Maintaining a beautiful lush green lawn requires constant love and care.
You need to let your lawn breather if you want it to look springy and alive. In this article, we will tell you how adequate lawn aeration can give your yard a new life.
Lawn Aeration is extremely beneficial for the overall health of the lawn, the turf, and the soil.
It carves a much-needed pathway for oxygen, water, and nutrients to reach the roots, which ensures they are well fed and thriving.
When combined with a proper watering schedule, the roots dig deeper into the soil, establishing a healthy base for the grass to grow on.
Over time, as your turf grows healthier, the patch buildup is significantly reduced, which means less maintenance work in the future.
Proper aeration also improves soil structure by keeping it loose enough for air to flow in and out.
Lawn aeration ensures the pores in the soil are well maintained at all times.
These pores, in turn, ensure that the roots never starve and can obtain the nutrition necessary for survival and optimal turf health.
What Exactly is Lawn Aeration?
Aeration is essentially creating holes in the soil that allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots. Just as breathing is essential for humans, aeration is just as crucial for your lawn.
Perforation allows the grass to breathe, promoting healthier root growth, which keeps the grass plush for longer.
You may be wondering at this point, why does the soil need additional air vents to let air in?
This is because, over time, a layer of dead grass tissue, debris, and decaying leaves, known as thatch, covers the soil.
The layer stays below the grass and above the soil and is seemingly non-existent unless observed closely.
Thatch, if allowed to accumulate, prevents water, air, and sunlight from reaching the soil and roots.
It also significantly increases the water run-off.
Fertilizers and water never make it to the soil, which results in stunted root growth, leaving your grass looking weak and shabby.
How to Control Lawn Thatch?
While a thatch layer 0.5 inches thick or thinner can protect newly crowning grass, anything thick than 0.75 inches is not healthy.
It leaves the grass susceptible to weed growth and diseases, which deteriorate the entire look of the yard.
Controlling lawn thatch is effortless. As long as you are caring for your lawn right, you don’t have to worry about thatch.
For those new to gardening, though, here are a few ways to prevent the dead mass from ruining your plantation.
Unsuitable Watering Practices
Watering your garden frequently but not deeply is not suitable for your yard.
Doing so promotes root growth near the surface alone, which develops a shallow root network.
All vegetation thrives when it is placed under burdensome conditions and is given just enough water for survival, which is why infrequent watering produces the best results.
There isn’t a strict watering schedule you should follow as it varies according to each lawn.
If you have an automatic sprinkler system, make sure it is customized as per your lawn’s requirements.
For healthy root development, the water must penetrate deep into the soil.
A healthy and thriving root network keeps the ground loose and open to receive nutrition.
Lawn aeration helps prevent soil compaction, which is pertinent to inefficient yard maintenance practices that can leave the soil tightly bound together.
Such a situation is known as soil compaction, where the pore size is reduced to the point of nonexistence.
The lack of pore presence leaves no way in for essential water and nutrients, which increases the run-off rate.
Frequent and shallow watering often becomes a reason why the soil loses its structure and merges into one block.
Lawn aeration is the ideal way to restore the structural integrity of the land by promoting root growth, which maintains optimal pore spaces.
While soil compaction increases its strength and proves beneficial for construction, it has the opposite effect on all vegetation.
When the roots are unable to penetrate the ground, they cannot establish ground and thus remain weak, and easily uproot able.
However, you can aid the development process by aerating your lawn.
How to Aerate your Lawn?
Before you begin the aeration process, make sure the grass is moist to touch.
If the soil is dry, then it automatically falls back into place no matter how many times you go over with an aerator.
We suggest you start aerating a day after you water the lawn or the grass receives heavy rainfall.
Start the process by mowing your garden.
This is pertinent as tall, overgrown grass often blocks thatch growth from sight.
Unless you cut the grass short, you will not be able to determine how thick of a layer is covering the soil and how hardcore you need to go at the thatch.
Most probably, the lawn will warrant dethatching by the time you start aerating it.
So go over the entire area with either a mechanical or a manual dethatcher.
It will break up the sturdy mesh of dead grass roots and debris, eliminating all barriers between the aerator and the soil.
It is not time to poke some holes in the yard.
To do so, you will have to choose between a spike and a plug aerator.
Spike Aerator Vs. Plug Aerator
A spike aerator comprises a roller with spikes. As you move the roller over the lawn, it punctures the soil creating tiny openings in the ground that let oxygen, water, and nutrients reach the roots.
In contrast, plug aerators do not puncture the soil but remove chunks of it to create openings.
They comprise of hollow tines that, when inserted into the ground, breakthrough thatch and soil, creating hollow spherical openings for oxygen, water, and nutrients to reach the roots.
Your equipment choice will depend on a few factors.
What your soil consists of substantially affects your choice of aerator as it directly affects the compaction rate.
Higher clay content warrants the use of plug aerators.
These soils compact more frequently and easily, and plug aerators prove useful in relieving soil compaction.
Plug aerators loosen up the soil by pulling out chunks and depositing them on the surface — spike aerators, on the other hand, further aid compaction by pushing the earth deeper into the ground.
Using a spike aerator on lawns that have higher clay content can prove detrimental to the lawn’s overall health.
You can determine which tool to use by picking a damp clump of soil and compressing it into your palm.
If it merges into one chunk, then clay is dominant in its composition. If it feels crumbly even after compression, then it has higher quantities of loam and sand.
The second type of soil warrants the use of spike aerators as extracting clumps from such a composition is just as useless as orange juice is to tea.
The soil just falls back into place, closing up the opening.
As stated above, the ideal time for aerating is a day or two after deep watering the lawn.
The soil should be moist but not wet, especially when using plug aerators.
Getting soil high in clay content and drenched in the water out of the hollow plug becomes challenging.
