How to Aerate a Lawn.




Stick figure aerating a lawn

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How to Aerate a Lawn.

There are a lot of different reasons why a lawn would need aeration.

  • Why you would want to aerate a lawn?
  • What equipment you should use?
  • How would you go about it?

You can save some money and do your lawn a favor.

You do not need to get a lawn care operator to aerate your lawn as it is possible to do it yourself. You can rent an aerator for a small amount or you can use hand tools to do the job.

Before you rush out and buy (or rent) the tools you need, there are some things you need to consider.

  • Is there a good and a bad time of year to do this?
  • How wet or dry should the soil be?
  • How do you even know for sure that aeration is the right cure for your lawn’s woes?
  • Are there tests that you can do that don’t require any special equipment?

Let’s start at the beginning and talk about what aeration is and why your lawn would need it.

What is aeration?

Aeration is making holes in a lawn to help the grass roots absorb air, water, and nutrients. This is normally done when the soil has been compacted and has a thick layer around 1/4 to 1/2 thick that will not let anything through to the roots. This will cause shallow-rooted and unhealthy grass.

Every hole you put in compacted soil allows more access to air, water, and nutrients that were previously unavailable.

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How aeration works.

What causes compacted soil?

You usually get compacted soil in high-traffic areas in your yard. This can happen as a result of children playing, dogs or even you mowing the lawn.

This is one of the reasons why it is good to not always mow a lawn the same way every time.

If you regularly park on your lawn or drive cars over the lawn you are probably causing soil compaction. In fact, I have often had customers mention to me the lawn does not grow very fast where they park the car. This will be because the grass is struggling to feed and oxygenate the root system.

Another thing that can cause compaction of soil that people generally don’t think about is erecting and leaving a freestanding swimming pool. The weight of the water can push all of the air out of the top of the soil and turn it into a solid barrier.

Here is an article about how a family set up a freestanding pool that destroyed a lawn and ended up paying a lot of money to fix the lawn.

If you have a newly constructed house or have done some work around the house you may have issues in areas where the clay has been bought to the surface or heavy equipment has been used. Clay will compact a lot easier than dirt.

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Other reasons your lawn may need aerating.

Compaction of soil is the main reason you could need to aerate your lawn but it is not the only one.

You may need to aerate because of thatching in your lawn. Thatch is a thick layer of dead grass that lies below the grass tips and above the soil. If it gets thick enough it can stop nutrients from getting to the roots of the plant. This can cause weak plants and an unhealthy lawn.

Although aerating will help this situation I would recommend that you also dethatch as well.

Find out more about that in this post

What lawns can benefit from aerating?

A good sign of compression is when the rain puddles and does not soak into the soil easily. This is a sure sign that you need to work on this area.

If the symptoms are not that obvious such as unhealthy or sparse areas you could test with a large screwdriver. Slide it into the soil and if it goes in easily you are ok. If it is hard work to get in then the soil could be compacted. When you do this test do it away from tree roots or areas you know contain rocks.

If this test is inconclusive then you are going to have to work a bit harder. I would suggest that you dig out an area approximately a foot by a foot and half a foot deep. Look at the roots of the grass. If the roots are growing less than 2 inches deep then you need to aerate.

Different types of aerators.

There are many different types of aerators out there and they range from shoes with spikes to heavy machinery and everything in between so the questions you need to ask are.

  • What is the best kind of aerator for my yard?
  • Are some types of aerators better than others?
  • The three main kinds of aerators are.

Here is a list of the different kinds of aerators available with Amazon links to my favourite one in each category.

A Core Aerator – If you have ever seen an apple corer then a core aerator is a similar kind of tool. Where an apple corer will take the core from an apple an aeration corer will do the same thing to your lawn but on a much larger scale. This is the best way to aerate a lawn as it causes no compression at all. This is the tool of choice used by most lawn care professionals. resizeimage 1 1

A lawn after aeration

A Spike Aerator – These kinds of aerators come in all shapes and sizes. They are easier to use than a core aerator but they are not as good. This is because the push spikes into the earth and this results in holes with compressed sides. An easy fix is getting a spike aerator as a pair of shoes and just walking around problem areas and you will see improvement over time.

A Slicing Aerator – This machine has a blade and will basically cut lines into the lawn. These are usually only available as a pull-behind fitting for a lawn tractor so I have used a hand-pushed machine that uses a star trimmer in my example. This is a good machine to use if you do not want to disturb the soil too much,

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When should you aerate your lawn?

You should always aerate your lawn during an active growing period not when it is dormant. These will vary depending on the location you live in. As a general rule if your grass is growing fast then that is a good time. This list below will give you an idea depending on the kind of grass you have.

Cool-season grasses are best done in early Fall or Spring. The most popular grasses in this category are.

  • Tall Fescue
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Fine Fescues
  • Kentucky Bluegrass

Warm-season grasses are best done in late Spring or early Summer. The most popular grasses in this category are.

  • Bahiagrass
  • Centipede grass
  • Zoysia grass
  • Bermuda grass
  • Carpet grass
  • St Augustine grass

Things to remember when aerating a lawn

If you do not want to buy a tool for the sole purpose of aerating your lawn you can use a garden fork and this will help the lawn.

The soil needs to be moist for the best results. It should be moist enough to easily come out of a core but not too muddy or dry.

Go over the bad areas a few times in different directions and only go over the good areas once. Focus on the problem and high-traffic areas.

Let the plugs dry out and dissolve back into the lawn or mow over them for the best results. Do not rake them up. It is better to leave it looking a bit messy for a while in order to get better results in the future.

Video How to Aerate a Lawn video

A final word.

The best reason for aeration is that it is good for the health of the lawn in general.

Once you have aerated your yard it is an ideal time to lay a fine layer of compost, sand or peat to give your lawn a real boost.

Happy aerating.

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