawn, you need to understand how to care for the soil. Fertilizing gets the most attention, but aerating, dethatching and overseeding is every bit as important to build up your lawn. Not sure where to start? Here are some answers to common questions about this part of lawn care.

What’s the Difference between Dethatching and Aerating?

To have a healthy lawn, your grass needs drainage and access to oxygen. Thick thatch and compacted soil can interfere with both.

Thatch is the layer of woody organic material above the soil. Stems, roots, and rhizomes are harder to break down, so they stay in your lawn longer than grass blades. A thin layer protects the soil, but too much can cause drainage, insect and root issues.

Soil compaction is caused by weight pushing out spaces between soil particles. Aerating physically breaks up the soil. Contrary to popular belief, aerating isn’t an alternative to dethatching. At most, core tine aerating removes just 5-10% of thatch.

When Do I Need to Dethatch or Aerate?

As a general rule of thumb, thatch should be no more than ½ inch thick. Lawns should be aerated when drainage and growing issues crop up due to ground compaction.

Dethatching and aerating will help you establish new grass with overseeding. Thatch can prevent seeds from reaching the ground, while compaction makes it harder for new roots to penetrate the soil.

What Can I Do to Dethatch and Aerate Less Often?

Address lawn care issues can help reduce thatch buildup.

Poor watering practices: Frequent watering in small amounts encourages roots to grow toward the surface. Unless you’re establishing new grass, your lawn should only be watered every three or four days. Balance irrigation with rainwater to maintain 1/2-1 inch of water per week.

High nitrogen levels: Overfertilizing with fast release nitrogen encourages thatch buildup. Be sure to get a soil test to use as the basis of your fertilizing plan. If you’re still having problems, switch to organic fertilizer. It releases slower than inorganic lawn treatments.

Bagging clippings: It sounds counter-intuitive, but it actually breaks down thatch faster. This material is easy for microorganisms to digest, making it easier for them to break down woody material in thatch.

High pesticide use: Using pesticides in high quantities kills off earthworms. These worms help disperse organic material and break it down, speeding up thatch decomposition.

Compacted soil is caused by weight crushing the soil. This weight can come from construction equipment, vehicles and foot traffic. Heavy clay soils are the most susceptible to compaction, while sandy soils suffer the least.

– Don’t park on your lawn, especially in winter. Cold, soggy soil compacts more easily than dry soil.

– Avoid foot and bicycle traffic. Add a walkway to keep pedestrians off of the grass.

What’s the Difference Between Coring and Solid Tines?

Core tines have a hole with a razor sharp edge. As they plunge into the ground, they cut a hole and pull out a plug of soil. Once dry, plugs can be mowed to break them up and distribute them across the lawn. The holes can be unsightly and take months to disappear.

A solid tine is a spike that pushes through the soil, breaking up compaction. This causes compaction directly around the resulting hole, but the hole is smaller, and there’s no plug left over. This saves work and helps the lawn heal faster.

Opinions about core and tine aerating are starting to shift in the golfing community. In the past, core aeration was universally seen as the superior option. However, landscapers are learning that the compaction caused by these tines in sandy soil is minimal while decreasing recovery times from months to weeks. As we learn more, there may be a shift to solid tine aeration across the landscaping industry.

Modern aerators like Billy Goat’s PLUGR series don’t penetrate in a straight line. By moving at a slight angle, they produce less compaction than the straight up-and-down action of older designs. This makes both core and solid tine aerating easier on lawns than straight and drum aerators.

How do I Get Even Seed Coverage?

Always dethatch and aerating beforehand to give seeds a clear path to the soil.

When choosing seeds, remember that conditions vary across your lawn. You need a mix of shade-loving and sun-loving varieties to get even growth.

Apply half of the seeds at a time, first going in one direction, then running the overseeder 90 degrees in the other direction. This fills in any gaps.

Get the Quality Parts You Need for Your Billy Goat Equipment

Is it time to do some maintenance on your overseeder? Do you want to use different tines with your aerator? If you need something for your Billy Goat, visit We’re a certified dealer for Billy Goat, Honda and Briggs & Stratton, which means we offer everything you need for your equipment.

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