Your lawn is alive, and just like any living thing, it must have air, water, and food to survive. Take away any one of those three needed components and the lawn will die. Aerating the lawn annually will keep it alive and thriving by relieving compaction so air, water, and food can permeate the soil and reach the roots of the grass.
Lawn aeration is simple to do and requires minimal equipment and time. It can be a DIY project or you can hire a lawn care service to do it for you. However, you choose to do it, your lawn will thank you.
What Is Lawn Aeration?
It’s a procedure that pokes holes into the soil and removes thatch build-up so the lawn can breathe, drink and eat. Soil becomes hard and compacted over time and the compaction makes it difficult for anything to reach the grass roots. Add a thick layer of thatch (dead grass) on top of compacted soil and nothing can permeate down to the soil level.
The compaction is relieved and thatch is removed by poking holes into the soil and raking up the layer of thatch. This aeration procedure rejuvenates the lawn and keeps it growing strong.
Should All Lawns Be Aerated?
If you want your lawn to live, the answer is yes, all lawns should be aerated annually. If your lawn is deprived of air, food, and water because the soil is compacted and there’s a layer of thatch on top of that it can’t survive.
Normal walking on the lawn causes soil compaction. Mowing the lawn and allowing the grass clippings to blow out on the lawn creates the layer of thatch. Mowing the lawn also increases soil compaction.
Regardless of what type of soil you have or what type of grass you grow, all lawns should be aerated to keep them alive and healthy. Size doesn’t matter either, small lawns to expansive landscapes need to be aerated for healthy grass growth.
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How To Know If Your Lawn Needs To Be Aerated
Hard soil, sparse grass growth and bare spots in a lawn are a few signs that your lawn needs aeration. If rainwater puddles up instead of being absorbed is a good indicator also.
If in doubt, do the screwdriver test: Take a regular screwdriver and stick it into your lawn's soil by hand. It should slide in fairly easily. If you meet resistance, your soil is compacted, and lawn aeration is needed.
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When To Aerate
Cool-season grasses should be aerated in the autumn (fall) or early spring. These are grass varieties that are grown in cooler, northern climates.
Warm-season grasses that are grown in warm, southern climates should be aerated in late spring or early summer. The goal is to aerate just before the grass starts to actively grow. This will allow the aeration holes to be quickly filled in with new grass.
Wait until just after a rainfall or irrigation to aerate, the moist soil is easier to work with than dry soil. Dry, compacted is very difficult to aerate and overly wet soil just turns into a muddy mess.
Never aerate dormant grass in any climate.
How To Aerate
There are several types of aerating equipment and the size of your lawn will determine what type of tools are needed for the task.
Aerating sandals or a pitchfork are sufficient for very small lawns and these fit into the spike aerator category. The sandals are worn over normal shoes and you just walk methodically over your entire lawn, poking holes into the soil with each step. Wearing spiked golf shoes anytime you walk across your lawn will be beneficial, but annual aeration will still be needed.
A pitchfork is used to create rows of holes across the lawn for aeration. This is a labour-intensive spike aeration method, but it gets the job done.
Slicing aerators slice through the thatch and down to the soil level. Plug aerators remove plugs of soil from the lawn to allow air, water, and food to reach the grass roots. Both of these types of aerators can be purchased or rented as an attachment for a riding lawn mower or as a push-type machine.
What To Do After Aeration
Now is the best time to re-seed and feed your lawn. The grass seeds and/or food can make contact will the soil so roots can grow deep and nourishment can soak in deep to the grass roots.
It’s also time for a deep watering garden hose spray gun so that it soaks in deeply to thirsty roots.
If you use a pre-emergence weed killer or any other type of weed and feed product, apply it right after aerating your lawn.
I am the editor of Lawn Mower Hut and produce most of the content on the site. I have over 25 years experience in the gardening industry and have worked in multiple roles throughout that time. My passions are gardening and golfing. If you have any questions please get in touch I will be happy to help.