Experts’ Tips: How to maximize fall aeration windows

March 11, 2020 -  By
Aerator tines in action (Photo: Earth & Turf)

Tines in action Aerating allows air, water and nutrients to reach the turf’s root system. (Photo: Earth & Turf)

For lawn care companies to maximize the potential of their aeration services, three things are needed:

  • Patient and cooperative clients;
  • Equipment that maximizes uptime and productivity; and
  • Systems and processes to help pull it all together.

“Customers dislike having to wait to receive their aeration,” says Dayna Macbeth, branch manager for Fit Turf, a landscape company with four locations in Michigan and Colorado. “We always hire additional help for the fall aeration and overseeding season. Despite that good fortune, we still can’t hit every aeration service on the same day, week or even month. We typically offer this service from late August through October.”

In order to provide that “immediate” service as best it can, Fit Turf focuses on making routes as tight as possible. “We also train our sales reps and customer support team to tread lightly when customers request a specific date or time for their aeration,” Macbeth says. “If we accommodated every request, our routes would become scattered and our completion date would be greatly extended, potentially causing us to miss the window for ideal seed germination.”

Another issue Fit Turf has run into is customers who are unhappy when asked to water the day prior to their aeration service, especially in the Colorado markets where conditions can be arid and pulling good plugs can become challenging. “We send out a mass phone message to customers informing them of this and explaining why we ask them to water the day before,” Macbeth says.

After an aeration service is successfully delivered, customer education takes on another level of importance. “We provide customers with an 8-by-10-inch ‘care instruction document’ following their service,” Macbeth says. “It explains the benefits of aeration and seeding and how to care for that new seed after we leave.”

Equipment downtime can compress an already tight aeration season even more. Macbeth says Fit Turf’s branches adhere to recommended preventive maintenance practices and always have their aerators “tuned up” prior to the start of a season. “We also keep at least one spare machine in our fleet that crews can come back to in order to complete a day’s route,” Macbeth adds.

Experts from four leading aerator manufacturers offer some additional insights on how lawn care operators can maximize the productivity and uptime of their aeration equipment.

Headshot: Rich Clark

Rich Clark

Billy Goat

Rich Clark
National account manager

There are multiple advantages to reciprocating vs. rotating (or drum) aeration. However, there are also applications that call for one over the other. Reciprocating aerators have four to eight tines that move up and down, which means fewer tines to service, while drum aerators use a rotating motion and have 30 to 42 tines. A ride-on aerator may be faster, but puts approximately half the number of holes in the same pass as a reciprocating aerator. Fewer holes often requires two passes, which means more time on a yard. When doing long-run, one-pass commercial work such as cemeteries, sports turf or parks, a stand-on is faster. However, this speed advantage on large properties is lessened when doing high-volume residential work where a reciprocating unit

Headshot: John Bentley

John Bentley

Earth & Turf

John Bentley
Founder and general manager

When servicing very large properties, there are some unique pieces of aeration equipment that can help contractors gain an edge. For example, a rolling-type aerator can attach to the bucket of a loader or tractor. This allows operators to effectively aerate at speeds up to 10 mph under favorable conditions. Additionally, the weight and down pressure of the bucket furnishes most of the necessary working weight. Because of this ability to aerate with proper soil disturbance in just one pass, an operator could aerate an entire football field in less than one hour. Additionally, this kind of rolling aerator leaves no soil cores on the ground, and the “shattering” action produces little or no compaction.

Headshot: Tom Hackworth

Tom Hackworth

SiteOne Landscape Supply

Tom Hackworth
Category manager for equipment, GCA and safety

Because making an equipment purchase should be done thoughtfully, consider the type and size of an aerator before making a purchase. A core aerator creates holes in the ground, which allow essential resources (water, air and nutrients) to help develop a stronger root system. With labor being the No. 1 expense and concern of a business, consider ride-on aerators as they maximize productivity and efficiency of the aeration process. Additionally, consider the property size and layout when choosing a ride-on aerator. If you plan on mainly aerating residential lawns, look for a unit with an aeration width of around 30 inches as these can usually fit through most gates. If you have large, wide-open properties, consider a larger unit for maximum productivity.

Headshot: Scott Kinkead

Scott Kinkead


Scott Kinkead
Executive vice president

Contractors need equipment that makes operators as productive as possible, as quickly as possible. We don’t even manufacture a traditional aerator anymore because they are too physically demanding. We focus on hydrostatically driven, steerable machines that operate as effortlessly as walk-behind mowers. Ride-on aerators can enhance operator comfort and productivity even more but do no good if they are prone to downtime. Contractors should look for machines designed for minimal maintenance: things like fewer grease points and belts and reduced chain exposure to dirt and soil cores. If contractors want to grow, they need their equipment operators to be as effective as possible. Technology can help. Look for unique features, for example, that help make it easy to set and maintain tine depth — even for novice operators.

Comments are currently closed.