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How To Aerate The Lawn – The beginner’s guide
Last Updated on January 21, 2020 by John
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 and oxygen, food, and water. But just the same as you can’t simply toss fertiliser on top of existing plants 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 using 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, built-up dead matter, you can make way for a much more stunning lawn around your house.
First and foremost, aeration is when you perforate your soil with tiny holes so that the water in the nutrients are able to get down into the soil through those holes as well as fertiliser and it also helps improve drainage. This will help the root system for your lawn grow much more effectively and deeply. The deeper the roots 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, water and nutrients simply can’t get to where they need to go. Having heavy organic debris, commonly known as thatch just under 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 promote 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 consideration 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 which can be even worse than ground naturally compacted by the footsteps of a running child.
- If your lawn dries out regularly, you might very well have a problem with that in which case aeration is going to help you out tremendously.
- Finally, if you grew your lawn by using sod, it likely utilizes soil layering which can disrupt drainage and result in the compact condition. 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 recommend first 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 to literally poke 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 this is the best type of aerators and these can be purchased either as manual models as pictured below or as electric or 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 literally remove some of the dirt out of the ground so that the rest of the soil can loosen up and fill in 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 one centimetre wide but any aerator is better than no aerator. You can rent machines like these from garden stores or DIY stores but you can get some affordable electric model 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 dive in. 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 had 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 on 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 and texture.
- After you aerate your lawn make sure that you continue to water it, mow it, and apply proper fertilizer.
- It’s also worth noting that most scarifiers come with aerator attachments so they can both aerate and scarify your lawn.