Everyone loves to have bragging rights with the greenest, healthiest lawn on the block, but it takes more than keeping your lawn watered and mowed during the spring and summer. Grass will gradually thin and eventually die without the oxygen, water and nutrients needed for healthy growth. Sometimes those things are all inches away from reaching their mark, but thatch, overgrowth and soil compaction keep it from being able to thrive. Each time you take the time to aerate, you open up the potential for these essential nutrients to reach their intended target.
Lawn aeration is simply opening up soil and grass by putting holes in your lawn’s surface. The answer to why you should aerate is that those holes allow a path for water, air and fertilizer to get to the roots beneath your turf. Heavy use either by foot traffic, active pets or even children playing can compact your grass and the soil under your lawn. Any slowly decomposing grass stems, roots and debris like grass clippings can accumulate at the surface and essentially suffocate your lawn. Grassy areas with the most traffic require lawn aeration more often than areas that are more out-of-way.
Late summer and fall are the best times to aerate your lawn. During the summer, lawns can become compacted from more activity and overly dry due to a lack of rain. You can aerate during the spring, but this can bring up weed seeds and cause unnecessary weed growth. Summer is the worst time due to the hot, dry weather and dry grass conditions. You should also be mindful of the type of grass you have. For cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, fine and tall fescues, and perennial ryegrass, early fall is the best time for aerating. For warm-season grasses like Bermudagrass, Zoysia grass and Bahiagrass, the best time to aerate is late spring or very early summer.
In the same way that you will flag utilities if you plan to dig, you should always mark any areas with sprinkler heads or irrigation systems. Be mindful of any septic or utility lines, and clear any toys, lawn equipment, logs or rocks.
Aeration is much easier if the ground is soft, for instance, after a recent rainfall or if you thoroughly water your lawn. This lets the tines of the aeration tool penetrate the ground more easily and to the correct depth to be effective. Approximately 1 inch of water to the lawn will soften the soil.
Make sure that you traverse your entire lawn at least once. For lightly compacted soil, this may complete the process. If your soil is heavily compacted, or you have not aerated before, go over the lawn twice, making sure that the second pass is perpendicular to your first one.
As you work, the aerator will remove plugs of soil. Make sure that you leave them on the lawn and allow the soil cores to dry. This will make it easier for them to break down and add nutrients back into the soil. Once they are dry, you can break them up with a bow rake, drag mat or power rake. You can go over the plugs with your mower, but this may dull your lawn mower blade.
Once you’ve aerated your lawn, it is important to water it well. Then follow up and continue to water it every 2 to 3 days for the next few weeks if you do not receive any rain that does the work for you.
After you aerate, it is also vital to add a soil foundation or conditioner. This helps increase aeration, water holding capacity and oxygen and nutrient absorption while also maintaining the pH level. Then follow up with an application of fertilizer.
By adding aeration to your lawn maintenance checklist, your lawn will be able to thrive and give you the healthiest, greenest grass on the block.
Interested in learning more about lawn aeration? Check out RDO Equipment Co. to browse tow-behind plug aerators, tow-behind spiker aerators, and larger core aerators and speak with your local dealer to find out more about everything from lawn equipment to utility vehicles and specialty equipment.