What Is Lawn Aeration?
In simple terms, lawn aeration allows the soil underneath your lawn to breathe. An aerator has tines that are forced into the ground leaving behind a finger sized plug of soil. This penetrates the root and thatch layers to allow water and air into the soil where it can reach the grassroots easier, creating a thicker, healthier lawn.
Should You Aerrate Your Lawn?
Core Aeration is the best way to help reduce soil compaction. It is the compaction of heavy clay soils that halt deep root development and the movement of water and nutrients into the soil. This lack of strong, vigorous roots is what often leads to a thin lawn which cannot stand up to the heat and drought of summer.
Soil compaction can happen for many different reasons including, outdoor entertaining or yard play by kids and pets, and heavy lawn mowing equipment. If your grass often looks stressed (grass blades curling or turning brown at the tips) and your soil is hard to the touch or rainwater puddles up where it used to be absorbed, you may have compaction problems.
It’s a good idea to perform “the screwdriver test”. Take a screwdriver and push it into the ground. If it becomes difficult and does not go in smoothly, the lawn needs moisture and should be aerated.
Compacted soil is often mistaken with pest infestations, a lack of fertilizer, disease outbreaks, or several other common lawn problems. When the compaction of the soil is to blame, the damage to the lawn may look similar to other common problems, but any treatment other than aeration will have little impact on the health of your lawn.
When To Aerate Your Lawn
The best time to aerate your lawn is during growing season. Ideally, it’s best to aerate lawns with cool season grass in the early spring or fall and lawns with warm season grass in the late spring.
If you live in the Midwest like I do, I’ve found that the arrival of September with the milder conditions helps revive the summer stressed turf. It naturally wants to grow and thrive. This is why it is important to give the grass what it needs to fully recover from the stress of summer.
How To Aerate Your Lawn
There are two main types of aerating tools… spike aerator (left) and a plug aerator (right) also known as a core aerator. A spike aerator is designed to poke holes into the ground with a solid spike. Plug aerators remove a plug of grass and soil and provides better results than a spike aerator.
You can rent a plug aerator from a hardware store or lawn and garden centers. Before you begin aerating, make sure the soil is somewhat moist. Dry soil makes it much more difficult for the machine to work properly. If you’re able to plan accordingly, it’s best to aerate the day after a good rain shower, or water your lawn the day before. It is best aerate in at least two directions so that the plugs or holes are about 3 inches apart.
It’s best to allow the soil plugs to dry out, that way you can break them up with the lawn mower to give your yard a more uniform appearance. After completing your lawn aeration, it’s important to continue essential lawn care operation like fertilizing, mowing and watering.
If you do not want to rent a machine, there are other options you can use such as lawn aerator spike shoes, a manual aeration tool, and an aerator attachment that can be towed behind a lawn mower.
Alternatives To Lawn Aeration
Prior to starting my career, I worked for a local hardware store for nearly 8 years. During that time, I learned a lot about taking care of your lawn. There is a product made by Earth Right that was so popular, we had a hard time keeping it in stock.
Earth Right Super Stuff is designed to help break up tough clay soil and helps turn unhealthy soil into healthy soil leading to better root growth and enhanced drainage.