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As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lawn Aerification to Help Watering

In this terrible drought it is not unusual to hear people complain that even though they are watering the water just seems to run off. Or when they do irrigate the water just seems to puddle on the soil surface taking forever to move down. Both these problems have to do with water infiltration or movement into soils and with our heavy, clay soils in Central Texas. These soils give us lots of problems with infiltration and when water doesn’t move into our soils our lawns suffer from drought and we ultimately waste water.
Compaction is usually identified as the main culprit to slow water movement into soils. Heavy, clay soils are notorious for developing compaction especially since we are constantly passing heavy mowers over them and having to water so much with sprinklers. It is not unusual to see lawn services using large mowers that support a driver. This weight passing over the soil once or twice a week, especially soil that is wet, forms hard compacted layers that water simply can’t pass through. Next add in sprinklers that come on 3 times a week further compacting soils with water that contains high levels of calcium and it is no wonder why we have trouble watering our landscapes.
Because compaction can be such a problem it is a standard recommendation by Texas A&M turf experts to aerify soils once a year with a core aerifier. What this machine does is take a plug out of the turf opening up a hole for water and oxygen to pass through quickly. Once water is in the hole it moves sideways into the turf root zone for more complete irrigation. Sometimes lawn services will fill the holes with an organic amendment which only helps turf with fertilizer and water movement.
When is the best time to aerify? Usually it is recommended for spring time, just as grasses are greening up. Unfortunately there is no way to get every lawn done then but rest assured aerification yields a benefit no matter when you do it!

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