What is a Core Aeration Machine?

Dan Cavallari

A core aeration machine is a type of device that removes small cores of soil from a lawn. The device may be handheld and operated, motor-driven, or pulled behind a tractor and activated in some other way. The core aeration machine uses specially designed tines, sometimes called spoons, to remove cores of dirt. The soil cores will then release and fall onto the lawn. The holes created by the spoons are several inches deep and several inches apart. Aeration has many benefits, especially for older lawns or lawns that are frequently used for sports and other events.

A dethatching rake should be used to break up and remove debris from the lawn before aeration.
A dethatching rake should be used to break up and remove debris from the lawn before aeration.

Lawns can become compacted after regular use, which will necessitate the use of a core aeration machine. Compaction can prevent roots from penetrating deep enough into the soil to get the water and nutrients they need, which will lead to the death of patches of the lawn. The soil itself may be compacted so much that oxygen cannot get into the soil, and since plants need this oxygen to survive, compaction can damage the health of the lawn. A core aeration machine allows oxygen to reach the soil again, thereby allowing the grass to thrive.

Core aeration is most likely to be needed on lawns with poor drainage, lawns that are frequently used for events or sports, and for especially soggy or sandy lawns. To test whether a lawn needs aeration, a person can dig up a small patch of the lawn. The patch should be dug down several inches to a foot (5 to 30 cm) and the person should take note of the grass's roots. If the roots do not penetrate the bottom of the dug up patch, the lawn may need aeration to allow the roots to penetrate further down into the ground.

The core aeration machine usually features a rotating cage with the spoons protruding from it. As the machine is propelled forward, the spoons will dig into the ground, pull out the soil core, and dump it on the lawn, leaving small holes along the way. The cores deposited on the lawn will eventually disintegrate back into the lawn, potentially providing more nutrients from decaying plant matter, and the holes will fill in themselves after time. While those holes are open, however, nutrients and oxygen can reach the depths of the soil. While this task can be done with a hand aerator on smaller lawns, most regular sized lawns and large lawns will need a motor-driven machine or a pull-behind unit for a tractor.

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