Monday, November 2, 2009

Aerate, if you dare

Aerating is the non-threatening little word turf lawn professionals use to describe the process of cutting a million one-inch holes in your lawn, transforming it into acres of green Swiss cheese. It's necessary in a world of chemical lawns because chemical lawns have a nasty habit of creating thatch, a woven layer of tough, matted dead vegetation at the root line. To cut a path for water, air and more chemicals, you plug your lawn with a million holes.

They have a machine for it. The aerator. Also known as The Terminator. The Widow-Maker. The Ball-Buster.

In theory, aerating is a simple procedure. You start the engine, engage the drive and walk behind the monster as it plunges tubular steel knives into your lawn, opening the holes and depositing plugs of dirt that look a lot like dog turds.

Piece of cake. You walk the machine down a row. You reach the property line. This is where the trouble begins – because you have to turn the thing around. The aerator weighs 17 tons. If it didn't, it would not sink into the turf and cut the Swiss cheese holes. Gravity does most of the work. The engine just pulls it along. At the end of each row, it's the hapless operator who has to lift the spikes out of the lawn and spin the contraption 180 degrees on its front wheels.

So to aerate my 10,000 square miles, I had to lift 17 tons, twice each row, for a total of about 2,000 times.

When I returned the machine to the rental counter, the clerk asked "How'd you make out?"

"That's one hell of a machine," said I. "It does heart attacks and hernias, both at the same time.

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