In order to maintain a beautiful lawn year round, you should know basic lawn care practices such as properly mowing, fertilizing and watering. It is also important to ensure that nutrients can reach the soil beneath your grass. Law aeration can be a vital element to a healthy lawn because it allows air and water to penetrate built-up grass.
What is Aeration?
Aeration involves puncturing the soil with small holes to allow air, water and important nutrients to penetrate the grassroots. This helps the roots grow deeply and produce a stronger, more vibrant lawn.
The main reason for aerating is to reduce soil compaction. Compacted lawn soil has too many solid particles in a certain space, which prevents proper circulation of air, water and nutrients within the soil. Excess lawn *thatch or heavy organic debris buried under the grass surface can also starve the roots from these essential elements.
How to Find Out If You Should Aerate Your Lawn
One of the most common questions from homeowners is how to determine if they should be aerating their lawn. Your lawn is probably a good candidate for aeration if it:
- Gets heavy use, such as serving as the neighborhood playground or racetrack. Children and pets running around the yard contribute to soil compaction.
- If it was established as part of a newly constructed home. Often, the topsoil of newly constructed lawns is stripped or buried, and the grass established on subsoil has been compacted by construction traffic.
- If it dries out easily and has a spongy feel. This might mean your lawn has an excessive thatch problem. Take a shovel and remove a small piece of lawn about four inches deep. If the thatch layer is greater than one-half inch, aeration is recommended.
- If it was established by sod, soil layering exists. Soil layering means that soil of finer texture, which comes with imported sod, is layered over the existing coarser soil. This layering disrupts drainage, as water is held in the finer-textured soil. This leads to compacted conditions and poor root development. Aerating breaks up the layering, allowing water to flow through the soil more easily and reach the roots.
When Should You Aerate Your Lawn?
As a general rule, the best time for aeration is during the growing season, when the grass can heal after soil is removed. The growing season depends on the type of grass, thus, if you have a cool weather variety of grass, such as perennial rye-grass, aeration can be done between March and May, or in the fall. If you have warm season grass, aeration is best done between April and June. You shouldn’t aerate these types of grass until after the grass has turned green in the spring.
In most cases, you only need to aerate once per year. But, once again, you should consider what type of grass you have: if your lawn is growing well, or you have a sandy soil you can aerate even every 2-3 years because this type of soil doesn’t compact easily. On the other hand, if your children used to play on your lawn, or you have clay soil (which is wet and compacts easily), you should aerate once or twice every year.
What are Aerating Tools?
There are two main aerating tools: a spike aerator and a plug aerator. With a spike aerator, you simply use the tool to poke holes into the ground with a solid tine, or fork. Plug aerators remove a core or plug of grass and soil from the lawn. For the best results, use an aerating tool or machine that actually removes plugs of soil. Poking holes is less effective and can sometimes cause additional compaction in the areas around the holes.
Look for an aerating tool or machine that removes soil plugs approximately 2 to 3 inches deep and 0.5 to 0.75 inches in diameter, and about 2 to 3 inches apart. These machines can be rented from lawn and garden stores or home improvement centers. Always follow the directions provided by the store.
Although you can aerate your lawn yourself, if this is unfamiliar territory to you, it is always more beneficial to hire a professional lawn care service to help! They will know the best strategies for aeration for your grass type, as well as what tools to use.
How to Aerate Your Yard
If your lawn is in need of aeration, here are some lawn care tips on how get started:
- Make sure the soil is moist enough. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to aerate soil that is bone dry. Aerating the day after a rain shower or watering your lawn the day before is best.
- Most aeration machines cover only a small percentage of soil surface per pass, so make multiple passes over the most compacted areas. Save resources (and your energy) by leaving unaffected areas alone.
- The soil plugs should be allowed to dry and then broken up to give your lawn a clean appearance. Break them up by running them over with a lawn mower or pounding them with the back of a rake. (Your lawn mower blade may need to be sharpened after breaking up the plugs.)
- After aerating, it’s important to continue basic lawn care practices such as proper fertilizing, mowing and watering!
*Thatch is a loose, intermingled organic layer of dead and living shoots, stems, and roots that develops between the zone of green vegetation and the soil surface. Thatch build up begins when turf produces organic debris faster than it can be broken down. Those parts of grass plants that are the most resistant to decay — stem nodes, crowns, fibers of vascular tissues, and roots — make up the bulk of thatch.
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