Core aeration

Hello,
I'm looking at aerating my lawn, as I now have one that's in reasonabl condition and I want to keep it that way.
I was going to start doing it by using a fork but then read that cor aeration's far better, as using a fork actually compacts the soil. then looked into this and saw sites saying that you should leave th cores on the surface as when they breakdown that helps the lawn. The I also read that you should put sand on afterwards.
So, I've got a few questions that I hoped more knowledgeable peopl could answer.
1) For a normal, garden lawn that's just intended to be a lawn tha looks ok is there really and need to use a core aerator rather tha just using a fork?
2) If I did buy a core aerator, should I leave the plugs it extracts o the surface like I've heard you should? I'd have thought that on garden lawn I'd end up with a muddy mess if I did that!
3) Is it necessary to apply sand afterwards? I don't doubt it's bette to do it, but is it essential?
Thanks is advance! :
-- Slarti
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Thanks for the reply - very useful. I was most unsure about leaving th
plugs on the surface as it's bound to be messy, but if they breakdow over a week or so then that's not too bad so long as I've cut the gras beforehand.
'Oren[_2_ Wrote:

-- Slarti
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I can't imagine doing any reasonable size lawn with a pitch fork, just from the labor involved. Plus, while beneficial, core aeration isn't absolutely essential, unless you have a specific problem that it will help address, like compacted soil, excessive thatch, etc. So, I'd either do it easy and the right way with a core aerator, or not at all. As suggested, just rent one.
The plugs disappear in a couple weeks. Mowing will help disperse them as well. I've never seen anyone apply sand afterwards. If the soil specifically needed sand, then I guess that would be one way to apply it. But on a routine basis, no need to. For one thing, it doesn't sound particularly effective. I'd wonder how much sand winds up in the actual holes as opposed to on top of the grass, around it, etc.
As far as timing, I'd do it in early Fall. The process tears up the lawn a bit, which opens it up to weeds. That will be less of a problem in Fall. It's also better because of no issue of conflict with pre-emergent, ideal to overseed, etc.
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