Clay, sand, water, and a little organic material. While this sounds like the formula for making bricks, it is actually the stuff many of us grow our lawn in. However, for many soil types, the combination of watering and pressure from common things such as lawnmowers, kids, or even the occasional mailman, can make the ground in which we grow our lawns like a brick. No worries! There is a way to correct the problem.
What is Lawn Aeration
Lawn aeration is the process of mechanically punching the soil in your lawn to improve soil structure so air and water can more easily flow through it. The core aeration process allows your lawn to breathe. It provides room for the roots to grow and improves the soil’s ability to collect and retain water. As a result, less water will run off or collect in puddles because it is instead entering the root zone of the soil.
Lawn aeration also enhances thatch breakdown. Thatch is the layer of decaying plant material just above the soil, made up mostly of lawn clippings. Thatch helps protect the grass roots, and the break down of thatch provides a naturally occurring fertilizer for the lawn. However, lawns that have too much thatch (i.e., a layer greater than ½ inch) should be dethatched. Too much thatch build-up can block air, light, and water from reaching the roots. This can encourage harmful insects and disease organisms to grow. Dethatching can be done with a hand rake or a machine, such as a power rake or vacuum.
The Best Type of Aeration: Core Aeration
While there are different methods of aeration, my experience as a landscaping contractor has shown me that core aeration provides the best and longest-lasting results. Core aeration is when the aeration machine takes an actual plug of thatch and soil out of the lawn. Other methods, many of which just punch holes or make slits in the lawn, only compress the soil more, and the benefits are short-lived.
How Often Do You Aerate Your Lawn?
How often you should aerate your lawn is dependent on the clay content of the soil, the type of use, and the amount of traffic the lawn receives. The worst areas I have come across are often around trampolines or frequently used pathways across the lawn. In these areas, the soil gets so hard that air and moisture are prevented from getting to the roots and the lawn begins to die. It may even be necessary to put in a walkway or a polite “keep off the grass” sign if the traffic gets too heavy. But don’t get me wrong; lawns are meant to be used just as much as they are for aesthetic value. If you don’t agree, try taking your shoes and socks off and walk across a lush green lawn. It is heaven!
What Types of Lawns Need Aeration?
Do all lawns need aeration? To be honest, the answer is “no”. Some lawns that receive little traffic and have a high sand content, such as areas along historic riverbeds, may not benefit from lawn aeration. On the other hand, many lawns are planted in areas with high clay content, such within historic lake beds, and would benefit greatly from annual aeration.
How Much Does Aeration Cost?
Core aerators can be rented for a range of prices, often starting around $50 for a few hours, and many lawn care companies offer full-service packages per square foot.
When Is The Best Time To Aerate Your Lawn?
Spring and fall are the most beneficial times to have your lawn aerated; mid-summer is not recommended because the grass roots are very vulnerable to heat after aeration and can fry in the hot sun. Lawn aeration is best when the ground is moist, allowing the aeration machine to get the deepest possible plug from the soil. If the lawn is dry, I recommend watering the day before aeration.
Lawn aeration is also best done in conjunction with fertilizing. An application of fertilizer just after aeration will have faster results and can help prevent weed competition while the lawn recovers.
What Do You Do With The Lawn Plugs?
Although the plugs taken from the lawn can be raked up, it is actually better for them to be left to disintegrate on their own to form a dirt layer over the thatch. This usually occurs within a couple of weeks.