In the mad rush to get a head start on getting your lawn ready for the new season, many people overlook the need for aerating their lawns. Basic lawn practices like fertilizing, proper mowing and watering contribute to a beautiful lawn, but aeration can be a vital element to ensure that nutrients reach the soil beneath your grass.
As the sod ages over time, the soil beneath the grass can become compacted. This compression prevents air and water from penetrating the lawn to feed it. The lawn ends up with little or no small pockets of air held in the soil. This compacted lawn thatch makes it difficult for grass roots to absorb the water and nutrients it needs to stay healthy and lush. Without open spaces for the water and nutrients to get into the soil, the lawn will deteriorate before long, making it more susceptible to weeds, invasion of insects and disease. Aeration can reverse this negative trend on your lawn because it allows air and water to penetrate built-up grass or lawn thatch.
What is Aeration:
In technical terms, aeration is a naturally occurring process that is performed for the exchange of air between the soil and surrounding atmosphere. In simpler terms, aeration involves mechanically perforating the soil and removing small cores (or plugs) of soil to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the root zone of the grass. This process allows the roots to grow more deeply to produce a stronger and more vigorous lawn. The plugs of soil are deposited to the surface where they will work their way back into the soil over the course of a month. In the lawn care industry, this procedure is also call core aeration, soil cultivation, coring, spiking or slicing.
Should You Aerate Your Lawn:
The most common question among homeowners is how to determine whether their lawn is a good candidate for aeration. Here are some tips.
- If your lawn get heavy use, such as children and pets routinely running around the yard. These activities contribute to soil compaction.
- If your lawn was created as part of a newly constructed home. Often, grass is established on subsoil and compacted by construction traffic, leaving the topsoil stripped or buried.
- If your lawn has a dried out and spongy feel to it. This is an indicator that you may have an excessive thatch problem. Use a shovel and remove a 4 inch slice of the lawn. If the thatch layer is greater than one-half inch, aeration is recommended.
- If your lawn was established using sod that leaves a soil layering of finer texture over the existing courser soil. This finer layer disrupts the drainage, leads to compacted conditions and causes poor root development. Aerating will break up the layering and allow water to flow more freely to reach the roots.
When You Should Aerate:
The best time to aerate is during the growing season in early summer or early autumn, when the lawn is growing most actively. These times are best because the grass can easily heal by filling in any open areas after the plugs have been removed. Ideally, you should aerate the lawn with a cool season grass selection in the early spring or fall and warm season grass in the late spring.
There are two different basic types of aeration equipment that will determine the effectiveness of the treatment, a spike aerator and a plug aerator. A spike aerator is simply poking holes into the ground while a plug aerator removes a core of grass and soil. Most turfs will respond optimally when the core hole perforations are made close and deep, such as 2-3 inches deep and 0.5-0.5 inches in diameter with 2-3 inches apart. Aeration equipment with hollow tines removes soil cores while other types open tines and divots the soil surface. The equipment also varies in tine size up to ¾ inch diameter and in depth of penetration up to 4 inches, depending on the manufacturer’s specifications.
Make It Beautiful:
Aerating your lawn is a practical and beneficial practice for achieving a beautiful lawn. It is an integral part of your lawn care regime such as proper fertilizing, mowing and watering.