When and Why To Aerate Your Lawn

Lawn Aeration

A thicker, healthier lawn is the result of regular maintenance. However, jobs typically reserved for once a year can succeed in supporting incremental progress over time. Many homeowners aerate their lawns every year to alleviate soil compaction and enhance grass growth. When done correctly and in a timely manner, aeration can benefit almost any lawn.

A dense, deep, and strong grass root system requires air, water, and nutrients. Compressed soil inhibits the growth of a thicker, healthier turf, even when it is only slightly compacted. The amount of compaction in a lawn over 1/4-1/2 inch can make a huge difference in its health and appearance. Aeration creates air and water holes, allowing nutrients and oxygen to reach the grass roots. Due to compacted soil, lawn grasses feel stressed in stressful situations, such as drought and low rainfall, and their healthy, rich colors fade. For lack of oxygen, water and nutrients, grass gradually thins and eventually dies out completely. In just one aeration session, you can reshape your lawn’s growth trajectory and help vital nutrients reach the surface.

When to Aerate Lawns

It may not seem likely that your lawn could become compacted, but it happens more often than you may think. It is obvious when they drive or operate small equipment on lawns, but even yard entertainment or play by pets and kids can compact your lawn. It is probably necessary to aerate your lawn on an annual basis if your soil is heavy clay or clay-rich.

Aerating and dethatching are separate tasks, but they typically go together. There is a layer of decomposing organic matter that forms between the soil and the grass just under the lawn surface. Over half an inch of thatch will act as a compaction device to prevent grass from absorbing air, water and nutrients. Some grass types, such as Kentucky bluegrass in northern lawns and Bermudagrass in the south, form more thatch than others. Dethatching is a method of reducing thatch buildup or preparing for its removal through aeration. There may be compaction problems if your grass looks stressed, your soil feels hard to the touch, or rainwater pools up where it used to be absorbed. If you are still suspicious, you can perform the screwdriver test by sticking a screwdriver into your lawn’s soil by hand. A screwdriver should slide easily into the soil. Aeration can help if you encounter resistance due to compacted soil.

If you plan to plant grass seed or aerate your lawn, it’s best to aerate just before or during your lawn’s natural growth period. If aeration is performed at the wrong time, it can cause stress to grass. Do not aerate dormant lawns. Aerating cool-season grasses common in northern lawns is best done early in the fall or early in the spring. The best time to aerate warm-season grasses common to southern lawns is late spring or early summer. When aeration occurs at the same time as active growth, grasses recover quickly and fill in exposed soil areas. It is easiest to aerate your lawn when the soil is moist from irrigation or rain the day before. An overly dry soil can be difficult to aerate, so moisture makes the process easier. It is best not to aerate wet lawns right after they have been watered.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

Aerating equipment is available in three main categories, ranging from manual versions to larger tractor-like or pull-behind machines:

  • A spike aerator simply pokes a hole down into the soil with a solid, spike-like tine. Various tools allow homeowners to aerate while they are doing yard work, but the spike machines can in fact exacerbate compaction since they press the soil together around the holes.
  • Cutting aerators have rotating blades that cut and slice through grass and thatch to reach the soil. As with spike aerators, slicing aerators leave soil in place, but they create pathways for air, water, and nutrients without causing additional compaction.
  • Plug aerators, typically preferred by lawn professionals, use rows of hollow tines that remove soil plugs from your lawn and deposit them on top, where they decompose. The size of the plugs and the holes they create depend on the machine used.

Whether you hire a lawn service or do it yourself, aerating can be a great experience. Aerator machines can be rented from an equipment rental company or lawn and garden store, with basic instructions included. The process of aerating is similar to mowing your lawn back and forth. Make sure you focus on any problem areas, such as pet runs or backyard baseball diamonds. Make several passes in different directions to ensure you are getting the best coverage.

When you’re done aerating your lawn, allow soil plugs and extra soil to dry. Your lawn surface will benefit from their decomposition in rain or crumbling when you mow the following time. After aeration, overseeding and fertilizing your lawn is a great idea, as well as doing simple lawn repairs. The holes in the soil created by your aerator allow seeds to directly contact nutrients and allow roots to find things they need. By combining these two solutions, you can help your lawn establish seed quickly and grow thicker and lusher. You can boost your lawn’s thickness, health, and beauty by including aeration on your annual task list and checking for compaction periodically. Whether you are looking for lawn care equipment for rent or have questions concerning availability, don’t hesitate to contact Rentalex at (813)971-9990.