Lawn renovation - aerate or dethatch?

Those are my two choices before overseeding my 12,000 sq ft lawn in central NJ. Few companies offer dethatching, but I'm not sure if that's for their convenience or because aerating is really the best way to go. I would describe the lawn as good; not the best or the worst in the neighborhood. Soil is loam. Problems are bare spots, clover, crabgrass and a few misc weeks. I keep after the dandelions, so they are under control.
Regarding aerating: The seeds that fall into the holes are about 1.5 inches below the soil surface, far below the fraction of an inch seed companies recommend. While these seeds won't have any soil covering them, will they still germinate properly? And if they do, when fully established will the grass from the seeds in the holes look different from the surrounding grass?
TIA for your responses.
R1
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Follow the recommendations of your landscaper. If you presume to tell him how to do his job, you are responsible for the results, and you're paying for both his labor, materials and expertise. -----
- gpsman
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On 9/2/2011 8:49 AM, Rebel1 wrote:

Neither is "better" than the other; they're two different operations to take curative action against two different problems. Which your lawn needs (if either) is indeterminate from the information given.
All in all, the action outlined above isn't likely to solve the actual problems in the lawn long-term as it's treating a symptom rather than looking at the root cause(s) for the specific issues.
As example, of specific issues mentioned--clover is symptomatic of low-nitrogen soils; it's a legume (means it sets N) and is in fact very beneficial in low-N soils. As N builds up over several years you'll find it will gradually fade in abundance relative to the grasses and you'll get an automagic improvement at the cost of simply some patience, not dollars.
Bare spots may be showing locations where there are other specific soil problems such as rock under the surface, clay deposits or simply thin topsoil left after the lot was prepared. Simply throwing more seed down without determining the reason existing didn't make it in those locations is a highly risky business in terms of the likelihood of the monies spent actually providing the desired results.
Start w/ a good soil analysis concentrating on the problem areas; w/o that all else is futile. Follow-up by contacting local ag county agent office; even most urban areas have such that have advice and information/guidance customized to local conditions.
--
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On 9/2/2011 10:12 AM, dpb wrote:

Thanks for raising excellent points I hadn't considered.
R1
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wrote:

Sound like he knows what he's talking about. I was thinking about that clover one year, and a couple years later it was nearly all gone. When I get a bare spot I scrape the top inch of old dirt away and toss some store-bought topsoil and grass seed there. Always works. Except for where my dogs piss I never know why it went bare. There I scrape more dirt away and add some gypsum with the new topsoil. A few years later they've killed the grass in a nearby spot and I do it again. It's easy to do. Dandelions and other weeds get taken care of with weed-and-feed about every 3rd year. I've got about half your sq footage, and maybe 3 or 4 different grasses in there, plus some clover and the occasional weed.. But it's not a picnic area or golf course, so you don't notice that except when you're mowing.
--Vic
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Agree with the above excellent advice. You de-thatch if you have excessive thatch. That can be determined by lifting a section of turf and looking at the edges. Thatch is the layer of dead grass material near the surface. It's normal to have up to about 1/2" or so. It only becomes a problem when it's so thick it prevents water and nutrients from getting into the soil. In that case, it acts like a thatch roof.
You aerate to reduce soil compaction.
If those problems don't exist, then I would rent a slit seeder, also called an overseeder. Basicly it cuts grooves of selectable depth and drops seed. It will cause less damage to the existing turf than either de-thatching or core aeration. Local tool rentals or HomeDepot have them.
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On 9/3/2011 9:51 AM, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Excellent approach I hadn't considered. Probably heavier than I can handle or transport, but I could hire someone to do that.
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Would you consider turning all or part of the lawn to other uses? Ex: Food crops. Even in New Jersey you have enuff growing season for many food crops, like tomatoes, green onions, beans, peas, corn, etc. When the snow comes, let the earth sleep under its white blanket.
Another, or supplementary, choice would be decorative shrubs/plants suitable for the area. Intersperse with bark mulch -- very attractive look.
Leave a much smaller patch of lawn for little humans and canines to play on during summer. (Be sure not to use pesticides and herbicides KNOWN to harm little humans. Little canines probably are too smart to expose themselves. (Of course they have other habits that need, uh, re-training).
Try rec.gardens for experienced advice on your original question.
HB
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On 9/2/2011 12:15 PM, Higgs Boson wrote:

occasional rabbit, food crops would be challenging.

No little humans or canines to consider. I'm single.

Thanks for the thoughtful suggestions.
R1
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Depends.
Dethatch if there is a lot of thatch under your grass. Once rasied the excess thatch should be removed.
If you ground is compacted too much and not draining well then aerate. I like to follow up aeration with an application of lime and gypsum or just gypsum alone if your lawn doesn't need lime. Many do.
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On 9/2/2011 1:42 PM, Oren wrote: ...

OTOH, see what I said about soil testing... :)
_Anything_ added w/o knowing the conditions from which are starting is potentially just a waste of money and possibly even making the cause of the problem worse instead of better...
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wrote:

Personally I'd do both. Core aerate first - then dethatch. The core holes will fill with loose material and the seeds will be able to contact actual soil instead of thatch.
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