Keeping your lawn in tip-top shape requires a lot of hard work. A lawn that receives regular trimming, mowing, edging, and other upkeep procedures always looks great. However, lawn owners must also know that surface-level maintenance is not all a lawn ever needs. A well-trimmed lawn quickly running out of essential nutrients will certainly stop looking so good in a while when the entire nutrient bank is depleted. Thus ensuring that the grassroots receive sufficient nutrients is crucial, and aeration is the best technique.
Lawn aerators are used to dig holes into the soil (spike aerators) or to pull out plugs of soil (core/plug aerators). The holes created in the soil during aeration allow penetration of air, water, and nutrients into the soil, which is crucial for the health of the grassroots.
The ideal time to aerate depends on the soil type and weather. Similarly, aeration frequency is also determined by soil type. For example, compacted soil requires more frequent aeration than clay.
- 1 What is an Aerator Used for and What Type of Lawn Aerator is Best:
- 2 Is It Worth it to Aerate Your Lawn:
- 3 When Should I Aerate My Lawn:
- 4 How Do I Aerate My Lawn Myself:
- 5 How do I Know If My Lawn Needs Aeration:
- 6 Should I Mow Before or After Aeration:
- 7 Should I Aerate Before I Seed:
What is an Aerator Used for and What Type of Lawn Aerator is Best:
A lawn aerator is a garden tool used to create holes in the soil to help the grassroots receive the required air and nutrients essential for their health and growth. The two main types of aerators are spike and core/plug.
- Spiked aerators: These are equipped with solid spikes that punch holes in the soil. Since these aerators don’t remove any soil from the turf, subsequent watering causes the soil to compact, closing the holes. This type of aeration is suitable for sandy soils.
- Core/plug aerators: These are equipped with hollow tines that pull out plugs of soil to create holes. Since soil plugs are removed from the turf, compaction is reduced, and more time is available for air and nutrients to reach the grassroots. This type of aeration is recommended for clay soils.
Aerators may be powered or manual. Powered aerators, like powered mowers, can aerate a large lawn relatively quickly.
Manual aerators generally have two to five hollow tines fixed on a step bar. The operator puts one foot on the step bar to push it down. This forces the tines to enter into the soil. Then he pulls up the handle of the step bar to pull the soil plugs out of the turf. When the same operation is repeated, the soil plugs left in the tines are pushed out by the next ones that get pulled out of the ground.
Manual aerators are more economical than powered ones. The major difference between the two is the speed. For a more extensive residential lawn, a manual aerator may take hours to complete. However, a well-made manual aerator has the benefits of ease of use, selective aeration, and low cost.
Is It Worth it to Aerate Your Lawn:
The purpose of lawn aeration is to provide breathability to the soil underneath the top surface and to allow the grassroots to receive adequate nutrients.
It is vital to aerate your lawn as it helps to lessen soil compaction. Compacted soils have a dense particle population preventing air, water, and nutrient circulation. Excessive lawn thatch also starves the grassroots from receiving the essential elements. A lawn thatch is a layer of living and dead grass tissue accumulated on the turf around the base of the grass.
Soil also experiences surface sealing during cold winters because the compacting effect of walking around is amplified. This makes aeration in cold weather especially important.
When Should I Aerate My Lawn:
The perfect time to aerate a lawn is during weather periods which will help the recovery process. The ideal recovery time depends on the grass type but usually during growing seasons. Cold-season grass generally grows wells during the cooler temperatures of the early fall and early spring. On the other hand, warm-season grass usually blooms at the end of spring and during the early summer months.
The best aeration practices for different seasonal schedules also vary. Choose your aeration schedule depending on the type of grass and follow one of these tips for your schedule:
- Lawn aeration between March and November: If aerating your lawn between March and November, it is better to spike the lawn between 5 cm and 15 cm using a spading fork or a rolling lawn aerator. This process can be repeated once every two to three months. However, damp soil that smears too much or one with frost shouldn’t be spiked. Clay or hard soil makes it difficult for air and nutrients to reach the grassroots. Therefore, lawns with clay or hard soil must be spiked and aerated at least once yearly, if not more frequently.
- Lawn aeration in autumn: A hollow tine aerator is recommended when aerating in early autumn as it increases soil drainage and temperature. However, I only recommend this aeration technique if the soil has enough time to heal. Start aerating between the end of August and mid-October as the weather gets wetter rather than drier during this period. If you opt for hollow-tining, it shouldn’t be on frosted soil or one that’s to receive frost soon because if the soil freezes after being aerated, it will cause your lawn to heave up.
Lawn owners must remember that it is generally unnecessary to aerate your lawn yearly if it is healthy and growing fine. Lawns with sandy soil should also not be aerated yearly as sandy soil does not close up easily.
