When it comes to lawn maintenance, we’re all aware of how to correctly mow, fertilize, and water our lawns. And truth be told, if that’s all you did, you’d end up with an adequate lawn. But, if you aspire to lawn greatness, there’s one extra step you can take to achieve a lawn as blemish-free as a putting green and as soft as a cloud.
This step allows nutrients, water, and air to penetrate thick grass and access the root zone where all the action happens. It is called aeration. And you’re about to learn how to aerate your lawn and take it to the next level.
- Aeration tool
- You have a choice of a spike aerator, slicing aerator, or plug aerator. These can be rented from your favorite garden center.
Step One: Determine If Your Lawn Needs Aeration
It may not seem like it, but lawns get compacted too. This is especially true with high-traffic lawn areas. Over time, the constant foot traffic over a specific area will compact the soil beneath the grass. If you have a high clay content in your soil, this will exacerbate the problem.
Even constant mowing with the best cheap riding lawn mowers will lead to a level of compaction below the grass, which will lead to a patchy, irregular lawn. In most places, annual aeration of your lawn should be sufficient.
Step Two: Choose Your Weapon
Some gardeners choose to strap lawn aerating spikes to the bottom of their shoes while they do yard work. Another option is to use a spike aerator tool. Both of these options poke holes into the lawn using long tines. This works OK, but too much use of a spike aerator ends up compacting the soil around the hole.
Slicing aerators essentially slice up your lawn with a round blade that you drag along the lawn. This creates avenues for water, air, and nutrients to penetrate the surface of the soil without compacting the soil. Although this is quite intrusive to your lawn, so make sure you time it right (see next step for details on timing).
The next option, and the one that’s recommended by landscaping professionals, is something called a plug aerator. A plug aerator is a machine with a roller. The roller has many protrusions, known as hammers. These hammers punch a plug out of your soil, remove the plug and distribute it on top of your lawn, where it will break down.
This is by far the most effective method, as it removes small plugs of soil to allow for aeration, as opposed to poking holes into the soil, which leads to compaction around the hole. You should be able to rent a plug aerator from your favorite garden center.
Step Three: Time It Right
If timed incorrectly, your lawn will struggle to recover from the slight disturbance that comes with aerating your lawn. If timed correctly, it will bounce back in a matter of days, and your keep chugging along as if nothing happened.
To time it right, it’s best to aerate your lawn just before or right at the beginning of the grass’s natural growing season. This will ensure that the grass quickly moves in and re-establishes itself in any areas where there are gaps in the grass. If you aerate your lawn when the grass is dormant, you risk doing more damage than good.
Step Four: Wet The Area First
Damp soil is much easier to penetrate than hard, dry soil. If there’s no rain in the forecast, irrigate your lawn a day or two before you plan to aerate it. You don’t want your lawn to be soggy and saturated, so avoid overwatering your lawn. But a decent amount of moisture in your soil will make your life much easier.
Step Five: Aerate
Now it’s time to aerate your lawn. If you have a small lawn and have chosen a spike aerator, simply poke the tines into the lawn over and over. Make sure to evenly cover the lawn with holes.
If you’ve chosen a slice or plug aerator, you have some machinery to drag across your lawn. The exact details will depend on what machine you’ve chosen and the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure to work in a simple pattern so that it’s easy to see where you’ve done and where you haven’t.
Leave the plugs that have been removed from the soil where they lie. They will break down quickly, adding soil and nutrients back into the lawn.
Step Six: Aftercare
A freshly aerated lawn is a good time to reseed and fertilize your lawn. Reseeding can help keep your lawn lush and thick, as more germinating grass seeds will overcrowd any weed seeds trying to make an appearance. This is also a good time to learn how to seed your lawn.
The fact that there are freshly opened pathways to the root zone of the grass makes this the perfect time to add fertilizer and other nutrients to the area. When you water them in, all those nutrients will flow deeply into your newly aerated lawn and give you superior results.
There You Have It
By adding this frequently forgotten step into your lawn care schedule, you’ll end up with a beautiful lawn you can be proud of. Since you only have to do it once a year, it won’t add much time to your overall maintenance schedule. Many landscaping companies will do it for you. The benefit of hiring professionals is that they know what they’re doing, have all the tools, and you don’t have to do it yourself!
If you prefer to DIY things, follow the steps above for a perfectly aerated lawn, every time.