A beautifully manicured lawn can be the pride of any homeowner and the envy of all the neighbors, but it’s not something that just happens – it takes time and effort to achieve the desired effect.
Most people know about watering a lawn, mowing it, fertilizing it and trimming the edges, but not everyone is quite so familiar with the practice of aeration. What is aeration? What are the benefits of aeration? How do I do it and how often should I aerate my lawn? Here we look at these questions and more related to this important aspect of lawn care.
Here’s a quick video that summarizes a lot of what we’re going to be talking about.
What is aeration?
Let’s start with the basics – what is aeration? Well, at its most simple level, aeration is puncturing holes into the lawn to help it breathe.
Healthy soil should actually be made up of about 50% empty space, which is filled with air or allows water to penetrate beneath the surface.
However, with time, the soil beneath your lawn gradually becomes compacted, and aeration is a way to help it return to a healthier state.
Why should you aerate your lawn?
There are several reasons why aerating is vital for your lawn. Here are a few of the most important.
· It allows roots to grow deep and strong
Grass roots don’t grow in soil, they push into the gaps between it – and if there are no gaps, roots struggle. By aerating your lawn, you provide gaps for the roots to grow into, allowing your lawn to grow stronger and healthier.
· It helps water and nutrients penetrate deeper
If soil becomes too compacted, water and nutrients can’t penetrate below the surface. Remember, your grass drinks and feeds through its roots, and if water and nutrients are not available, it will starve.
· It prevents surface runoff
If the soil becomes heavily compacted, any water that falls on it will not only not penetrate below the surface but will also wash away the topsoil, carrying away any vital nutrients with it.
By ensuring your lawn is aerated, you will ensure your soil is not losing nutrients every time it rains.
How often should you aerate your lawn?
And now on to our main question. We have established that aerating your lawn is a highly beneficial practice – so much so that even aerating alone without any other treatment will bring about a noticeable difference – so how often should you do it?
This depends on a number of factors, but probably the most important one is the soil conditions where you live since different soil types require aerating more often than others.
If you live in an area with heavy clay soil, you will probably want to aerate your lawn at least once a year because these types of soil compact the most easily.
If you live in an area with sandier soils, on the other hand, you won’t need to do it more than once a year – and you will probably be able to get away with doing it once every two years.
Another factor you should take into account is how much foot traffic your lawn receives. If you use your lawn for lots of barbecues in the summer or it tends to have lots of kids running around on it all the time, you will need to aerate more often.
Similarly, pushing a loaded wheelbarrow on the grass or using a riding lawn mower will also compact the ground more quickly.
A lawn in an area with clay soil and that has lots of people walking on it will benefit from being aerated twice a year. A lawn in a sandy soil area that doesn’t have to put up with too many feet stepping on it might only need aerating once every two or three years.
How do you aerate your lawn?
If you’re convinced that aerating is a good idea, you might be wondering how it’s done. Well, the good news it’s very easy and there are a couple of techniques you can use.
The simplest way, and one that doesn’t require any special equipment you don’t already have, is to take a regular garden fork and walk up and down in lines poking holes in the lawn every four inches or so.
To make sure you get good coverage, you can repeat the process in the other direction.
This is a good technique if your lawn is not too big, but it is also quite labor-intensive. Another way to do it, and something that still doesn’t cost a lot, is to buy a pair of special aeration sandals.
These are special shoes with spikes on the bottom – and all you need to do is walk up and down on your lawn to aerate it.
Alternatively, for larger lawns, you might prefer to buy or rent an aerating machine to do the job.
You also need to choose between a spike aerator and a plug aerator. Spike versions simply make holes in the ground whereas plug aerators remove plugs of soil. Plug versions are perhaps better in clay soils while spikes are probably more suitable in sandy soils.
When should you aerate?
Another important question is when you should aerate your lawn, and this depends on the type of grass you have. If you have cool weather grass, the growing season is in spring or fall, so you should aerate in early fall.
Hot weather grass grows most during the months of summer, so you should aerate in late spring.
Try to aerate when the ground is moist but not waterlogged. Depending on the climate where you live, avoid aerating in mid-winter or mid-summer – the ground at those times can be too hard or too dry for it to have any beneficial effect.
Aerate according to conditions – but don’t forget to do it!
How often you should aerate your lawn depends on several factors, including the local conditions and how much the lawn has to put up with being walked all over. You may need to do it every six months or perhaps once every three years will be enough – but as we have discussed, it is a vital part of lawn care that shouldn’t be overlooked.