‘Goose’ Your Lawn for Good Soil Health

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Now that we’ve sobered up from our wine drinking and serial weed-killing spree, let’s talk about soil health and how it relates to weeds and a healthy lawn.

Weeds to tend to grow best when the soil is in poor health. Poor health can be caused from simply just having poor soil to begin with, not feeding your lawn properly over time, or the effects of soil compaction. A good lawn should be fed about every 4-6 weeks with a common fertilizer. I like a triple 16 mix, 16-16-16. What do these numbers mean? Sit back, stay awake and pop a cold one. I’ll tell you.

These numbers refer to the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (known as NPK) contained in the product. For example, 16-16-16 signifies that the fertilizer contains 16% nitrogen (N), 16% phosphorus (P), and 16% potassium (K) by weight. So, basically, 100 pounds of a 16-16-16 fertilizer would contain 16 pounds each of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You can use a triple 16 mix or triple 15 mix if it’s cheaper at the home center. You want all three numbers to be relatively close. Don’t worry about buying fertilizer with the fancy names and claims they make on the bag; stick with the least expensive they have or what’s on sale and you’ll be happier and richer for it.

Aeration is essential and fairly simple to do! Most rental centers have a lawn aerator that they will rent out by the day or perhaps by the hour. This machine is simply a large drum with spikes or tubes around the drum. Usually gas powered, this machine removes “plugs” of soil, thereby allowing the soil to breathe, and decreases soil compaction, which increases microbial action in the soil. Also, lawn aerating promotes deeper root growth and, in time, a healthier lawn with fewer weeds. A healthy, robust lawn should choke out intruders.

What’s next? Here’s what you do. First – Schedule your date for the aeration work, call your favorite rental store and reserve the aerator for that special day.

Second – Chill 2-3 good beers on ice, no light beer, no lo-cal or fruit-infused beer, either, and go with bottles with a twist-off top – these are perfect as your hands may be cramped and sore later and using a bottle opener might become frustrating or challenging. No wine this time, this isn’t “high brow” white collar weed killing, this is blue collar, in-the-trenches grunt work not intended for the faint of heart. The beer is for after you’re done. After all, you’re running a gas-powered piece of manly equipment and you’ll need your wits about you (cue the “woof, woof, woof” sound from Tool Time).

Thirdly – On the day you’re going to do the work, mow your lawn kind of close. Don’t scalp it, but cut it shorter than normal. Water the lawn some but make sure you don’t have any standing or ponding water around. It’s best to water a few hours before you’re going to aerate, as this will allow the aerator to fully penetrate the soil.

Fourth – Mark out all your sprinkler heads or the aerator machine will surely smash ’em and possibly break the supply pipe by the sprinkler head. Home centers have bundles of flags for this but you can use just about anything to let you know where the sprinklers are.

After your sprinklers are all marked, now you’re ready to rock and roll. Most aerating machines that you get from a rental center are simple to run and operate much like your lawn mower. Be sure not to get too close to sidewalks or other landscaped areas so you don’t damage anything. 

Lastly – Now it’s Beer 30, so sit back in your favorite lawn chair and survey your day’s work, being sure to talk to anyone that will listen about the trials and tribulations, the challenges and successes of the event. When you look at your lawn it should look just like a whole bunch of geese have been hanging around!

Next time we’ll talk about “thatching” your lawn to get rid of that old and dead grass that’s lurking around the roots. If you’re in the city you may want to order an extra green waste container for this one (I’m told the second container is free).

Shayne Hale and his wife Stacy own and operate Executive Yard Service, which provides lawn and yard care to commercial and residential clients in the Redding area. Shayne is a Redding native of more than 43 years. Stacy is a transplant from the Bay Area but is learning to enjoy the Redding summers. Visit their website at www.reddinglawns.com or give them a call at (530) 524-7437.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar JeffG says:

    Thanks for the tips. How often should you aerate your lawn?

    • Avatar Shayne says:


      The fall is a great time to Aerate, thatch and re-seed your lawn. I like to thatch and aerate in the fall and re seed and then re seed again late spring around April or May. This should provide you with a nice lawn for the summer months

  2. Avatar BobRillig says:

    N-P-K are actually nitrogen, available phosphate (P2O5)–which is about 44% phosphorus, and soluble potash (K2O)–which is about 55% potassium–not the elements phosphorus and potassium. This means that 16-16-16 actually delivers 16% nitrogen, about 7% phosphorus, and a bit less than 9% potassium.

  3. Avatar Shayne says:

    Hey Bob,

    Thanks for clarifying !

  4. Avatar Rick Saunders says:

    Nice article, Cheers. Flags are definitely a good idea too. As a habitual sprinkler (and PVC pipe) breaker, I highly recommend using funny pipe to connect sprinklers to the PVC runners — makes repairs so much easier.