In these cases, I recommend aerating every two to three years. When you aerate your lawn more frequently than required, it can harm the grass and disturb the delicate balance between growth and latency.
However, I recommend aerating a heavy-traffic lawn every year. The same goes for lawns with clay soil since it reduces the number of nutrients and air reaching the roots and also compacts easily after aeration.
Furthermore, it is best to aerate your lawn twice a year if you live in harsh climates that experience cold and dry winters.
How Do I Aerate My Lawn Myself:
Aerating a lawn is not difficult, especially if you have a smaller lawn. Aerating a bigger lawn is the same, except it takes a lot more time. For more extensive lawns, I recommend a powered aerator. If you do not want to purchase one, rent it.
Keep the following tips in mind before you aerate your lawn:
- Aeration during drought: Never aerate your lawn during a drought or if one is expected soon. The grassroots will not recover easily and will be exposed to excessive sunshine, which may even harm them.
- Aerate on wet soil: Always water your turf a day before aerating. Soft and moist soil will recover well afterward. However, watering the lawn is not required if it has received sufficient rainfall a day or two before you plan to aerate.
- Be careful of what’s beneath: When aerating your lawn, avoid hitting a cable or pipe beneath the turf. Particularly take care if you have an irrigation system.
With these useful tips in mind, you can aerate your lawn in these easy steps:
● Step 1: Mow first
Mow your lawn before aerating it. This will eliminate the excessive grass and give the tool a better penetration into the turf.
● Step 2: Use the correct aerator
Select the type of aerator based on your soil type and the weather. The most compacted areas should be aerated several times as most aerators only cover a small percentage of the ground’s surface in each pass.
● Step 3: Multiple passes
If your soil is softly compacted, you should aerate your entire lawn at least twice. Also, if you have never aerated your soil, aerate the whole lawn at least twice. In this case, the second pass should be perpendicular to the first.
● Step 4: Do not remove the soil plugs
If you used a plug aerator, leave the soil plugs removed by the aerator on the ground so they can break down on subsequent watering.
● Step 5: Water the lawn
Once the entire lawn has been aerated, water the lawn well. Apply lawn fertilizer to provide the nutrients required for healing.
Water the newly aerated lawn every two to three days for the next two weeks. Keeping the lawn moist is extremely important for germination to occur.
● Step 6: Reseed where needed
Cover the aerated lawn with topsoil after completing the aeration and watering process. Screened topsoil that has been mixed with compost is ideal.
Spread the topsoil to create a layer approximately 0.4 to just over 0.5 inches thick (10 to 15 mm). Then sew the seeds, either by hand or with a spreader using expansive sweeping movements. If you use a spreader, spread half of the seeds in the first pass and then go back over all parts to be reseeded and spread in a different direction in the second pass. Settle the seeds and roll the lawn.
How do I Know If My Lawn Needs Aeration:
There are certain indicators you can look for to know if your lawn needs to be aerated. Neglected lawns usually develop these signs, and it is not hard to tell they need aeration. Look out for the following common indicators in particular:
- Thatch layer: A thatch layer atop the turf is a clear indicator of air depravity and compaction. Soil compaction inhibits the required air, water, and nutrients from reaching the grassroots. This is detrimental to a lawn’s condition as it also harms the microbes and useful fungi population that keep the balance of life in the soil. Without a healthy microbe population, dead plants cease to decay. Instead, they keep accumulating on the turf until a soggy thatch layer is created. Once this layer reaches a thickness of 15 to 20 mm, it stops the water and air penetration into the soil, which is detrimental to your lawn’s health.
- Grass color: Compacted areas of a lawn usually appear to be dry. A good test is to apply fertilizer to this area. If the area develops a ‘bluey’ shade, it indicates soil compaction. This is because compacted soil cannot properly absorb the fertilizer.
- Lawn diseases: A compacted lawn is highly susceptible to lawn diseases such as Fusarium, which typically occurs in autumn and winter, red thread in summer, etc.
- Speedy drying: A lawn with poor moisture-holding ability dries faster than a healthier lawn. Comparing your lawn with your neighbors now and then can help you notice if your lawn is drying rapidly.
- Rain run-off: Compacted soils fail to absorb and hold water causing rainwater to run off down the turf.
- Frequent traffic: If your lawn sees hefty traffic, such as children and pets running and playing, regular aeration would be helpful since frequent traction causes serious soil compaction.
Should I Mow Before or After Aeration:
Mowing a lawn immediately after it has been aerated is not recommended. After aerating your lawn, I recommend waiting at least a week before mowing or when it has grown to around 2.5 inches (6-7 cm). I do recommend mowing a lawn a day or two before aerating it.
Should I Aerate Before I Seed:
The ideal time to reseed is immediately after aeration because the holes created in the soil during aeration allow new seeds to have better access to air, water, and nutrients. Applying fertilizer after aeration is also very beneficial for growth.