Last updated on March 9th, 2022
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In order to keep your lawn happy and healthy, you need to give it all of the same elements that regular plants need, including air circulation, oxygen, food and water. But just the same as with existing plants, you can’t simply toss fertiliser on the top of the soil, but rather have to put it in the soil, you need to make sure your lawn can get to the nutrients it needs below the soil.
To do that you can employ a technique called aeration which also works well when used in conjunction with scarifying. Aerating your lawn allows better airflow and provides nutrients and water with the opportunity to penetrate compact lawns that are otherwise preventing the lawn from getting essential nutrients.
By removing the lawn thatch and built-up dead matter, you can make way for a much more stunning lawn in your garden.
First and foremost, aeration is when you perforate your soil with tiny holes so that the water and the nutrients are able to get down into the soil through these holes, as well as fertiliser. This process also helps to improve drainage. This will help the root system for your lawn grow much more effectively and deeply. The deeper the roots are able to grow, the more vigorous your lawn will be.
Why is aeration necessary?
Eventually, the soil in your lawn becomes compact. When that happens there are too many solid particles within a given space so air circulation is very poor, meaning the water and nutrients simply can’t get to where they need to go. Having heavy organic debris, commonly known as thatch just underneath the surface of your grass can also prevent the root system from getting the important elements they need to promote a healthy lawn.
Do I have to aerate my lawn?
You don’t necessarily have to aerate your lawn but there are many situations in which aeration is the best solution for you and we still recommend making it part of your yearly lawn care routine if you want to create the best lawn possible.
- For example, if your lawn gets regular use, you have children or animals that run across the lawn all the time, compacting the soil with each footstep, aeration is going to be a vital step for you.
- If your home is newly constructed and the lawn was put in place as part of that initial construction, you would do well to consider aerating because in most situations the topsoil for a new lawn gets stripped away or buried, so your lawn is forced to try and establish itself on ground that has been compacted by construction traffic. This can actually be worse than the ground being naturally compacted by the footsteps of a running child.
- If your lawn dries out regularly, you might very well have a problem with, in which case aeration is going to help you out tremendously.
- Finally, if you grew your lawn using seed it likely utilises soil layering, this can disrupt drainage and result in compact conditions. Again, aerating will break up that layering and allow the water and nutrients to flow easily.
When should I aerate my lawn?
The best time to aerate your lawn if it falls into any of the conditions listed above is when the grass is able to heal. This means either at the beginning of spring (which we personally recommend) or the beginning of autumn followed by a lawn, weed and feed. The idea here is that you want to do it at the start of any growing season so that the conditions are not too hot, too dry, too cold or too wet, therefore giving the lawn the opportunity to recover from the aeration.
How to aerate your lawn
There are different tools you can use to get the job done. Firstly, you can use what is called a spike aerator. With the spike aerator, you are using a tool that literally pokes holes into the ground using a set of spikes like a fork or a tine. The picture below is a simple foot aerator you simply attach to your shoes and walk on the lawn with. You can also get models that look like lawnmowers and handheld models.
Plug Core Remover Aerators
Secondly, you can use what is called a plug aerator. With this, you are removing a small plug or section of the grass and the soil to create a hole, as pictured below. We think these are the best types of aerator and these can be purchased either as manual models or as electric and petrol powered machines for larger lawns.
Tools that simply poke holes are somewhat less effective and end up making the ground around the recently poked holes much more compact. So if you have the option you want to use a plug aerator, something that will remove some of the dirt out of the ground so that the rest of the soil can loosen up and fill in the space.
Think of it like having crooked teeth. There is a limited amount of space in your mouth so the best way to give crooked and compact teeth the opportunity to spread out and resume their normal shape is to remove a tooth and then force the other teeth to expand and fill in the gap. The same thing is happening with your lawn.
When you pick your aerating tool, you want to find something that removes approximately 6cm deep and 1cm wide, however, any aerator is better than no aerator. You can rent machines like these from garden stores or DIY stores and you can even get some affordable electric models now too. It’s always best to follow any directions provided not only by the machine in question but by the store for obvious reasons.
When you are ready here are some steps to follow:
- Make sure your soil is moist before you begin. If you try to aerate your lawn and it is bone dry it will not work and be very difficult. It’s best to wait until right after a rain shower if possible, or simply water your lawn the day before.
- Most machines will only cover a small percentage of the surface area each time you make a pass so if you have very compact areas of your lawn you will need to make multiple passes.
- As you go over the area do it repeatedly until it looks like you’ve had enough. You really aren’t going to overdo the aeration, so do it until you’re tired.
- It’s recommended that the cords you have removed be allowed to dry and then get crumbled and tossed back into the soil, something you can do with a scarifier. This helps to recycle any nutrients and stimulates thatch decay. One important note here is to smash up the removed parts of your lawn and toss them over the lawn, or add them to your compost heap if you can’t break them down and disseminate them. Do not simply toss them back onto your lawn as they are and wait for them to break down because they will not break down, and instead every time you walk across your lawn or mow across your lawn it will force those plugs into the ground and leave it bumpy.
- After you aerate your lawn make sure that you continue to water it, mow it and apply proper fertiliser.
- It’s also worth noting that most scarifiers come with aerator attachments so they can both aerate and scarify your lawn.