A lawn or garden cannot stay fresh and green all along the year if certain aspects of its maintenance are not taken care of. There are certain activities which most homeowners need to perform on a yearly basis. This is probably because they need a lot of effort and time something which they are unlikely to invest on a regular basis. One such task is the process of aerating your lawn. Although appears to be easier, but it is a crucial and time taking factor in maintaining the health of your lawn throughout the year. Hence, here is everything you ever wanted to know about aerating.
Aeration is the process of removing soil cores or plug from your lawn by extracting small chunks of dirt from the surface of the lawn. As stated by ‘Marc Aveni, et. al.’ (Published in Aerating Your Lawn), “Lawn aeration involves the removal of small soil plugs or cores out of the lawn. Core aeration is a recommended lawn care practice on compacted, heavily used turf and to control thatch buildup.”
Why Aeration is Needed?
According to ‘Jared Hoyle and Ross Braun’ (Published in K-State Research and Extension: Aerating Your Lawn) “an attractive lawn starts with a healthy root system. Roots make up 90 percent of the grass plant and require oxygen to thrive. Soil compaction restricts the oxygen supply and inhibits root growth. Aerating, or moving air into the soil, loosens compacted soil and provides the following benefits:
- Breaks up or removes thatch;
- Improves infiltration of water and nutrients;
- Increases oxygen supply to the plant roots;
- Promotes carbon dioxide release; and
- Encourages new and deeper root growth or soil penetration
Aeration alleviates lawn problems such as thatch and poor drainage, and issues resulting from heavy foot traffic, field play, and compaction by heavy equipment. An aerator does the job mechanically with minimal damage to the turf, but there are other methods.”
The root of the grass in your lawn needs air, water, and proper nutrients in order to grow and flourish. In case the soil in your garden has become compact the flow of these essential items would be inhibited thus restricting the growth. Even a ¼ or ½ inch compacted soil beneath can stop the absorption of these essential items.
Due to lack of air and water, the grass wilts and slowly starts showing signs of withering off. In case of extreme weather conditions like cold or hot, the rich color of grass is gone forever. It dies a slow death until unless the homeowner realizes his folly and does something about it. When you aerate the grass, you create holes in the soil to reduce its compactness and facilitate the movement of air, water, and nutrients. Even a single aerating session is sufficient to increase the speed at which the flow starts happening.
When Aerating Is Required?
Often, one may think that his/her lawn may never face the problem of compacting. However, the truth is that it may happen faster than you could imagine. Though mostly the actual cause of compactness could be vehicle movement in your garden or even the playing of children can also contribute to the menace. Also, if you live in an area where the soil is clayey, annual aeration is must in order to ensure that the lawn stays fresh and blooming.
If your grass is looking stressed and upon touching the soil, it is hard then maybe compactness is already setting in. Apart from that, if you see that rainwater is forming puddles instead of seeping into the ground then that could also be a sign of trouble. There is a simple screwdriver test to find out the reality.
Take a screwdriver and dig it into the soil of your lawn. If it comfortably goes inside without any obstructions then you are safe. However, if you feel resistance while putting it in, then maybe your soil has already become hard or compacted.
Time to Aerate the Lawn
Just like any other lawns projects, the aeration should be done before your grass attain their peak growth levels. Though aeration is good for the health of your grass, if done at an inappropriate time it can have a negative effect, too. For cool-season grasses, the best time to do aeration is early fall or early spring season.
On the other hand, for warm-season grasses, you must do aeration in early summer or late spring. When you do it at the right time, the grass tends to recover quickly leading to faster and better growth. Also, before aeration, make sure your soil is neither over wet nor over dry. In both, the situations conducting the process might be tough and hence wait for the right moisture level to proceed further.
How to Aerate the Lawn
The First step towards aerating your lawn is to decide what kind of aerator you would like to use. There are two types of lawn aerators i.e. manual aerator and power aerator.
01. Manual Aerator
A manual aerator is suitable for small lawns or when you have to aerate only specific parts of the lawn. You can find a coring style aerator that uses cylinders to remove parts of the soil. On the other hand, the spike type aerator rolls over the ground and makes holes in it without any extraction. Specialists recommend the coring style, as it causes better absorption of water and nutrients.
02. Power Aerator
For large lawns, power aerator is more suitable. Such aerators use spike systems to poke holes into the soil. Or they may also use a coring system to pull out the chunks of the soil. However, a power aerator is expensive and you can either rent it or buy as a long-term purchase.
After choosing the aerator, you would have to prepare the yard for aeration. The yard needs to be absolutely clean before you start aerating. First of all, turn your sprinklers on for a short time. Remove any obstructions like leaves, debris, sticks and other plant material to make the passage of the aerator smooth.
Next, mow the yard so that the aerator is able to reach the soil comfortably. Rake up the grass clippings and dispose them off in a bag. Now check the moisture level of the soil of your garden. If the region has been drying for some time it is advisable to water the area to make aeration easy. Manual and power aerators work best on softened soil. However, core aerators need dry soil as the corer would be unable to pull out the plug out of moistened soil.
Working on the aerator, move it from one side of your garden to the another, making sure that you are moving in even rows while doing so. Do not cover any area of the lawn more than once. Unless you feel, that some place needs extra aeration or in doubt, you should go back again.
While working in case that situation arises, you must make sure that this time you are doing aeration on the opposite side of the one done before. After your aeration is over leave the yard as it is. The cores compost can benefit you by providing nutrients. You must fertilize the yard soon after so as to yield better results with regards to the grass that grows back. Apart from that, if you feel any kind of simple repairs are needed you can conduct the same as this time is most appropriate to do so.
Aerating your lawn is important and not doing it properly can be damaging too. Use the above guidelines so that the task gets accomplished effectively. Normally aeration of the yard is a once a year activity for most homeowners. But if you feel the soil is showing signs of compactness early, you can increase the frequency depending upon the circumstances and condition of your garden’s soil.
Garima Bais : Am a blogger writing on topics like parenting, love, life, beauty and travel. Belonging to a country with a deep heritage India I am an eternal optimist and believe that whatever life gives to you should be taken with gratitude. Do let me know your take on my articles in the form of comments.