You will end up spending hours more than you need to.
Using a spike aerator on wet soil is equivalent to you running a compaction roller over the lawn.
Instead of the soil sticking to the tines and making its way to the surface, it ends up pressed deeper into the ground.
Using a plug aerator can be beneficial for the soil’s integrity and structure when used during the correct season.
The device removes significant chunks of soil and grassroots. Doing so during the dormant season can prove detrimental to the lawn.
It is best to use a plug aerator during the growing season as it reduces the stress period on the grass.
Since a spike aerator is not as aggressive, you can use it during any time of the year.
Not all aerators prove effective in all situations.
Your choice must vary according to the level of use your lawn goes through, its history, and multiple other factors.
A plug aerator only proves useful when used once a year for three consecutive years or more.
Parks, sidewalks, or yards that undergo substantial use cannot stall aeration an entire year.
Depending upon the frequency of the use, you may need to perforate the soil twice to thrice a year to loosen it up.
In such situations, a spike aerator proves useful as it does not put the grass under stress as drastically as core aeration does.
Powered Aerator Vs. Manual Aerator
The choice between a mechanical or manual aerator depends upon the level of comfort you are seeking.
While manual aerators may work well on yard and lawns with smaller surface areas, they are not as practical an option for public parks and expansive grass-covered areas.
There are two types of mechanical aerators to choose from.
These machines feature a drum or cylinder laced with spikes all over, which is why it becomes the motor-powered spike aerator.
The drum located up front rotates as you move over the field and utilizes pressure to drive the spikes in and out the soil.
The machines that feature a camshaft work as plug aerators.
The camshaft hosts fewer tines than the drum. The tines move in and out of the ground, and the density of the holes creates depending upon the speed of the machine.
A significant advantage of using a machine aerator is that you don’t exert as much as you would when using a manual one.
All you have to do is start the motor and guide it. Obviously, buying one requires a substantial amount of money, and we suggest you do not invest in one unless you absolutely need it.
Manual aerators are ideal for front and back yards as they are relatively smaller areas to maintain. You can choose from a plethora of spike and plug aerators available in the market.
For something more comfortable to use, you can opt for aerator shoes/sandals that you can put on and go for a walk in the yard in which they will aerate your yard just as well.
However, if you are an older adult whose health does not allow the use of manual equipment, then you can always opt for a powered dethatcher and aerator. When using a mechanical aerator, you need to keep a few things in mind.
Tips for Using a Mechanical Aerator
Rake the lawn and remove all dead leaves and debris that could possibly block the spikes from penetrating the soil.
- Mow your lawn before you start the dethatching and aeration process
- Be on the lookout and make sure the machine is not lifting the turf as you move over it.
- Go over the lawn at least twice in different directions each time.
- When making turns, make sure the spikes are out of the soil. Otherwise, you may end up ripping the turf, which becomes difficult to fix later.
Treating your Lawn after Aeration
Inadequate care after you aerate the lawn can send all your hard work down the drain.
Following through not only improve the condition of the soil but also reduces the need for aeration.
If you opt for core aeration, then make sure you leave the pulled out plugs on the soil.
Do not dispose of them as that ruins soil composition.
Sprinkle plenty of worms over the lawn. They not only keep the soil loose but also reduce chances of insect manifestation by eating the larvae that lie dormant within.
Do not overwater your yard as that causes the soil to clump together. We suggest that before you pick up the watering hose step on the soil.
Do not proceed with watering the lawn unless you see your footprint develop and stay in the ground.
When you do decide to water, do follow it up with fertilization and throw in plenty of new grass seeds for healthier turf.
Simply by following these steps, you can limit the need for extensive aeration to once a year only.
To maintain continuous growth and development, all you need to is sprinkle some slow-releasing organic seeds that depart nutrients to the soil over time.
How often should you aerate your lawn?
There isn’t a cap on how often and when to aerate your lawn.
As we mentioned earlier, it depends upon the amount of use it goes through.
Ideally, you should try and limit full-fledged aeration to once a year only.
Throughout the year, if you are taking care of a community park that undergoes substantial use, then you may need to incorporate light spike aeration twice a year.
When to aerate your lawn will also depend upon the type of grass.
Early spring is the best time to aerate cool-season grass.
While for warm-season grass, late spring or early summer is the ideal time for lawn aeration.
Even though aeration is good for the grass improperly times maintenance procedure can leave the lawn overly stressed and unable to recover.
Side-effects of Improper Aeration Practices
Disrupted growth cycle – because aeration involves root upheaval, excessive ventilation can leave the grass damaged beyond repair. If the roots aren’t given adequate time to penetrate the ground, then the entire aeration process becomes ineffective.
Ineffective seeding – Similarly, while overseeding with aeration promotes healthier sturdier turf growth, when combined with excessive aeration, it produces no benefits. The roots are never given ample time to establish ground and get comfortable enough into the soil to develop a network.
No matter what tool you opt for, there is no denying the importance of lawn aeration.
Your grass must be able to breathe in order to grow tall and healthy.
With ventilation, you will also need to device an appropriate watering schedule for the best results.
It is important that after you carve the pathway for the food to reach the roots, you also ensure that you leave them thirsty for an extended period.
You can use all the seeds and fertilizers you want, but the roots won’t grow as aggressively as they will when in search of water.
Overwatering the lawn will only contribute to thatch buildup, which again is detrimental to the soil and the grass.
We suggest you pick up the watering hose only once a week, especially after aeration.
A seven-day gap stresses out the grass enough to have it seek out water underground.
In summers, you may need to water it thrice every two weeks for optimal results. But then again, you could do the footprint test to determine whether you should water the lawn or not.
The only thing certain in the maintenance process is that lawn aeration is beneficial, especially if you want a yard that becomes everyone’s envy.