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.