Lawn aeration removes small cores, or plugs, of soil from your lawn and breaks up thatching. The resulting holes and exposed surface allow air, water, and fertilizer to penetrate deep into the lawn, maximizing its health and strength.
When should I aerate my lawn?
Aerating lawns is usually done once a year, but also depends on the type of soil you have. Clay soil compacts easily, so may need to be aerated twice a year. Sandy soil, which doesn't compact as easily as clay, needs to be aerated only once a year. Timing your lawn aeration depends on the type of grass you have. A lawn of cool season grasses, such as Fescue or Bluegrass, is best aerated in the fall when the grasses are in full growth. Warm season grasses like Bermuda or Zoysia should be aerated in their rapid growth phase during the spring and early summer. Avoid aerating during weed season - this can spread weeds to the rest of your lawn.
How do I aerate my lawn?
If the area you plan to aerate is small, consider a manual aerator. Designed like a shovel, it typically has four hollow cylinders or tines attached to the bottom of a foot plate. It is used by pressing the tines into the soil using foot power, which extracts small plugs of soil. This method is slow, and can be strenuous. A manual aerator is recommended for small patches, or getting into corners and smaller areas of a larger lawn.
Aerating larger lawns requires a power aerator. Small power aerators are available for rent at local garden centers or tool/equipment rental outlets. They are heavy, and require two people to move one, so make sure you bring a friend! These aerators work much like a tilling machine, pushing the cylinders into the soil and extracting small plugs. If you already have a tilling machine, an aerating attachment might be your best option.
Another alternative is a large power aerator. These aerators do a much better job of extracting plugs from the lawn surface, but are very large and heavy, requiring a number of people to move them. An easier option if you choose this route is to have a professional landscaping or lawn-care company provide the service for you.
Do you have any other tips on aerating my lawn?
Lawn aeration works best when the soil is moist, so if it hasn't rained much lately, water your lawn a day or two before aerating. Don't overwater - soil that is too moist will plug the aerator cylinders, and further compact the lawn.
Map out any below ground sprinkler heads or shallow cables, etc., to ensure you don't run over them with the aerator.
Make at least two passes in different directions over the lawn to ensure even aeration coverage.
Lawn aeration produces cores or plugs that lay on the surface of your lawn. The most effective treatment is to rake them back into your lawn, breaking them up with the rake. The plugs will disintegrate with rain and/or watering. If they are too unsightly, they can also be removed by raking them off the lawn.
A perfect time to fertilize is right after aerating your lawn. The additional surface and depth exposure makes it easier for nutrients to reach roots for maximum absorption.
Pay attention to moisture levels in your lawn for the next few weeks after aeration. Increased soil exposure allows moisture to evaporate more quickly, so you'll need to water more often during dry periods.
Aeration improves the health of your lawn and encourages growth. A vigorous, healthy lawn resists weeds and diseases, and a strong root system aids survival during high heat seasons. Regular aeration of your lawn ensures many seasons of outdoor enjoyment.
Contact your local garden center for more information on aerating your lawn, and recommendations for professional aeration services.