When is soil aeration needed? How long does it last?

We carried out a 12-month study looking at answering some key questions relating to when soil aeration is needed and its frequency. Gilba Solutions are Sydney-based sports turf consultants, with this work being relevant to lawn owners, sports grounds and councils. The aim was to answer the following questions:

  1. How does usage impact on ground compaction?
  2. What are the most effective strategies for alleviating compaction; vertidraining or hollow tine aeration?
  3. How effective are these approaches?
  4. How long does compaction relief actually persist for when the ground undergoes constant use?
  5. Do you actually need to regulate sports grounds on a regular basis?

Initial Findings

Initial examination revealed the presence of both surface and deep-seated compaction. This was resulting in poor drainage and pooling water after rainfall.

Compaction studies started in August 2021 using both hollow tine and vertidraining. Aeration started in December 2021.

Soil compaction levels above 2000Kpa, prevent ideal turfgrass development.

Conclusions

  • Vertidraining is not as effective as hollow tine aeration in alleviating surface compaction.
  • Continued usage will completely counter any work carried out. Compaction relief should be an ongoing process rather than a ‘’one-off’’ treatment. So the answer to the question “when is soil aeration needed” is as often as possible.
  • A combination of vertidraining and hollow tine aeration gives far better results than any stand-alone treatment.
  • Areas above acceptable levels i.e. 2000KPa were evident after aeration work. This further supports an ongoing programme.
  • The dual approach (vertidraining and hollow tine aeration) significantly reduces compaction. It does not appear to have addressed all deep-seated levels below 50mm
  • These results suggest that any work carried out doesn’t last more than 3 months under continued use.
  • Many schools and councils carry out aeration work once or twice a year. This work suggests that this is nowhere near often enough to maintain quality surfaces.
  • Better targeting of compaction depth is important to ensure that the work achieves what it is supposed to do.