Not getting the performance you want from your Billy Goat aerator? This type of equipment has some eccentricities that need to be addressed to ensure it can reduce soil compaction. Here’s what you need to know from selecting the right type of tines to preparing your lawn for aeration.
When Not to Aerate
Before you put your equipment to work, make sure you’re helping your lawn instead of hindering it. There are three reasons why you shouldn’t aerate:
– The plants are no more than a year old. Aerating could pull these new plants out of the soil and can even peel up fresh sod.
– The ground is muddy. This will keep the tines from creating solid holes, and the weight of the aerator can increase compaction.
– The grass isn’t in its peak growing season. Right now, cool-season grasses like Zoysia and Bermudagrass are growing, which means they’ll be able to fill in the holes created by the aerator, while lawns that only have summer season grasses won’t recover quickly. When aerating, the grass should have at least four weeks of growth ahead before frost or high summer temperatures restrict growth.
Spike vs. Coring Tines
Billy Goat aerators come with coring tines because they’re the most effective option for most soil conditions. These tines are hollow, cutting plugs out of the soil and dropping them onto the turf. To get rid of these plugs, let your lawn mower chop them up. Keep in mind that this is hard on the blades, so they’ll need to be sharpened afterward.
Spike tines punch a hole in the soil without removing material, so there are no cores to deal with. This method helps break up the soil, but it also causes compacting directly around the hole. This type of tine works well in sandy soil which will crumble around the hole instead of compacting, but the compaction can cause issues on heavy clay soils.
Tines are made out of self-scouring material, so they retain their shape as they wear. Eventually, they’ll wear down to a point that they’ll become ineffective: spike tines can become too short to penetrate the soil, while the edges of core tines will roll over, preventing a clean cut and removal of the plug. As the tines wear, the chance damage when striking rocks and other obstacles increases.
To get the most wear from your tines, check to make sure the nuts and bolts holding them on are tight before using your aerator and clean the tines after use. Tines should be replaced if they’ve worn over one inch regardless of performance.
Wear will be much higher with models that use FLEXTECH arms since a single tine is doing the work of 5 or more tines on a tine star or roller-equipped aerator. No matter what type of aerator you have, it’s a good idea to keep some replacements on hand.
Preparing the Soil
If they’re in good condition, spike and coring tines should have no problem cutting through the soil. If you’re still having problems, the issue could be caused by soil moisture.
The ground should be moist, but not muddy. This will soften the soil to make it easy to for the tines to penetrate the soil without the resulting holes collapsing or the mud clogging or sticking to the tines. If it hasn’t rained recently, water the lawn so that it absorbs one inch of water. Depending on how bad the compaction is, this can be done the day before aerating, or it may take a week of adding small amounts of water to ensure it’s absorbed by the soil instead of running off.
Weight and Depth
Smaller models use the engine to provide the necessary weight to operate, but larger models need extra mass to ensure the tine is forced into the soil instead of pivoting and lifting the aerator. The AE400 has a built-in water tank that adds 50 lbs. to the weight of the machine, while towable aerators have areas to add water-filled tanks that each add 125 lbs. to the weight of the trailer. Folding in the wings of the 36/60” towable will give the tines enough weight to penetrate compacted soil.
Getting Parts to Repair Your Aerator
If you need something for your Billy Goat equipment, www.billygoatparts.com can help. We’re a certified Billy Goat dealer, which means we’re able to ship OEM parts and accessories for your aerator to any address in the U.S. and Canada.