Does your lawn look sparse and patchy? Does it remind you of a pasture more than a lush garden area?
A thicker and healthier lawn requires ongoing maintenance to keep it healthy. The chores are relatively simple, especially when some of the tasks only need to be done once per year.
Aerating a lawn relieves the soil compaction that has occurred over the past 12 months. By taking this step, grass growth gets enhanced. The deeper root systems that develop work to keep your property looking green and beautiful throughout the year. []
When Does My Lawn Need Aeration?
It only takes a quarter-inch layer of compacted soil to harm lawn growth. If you have kids or pets that play outside, that’s enough action on the grass to cause its foundation to become compressed. []
Some people confuse dethatching with aeration since the two chores are typically performed together. Thatch is the decomposing organic matter layer that forms between the soil and grass. When this layer gets more than a half-inch thick, it can stop water, air, and nutrients from reaching the root system.
Options like Bermuda grass or Kentucky bluegrass tend to produce more thatch than others. Removing that layer is dethatching, while aeration involves soil decompression.
When a lawn looks stressed, or rainwater tends to pool where it was once absorbed, those are clear indications that aeration work could be necessary. You can confirm your suspicions with a simple screwdriver test. []
If the tool slides in relatively easily, your lawn is fine. If you meet resistance, the soil is compacted and could benefit from aeration.
When is the Best Time to Aerate a Lawn?
Lawn aeration is considered a significant project. It’s better to do the work right before or during the time of year that grass reaches its peak time of natural growth.
If aeration is timed improperly, it could stress the grass in unnecessary ways. You should never perform aeration on a dormant lawn.
If you have cool-season grass, which is quite common in most northerly climates, the best time to aerate is early spring or fall. When you have a warm-season species planted, it’s better to do the work in the late spring or early summer.
The goal of the aeration work is to have the decompression happen at the same time active growth occurs. That allows the grass to quickly recover and fill in the spots where soil exposure arises from the work performed.
Unless there is no other option, aeration work does a better job when the soil is still damp from rain or irrigation from the day before. If the grass is thoroughly soaked from an extensive storm, it’s better to wait a few days to let the standing water evaporate or become absorbed in the soil.
How to Aerate a Lawn Correctly
- Plug aerators are what most lawn professionals use. It involves a row of hollow tines that remove soil cores and deposit them on top to break down. The size and depth are variable based on the equipment used for the work.
- Slice aerators use rotating blades that cut through the thatch and sod into the soil. They leave the dirt in the ground while creating air pathways that let water and nutrients flow with more freedom.
- Spike aerators poke holes into the soil with sharp tines. Many homeowners use a type that straps to their shoes so that they can walk around the lawn while doing outdoor chores to finish this job.
Although any aeration is usually better than none, spike aerators can worsen some issues because they press the soil together around the created holes.
When you want to do this work yourself, it helps to focus on the trouble areas first. Run the aerating equipment as you would a lawn mower. If you take care of the pet run or where the kids like to play, a few extra passes in different directions ensure that your lawn can stay healthy for another year.
After the aerating work is finished, let the extra soil or cores dry where they fall. The organic matter provides a healthy resource as it breaks down. This time is also when you want to consider seeding and adding fertilizer to encourage an entire season of lush greenness.