You can get aerating shoes for $21.99. You can get a manual lawn aerator for around $79. You can buy a motorized aerator for around $169 – $200. You can even rent an aerator or hire someone to do it for you. So, should you? And if you are, what should you know about the process?
Lawn Aeration is a process to thicken your grass and make it healthier by removing plugs of soil from the ground so oxygen, nutrients, and water can get to the roots of the grass, encouraging growth.
So, those are the basics, but let’s get more detailed, so you know what you’re doing!
Why Do We Aerate Lawns?
Aerating a lawn is the process of “coring” holes into your lawn so oxygen and moisture and added nutrients can penetrate that soil to the roots of your grass. Now, in a raised bed garden, you only want to do this when the ground gets compacted and hardened. And you work around your plants.
You can do this by simply stabbing holes into your lawn, sure, but the specialized equipment you can get or rent or hire other people to do usually actually pulls plugs of dirt up, leaving a large enough hole to make a big difference. That’s why it’s sometimes called coring.
In a yard, you can tell the ground needs aeration because of the state of the grass. When water and moisture aren’t penetrating your lawn well enough for it to bounce back after summer, it may be time to aerate your lawn. Aeration helps plants tolerate drought conditions better.
It can also be useful if your yard gets a lot of foot traffic and the soil gets compacted. Roots that are in denser dirt (Carolina Clay for instance) don’t get enough oxygen and therefore may be lacking in the ability to absorb more water and nutrients – which will stunt the growth of the grass.
Did You Know?
Not every lawn needs aeration. Dig into your soil somewhere that you can remove a one-foot section 6 inches deep and take stock of it. If your earthworm community is thriving and the roots of your grass go deeper than 2 inches and you have more topsoil there than dense clay, you may not need to bother with it. Also, if you’ve got a newly seeded or sodded lawn, let that sit for a year at least before aerating.
Without the proper nutrients and moisture, your grass roots will weaken and let go. Your yard will begin to experience bald spots. And you don’t want bald spots in your yard. That opens the door for weeds and grass spurs to begin growing.
What to Do Before Aerating Your Lawn
Figure out what kind of grass you have. This is important. The timeframe for aeration depends on the kind of grass you have. If you have cool-season grass, the aeration process needs to happen in the spring before applying pesticides or in the fall before overseeding. If you have warm-season grass you should aerate in the summer when the grass is in full growth.
|COOL-SEASON GRASS||WARM-SEASON GRASS|
|Kentucky Bluegrass||Bermuda Grass|
|Fine Fescue||St. Augustine Grass|
|Tall Fescue||Zoysia Grass|
|Mixes of these seeds that are made for specific conditions||Centipede Grass|
Once you know if you should aerate your lawn and also when to aerate your lawn, it’s time to figure out if it’s a project you can handle or if you should leave it to the professionals. Most lawn care companies know how and when to aerate a lawn. They also have the equipment to handle the job.
If you decide to do the job yourself, you’ll need to decide on the equipment. You can either spike aerate or core aerate. Spikes put small holes in the ground, but because they don’t remove any dirt, they’re honestly just compacting the lawn more.
Coring is a method of aeration, wherein the “spikes” are actually hollow and remove little cylinders of soil from the ground, therefore it’s not further compacted and there are still holes left for what’s needed. The little cylinders are called plugs and you should just leave them where they are. They should break down after watering or rain.
Before you aerate your lawn you should mow it and then water it thoroughly. It’s recommended by most of the companies I’ve asked and most websites I’ve visited to wait 2 days after your cutting and major watering to aerate the lawn. In other words, you don’t want dry soil but you also don’t want soil that’s too wet when you aerate.
One extension office recommended that you water your lawn with one inch of water. And to measure this, (especially if you use sprinklers of any kind) place a small open tuna fish can or something similar in size in the yard to catch the water. Once that container is full, you know that portion of the lawn has been watered well enough.
If you have a sprinkler system or lighting electrical that is buried in your yard, you need to mark it, so no damage occurs. Also, if you plan on buying a large machine or renting one, have a vehicle that can handle it and help with loading and unloading it with you. These things can be pretty stout. If you rent, go by company guidelines on returning the equipment. You may need to wash it before you return it.
Plan on making passes over the lawn enough times to leave 20 – 40 holes per square foot. So, just know you’ll probably be going over the lawn with your choice of machinery twice at least. This may influence whether you’re handling this manually or not!
What to Do After Aerating Your Lawn
Well, after you aerate your lawn you need to follow some guidelines, but it’s nothing too crazy. It’s actually very simple. Like I mentioned before, you’re going to want to leave those plugs (the cylinders of soil that the aerator has left lying around) on the ground. They’ll eventually break up and go right back to being part of the yard.
But before that, while the holes are still abundant and obvious, you should fertilize the lawn. This is going to encourage root growth and stimulate the thickening of your grass. You want thick grass because that prevents weeds and well, you wanted a nice-looking yard anyway, right?
You probably also should reseed your lawn with the type of grass seed you want to see growing there. Bermuda is a natural here, but I’m allergic to it. So, I usually push fescue on my lawns hard! Or, I begin digging the lawn up and replacing it with beds of flowers that bees and butterflies love or using the lawn for gardening. But that’s just me. You use the seed of your choice.
Aeration is important for gardening as well as landscaping the grass in your yard. Aerating your grass is a bit more complicated. I hope I’ve explained things appropriately to you. Also, remember that aerating doesn’t give you immediate results.
When we had it done, it took a full year to see the thickening and see the grass become much greener. There were hardly any weeds to content with by year two of having this done. If you get on a yearly schedule of aerating, you should see benefits in the same amount of time.