Aeration is the practice of puncturing your soil in order to optimize the amount of water, nutrients, and air available to your lawn’s root system. The practice optimizes deeper, more stringent root growth, which promotes a strong and resilient bed of grass.
Let’s discuss all you need to know about lawn aeration.
Why Aerate Your Lawn:
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, aerating helps create healthier soil in a number of circumstances. For clay-rich soils, or for new construction where the topsoil has been stripped, the enrichment process can take some time.
For sod installations, a fresh layer of topsoil is often added beforehand. While this practice, as well as fertilization applications, can help imbue your soil with healthy nutrients, aerating assists in the process of integrating topsoil with subsoil. This is important in creating a supportive environment for root growth.
Compacted soil can occur for a number of reasons, which will be discussed further in a moment. No matter the cause, soil that is too dense will begin to starve your grass’s roots. This makes your lawn more vulnerable to extreme conditions, such as excessive precipitation or drastic temperature changes, because compacted soil holds both moisture and temperature in place for longer periods of time.
Some grass turfs, such as bermuda grass, are somewhat more prone to building up too much thatch. Detatching is a separate process from aerating, but both have the same end goal: creating a nourishing environment for your grass’s root system. If you find yourself needing to dethatch, you should aerate your lawn first, as the process will help loosen both the soil and the thatch buildup.
When to Aerate:
Again, with some conditions, aerating is going to be necessary once in awhile no matter how diligent you are with your lawn care. Yards that have a lot of clay in their soil, as well as grass types that are prone to heavy thatching, will need to be aerated about once per year.
New lawns benefit from aerating in order to promote sturdy root development. No matter your circumstances, you want to aerate during the peak growing season, in order to optimize the absorption of air, water, and vital nutrients. Seed-grown lawns can be safely aerated to promote rich growth, so long as the blades have already emerged from the soil.
As mentioned above, compacted soil needs to be aerated so that it becomes more pliant and breathable. This can happen with heavy foot traffic, as well as any structures that have sat on your lawn for an extended period. Objects as large as an above-ground pool, or as small as a bit of lawn furniture, can compact your soil if left in one spot for too long.
How to Aerate:
- Never aerate a dormant or thoroughly damaged lawn. Doing so risks further damage, as the grass turf and topsoil are already brittle and compromised.
- Make sure the soil is reasonably moist. Aerating a fully dried lawn can “rip” your grass bed’s crown and your topsoil, as the ground is far less pliant when dry than when some moisture is present.
- Go over the problem areas 2-3 times to optimize the treatment, but don’t waste your energy on stretches of lawn that truly don’t need aerating.
- Let any loosed soil or thatch dry completely, and then mow over it to redistribute throughout your lawn.
Core or plug aerators remove small plugs of soil from the ground, decreasing the overall density of your topsoil. Thereby, the risk of impacted soil is also decreased, which improves the soil’s ability to breath and absorb. These types of aerating tools will pull plugs that are a half to three quarters of an inch across, and about 2-3 inches deep.
There are also aerating tools that puncture your lawn with spikes, or slice into it with blades. Unlike the previous tools, these do not displace any soil. While they do allow your lawn some breathing room, spike can actually increase compaction around the puncture points.
Be sure you choose a tool that fits your lawn’s specific needs, based on your soil type and grass breed. If purchasing an aerating tool is not feasible, don’t worry. You can rent the equipment from your local gardening shop or lawn care business.
What about herbicides?
Any herbicidal treatment you’ve already applied is still present within the blades, roots, and topsoil of your lawn. You need not worry about compromising your lawn’s protection against pests with the process of aerating.
A good safety measure, if you’re concerned, is to apply any herbicides, lawn fertilization, or overseeding a couple of days after aerating, to fortify your grass. The blades and roots will be all the more capable of absorbing helpful nutrients, chemicals, seeds, etc. thanks to the aeration process.