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What You Need to Know about Lawn Aeration

What Is Lawn Aeration?

Aerating your lawn removes plugs of soil to create openings that allow oxygen, nutrients and water to penetrate the soil and enable healthy grass growth. It also allows for the release of carbon dioxide that's within the soil. Aerating a lawn requires manual or mechanical tools. 

Why Aerate Your Lawn?

Over time, your lawn’s soil becomes compacted and tight. Soil compaction comes from everyday activities such as walking, playing sports, driving and parking vehicles on the surface. Poorly drained areas of a lawn tend to suffer the most from compaction. Dry hard soil, bare patches and poor drainage are signs that a lawn is compacted. This soil lacks the porosity that allows air, nutrients and water to enter the ground, allowing turf roots to get the nourishment necessary for a green and lush lawn. Excessive thatch between green grass and soil can lead to turf damage. Thatch consists of dead and living matter, including leaves, roots and stems. Thatch can hamper grass growth, but aerating loosens and opens the underlying soil, allowing lawn roots to grow deeper.

When Should You Aerate Your Lawn?

Lawn care experts recommend aerating your lawn during early fall for hot weather grasses, including Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass, and in the spring for cool weather grasses such as bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass. Avoid lawn aeration during drought and extremely hot weather. During hot weather, the openings created by aeration tools lets the heat penetrate the soil, and it may damage roots. The day before aerating, water the lawn or wait for a soaking rain that provides at least 1 inch of water. The water softens the soil and helps the aerator extract the soil cores.

Which Aerator Is Best?

Examples of manual aeration tools include spikes attached to shoes, handheld core aerators and garden forks. However, spikes and garden forks don't result in the desired effect because they leave the soil plugs in the ground. Lawn and garden experts warn that using forks or tines for aeration can contribute to soil compaction. Lawn professionals recommend using core aerators that remove soil plugs and redistribute them on the lawn.

A core aerator or one that pulls plugs of soil from the ground is the best tool for aerating your lawn. While you can use a manual core aerator, if your yard is large, a mechanical aerator can be most effective and help you finish the job in less time. A tow-behind aerator hitches to a tractor or lawn mower and allows you to cover a lot of ground quickly. Gas-powered walk-behind and stand-on aerators are also efficient. An electric walk-behind aerator eliminates the need for gas.

After aerating your lawn, leave the soil plugs to decompose naturally. Set up a regular watering schedule, fertilize the lawn with a high-nitrogen product and overseed with new grass. 

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What To Do When Your Lawn Mower Starts Then Dies

Few of us have been spared the agony of an unexpected lawn mower engine failure. You pull out the mower expecting to finally get the lawn cut, everything starts right up and is running fine, and suddenly the engine stops working. Don't let this nuisance situation completely ruin your weekend plans. Here is a 7-point checklist of the most likely things you can check and fix yourself. With a little perseverance, you'll have your mower — and your weekend — right back on track.

  1. Check the fuel status. It might seem like a no-brainer, but maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised to find such a simple fix.
  2. Add fresh gas. If the fuel level is alright, consider the fuel's age. Many people don't add gas stabilizer to their lawn mower during the busy season, but untreated gas can go stale or sour and lose quality combustion volatiles within a few weeks. Contaminated, thick or sour gas is not ideal, so fill the tank with fresh gas, and you may be back on schedule.
  3. Inspect the fuel cap. Air is vented into the gas tank through a tiny hole in the gas cap, which, if blocked, can result in a vapor lock causing the engine to shut down.
  4. Check the oil level. Too much oil in the oil reservoir will foul the plug and prevent smooth engine performance. Drain to the correct level and properly dispose of any excess oil.
  5. Replace the spark plug. A stuttering engine, strong fuel odors and engine failure could indic
  6. ate a faulty or worn spark plug. Remove the plug and examine the tip for oil or corrosion. Sometimes a simple plug cleaning suffices, but if you notice the electrode is discolored, dirty or worn, replacing it is the best option. Changing the air filter and oil at the same time you change the plug is good practice.
  7. Clean the carburetor. A clogged carburetor is often caused by dirty or stale fuel. The carburetor is usually located behind or adjacent to the air filter, and the easiest fix is to clean it with an inexpensive can of carburetor/choke/throttle body cleaner. A small scrubbing brush may be useful. Blow out any residual gunk and liquid with compressed air.
  8. Remove the carburetor. If the engine is still reluctant to run, removing the carburetor itself is necessary to perform a more thorough inspection and clean. This work is a little more complicated as fuel lines and linkage cables first need to be disengaged.

If none of these issues help to get your mower working again, it might be best to call in the professionals. They'll go further into the inner workings of the mower; for example, checking gas lines, in-line fuel filters and the choke assembly, and will no doubt be able to track down and rectify the problem for you.