To “aerate” a lawn means to punch holes in the soil and remove small plugs of soil from the lawn, to encourage new growth. For many lawns, spring is the ideal season to aerate.
When you aerate your lawn, the holes you create allow more air and water circulation around your lawn’s roots. This is a defense against fungus, and it encourages the growth of healthy microorganisms in the soil. These microorganisms function to eat lawn thatch (dead turf grass tissue-stems, leaves, stolons, rhizomes, and roots), meaning this old grass decomposes faster. Aeration facilitates your lawn establishing deeper, stronger roots, making it more drought-resistant.
Aerating can be as simple as walking back and forth across the lawn with spike shoes, but to do it seriously generally means either hiring a professional lawn care service to take care of it, or renting an aerator from a home improvement store and doing it yourself. Even if you prefer to do it yourself, it’s not a bad idea to first pay a professional for a lawn analysis to assess the general health of your lawn, and to help determine when your lawn could most benefit from an aeration.
A few points to keep in mind when aerating your lawn:
* An important factor in how often you should aerate is the type of soil. Clay soils compact more easily and need more frequent aeration. Plan on aerating clay soils at least twice a year. More sandy soils generally don’t need to be aerated more than once a year.
* Another factor in how often you should aerate is foot traffic. Constant foot traffic means more soil compaction, so you’ll want to aerate those areas more frequently.
* Aerate on a day with mild temperatures. Avoid aeration on the hottest days of the summer.
* The rule of thumb is warm season grass lawns are best aerated in the spring, and cool season grass lawns are best aerated in the autumn.
* You want the soil to be moist, but not too wet. Wet soil gets stuck in the aerator and makes aerating more of a chore than it needs to be. If it’s raining or just rained, wait until a different day. If it hasn’t rained in awhile, give your lawn a light watering one to two days prior to aerating.
* After aerating, allow the soil plugs a few days to break up naturally. After that, you can crumble the remaining plugs with a rake or a lawn mover.
Aerating is worth the small investment of time and money, as it can make a significant difference in your lawn’s health. Aerating means strong roots, which translates to beautiful, healthy green grass.
David Beaulieu, “What is Lawn Aeration? When and How is Lawn Aeration Done?” About.com.
Shannon Dauphin, “Tips for Successful Lawn Aeration.” All About Lawns.
Kate McIntyre, “Your Lawn Needs Air, Too: Benefits of Lawn Aeration.” All About Lawns.