How To Aerate Your Lawn

How To Aerate Your Lawn

Even the most verdant green lawn needs some basic care from one year to the next. While it might look like your grass is just growing out of the dirt, there is actually a lot more to a healthy lawn than simple soil and roots.

Your lawn is made up of turf, which has multiple layers. The blades of grass you cut with your lawnmower simply represent the uppermost layer, but they rely on healthy conditions in the underlying soil to thrive.

Signs Of A Turf Health Problem

At first glance, it might seem hard to tell what’s really going on under the blades of grass. Yet if you take a closer look you might just find signs that your turf is trying to tell you it’s having trouble. This could include things like:

  • Dead patches
  • Slow grass growth
  • Discolored areas in the grass caused by a fungus
  • Overly hard feeling

Problems Caused By Excess Thatch

Unless you have a bagging mower, grass clippings are inevitably going to end up on your turf every time you mow your lawn. As time goes on these spent clippings, known as “Thatch” will migrate down to the level where the roots of your grass meet the soil.

If the clippings are small enough, and conditions are relatively moist, the thatch will simply decompose and feed essential nitrogen back to the turf. This is one of the things that makes mulching mowers so attractive. The blade dynamics and speed are setups to virtually mince the blades of grass to increase the chances of them breaking down. Though it’s not guaranteed. Overly dry weather or an excessive volume of thatch left behind can still dry out rather than decompose.

If the clippings are long, or conditions are overly dry, the thatch can start to accumulate at the top of the turf. Over time they can become so thick and interwoven that water struggles to saturate down to the roots where your grass can use it.

Soil Compaction And Aeration

Of course, thatch buildup isn’t the only thing that can affect the overall health of your turf. In fact, your turf needs a certain amount of air space for drainage, as well as to host beneficial soil microbes. As time goes on overly dry or overly wet conditions can cause soil particles to settle out and fill in the air spaces in your turf. This essentially chokes it out and makes it harder for the turf to support healthy grass.

Soil compaction is a process that tends to happen gradually over the course of an entire summer growing season.

Aeration Helps Maintain Healthy Turf

Aeration is the process of increasing air space in the turf layers as well as the underlying soil. There are a few different ways to do it, but essentially the process calls for making small, consistent holes in your turf. Some methods call for taking out plugs, while others simply call for making a puncture in the turf down to the underlying soil.

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Aerate My Lawn?

Spring and early summer tend to be the best times of year to aerate your lawn. This gives your turf and your grass time to rebuild and grow without any long-term damage. Though there are certain parts of the country where the growing season is long, where fall aeration might also be advisable.

You want to make sure that the soil is properly moist. The day after a spring or summer rain shower or 12 hours after a heavy irrigation session is usually best.

What Is The Best Aeration Method?

The best aeration method for your lawn will depend on the size of your lawn, the current state of your turf, and your budget. While there are a lot of different devices, lawn aeration essentially breaks down into either the spike method or the plug method.

The Pros And Cons Of Spike Aeration

As the name implies a spike aerator is a simple tool with a sharp end that it designed to poke small holes into the turf. This might be a manual tool like a fork with tines, or a special slip-on device that you simply slip onto the bottom of a stiff hiking boot. Though there are some devices that you can push across the lawn or pull behind a lawn tractor that will make the job faster and spare you from what could amount to a very long walk around your own backyard.

The drawback of the spike method is that it’s not all that effective for severely compacted turf. You could also end up damaging sensitive areas that have been affected by lawn pests or fungal problems.

Best Spike Aerators For Your Lawn

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Jumbo Varieties Lawn Aerator Shoes - Comfortable Grass Aerating Spike Sandals for...

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Earthgears [2020 Upgrade Model] Lawn Aerator Shoes Fully Assembled E-Z FIT Strap...

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GARDENKORE Lawn Aerator Shoes -Heavy Duty Spiked Sandals w/ 8 Double Layer...

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Brinly SA-40BH Tow Behind Spike Aerator, 40-Inch

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Agri-Fab 45-0544 40" Spike Aerator, Black

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CRAFTSMAN CMXGZBF7124336 36 Tow Spike Aerator, Red

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The Pros And Cons Of Plug Aeration

A plug aerator essentially cuts small cores out of your turf, which allows the surrounding material to gradually fill the void. The process essentially opens up air space in the surrounding soil for roots to expand and microbes to thrive.

While there are some manual tools for this task, you will usually get better results from a machine. Ideally, you want one that removes soil plugs that are roughly 2 to 3 inches deep and approximately 0.5 to 0.75 inches in diameter. Spacing should be around 2 to 3 inches apart.

You can usually find them at a rental company in the spring. Though the price is sometimes a little high, and since they are in demand for homeowners as well as lawn care companies, the waiting list is usually long.

If you have a relatively large yard of half an acre or larger you might want to consider purchasing a plug aerator. Then you know you have it on hand. You might even find a neighbor or two who want to go in with you on buying one.

The Best Plug Aerators For Your Lawn

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Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator Manual Grass Dethatching Turf Plug Core Aeration...

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Step 'N Tilt Core Lawn Aerator Version 3 (with Container)

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Brinly PA-40BH Tow Behind Plug Aerator, 40-Inch

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$189.00 $199.00
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Agri-Fab Tow Behind Plug Aerator, 40"

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$150.97 $189.99
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CRAFTSMAN CMXGZBF7124213 40 Tow Plug Aerator, Red

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Mantis 7321 Power Tiller Aerator/Dethatcher Combo Attachment for Gardening

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Strongway Drum Plug Aerator - 36in.W, 6in. Plugs

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