what is lawn aeration

Along with watering, mowing, and fertilization, aeration is a crucial step in maintaining a healthy lawn. Over time, the soil that your lawn grows in becomes compacted, which can stunt healthy growth of your grass. Aeration is the process of poking holes or removing plugs from your lawn, which allows water and nutrients to better reach the roots. It also makes room for deeper, healthier roots to grow.

Is Lawn Aeration for Everyone?

There is much confusion about whether lawn aeration should be a regular, annual practice, or just done as needed. We personally would recommend adding this to your winterizing or de-winterizing routine. However, we know that aeration can be more beneficial for some lawns than others, so here are some key things that you can look for that will give you a better idea:

  • Heavy traffic: Seeing a lot of use can be hard on your lawn and will also accelerate soil compaction. If you have children or pets who use your lawn for recreation, then you are likely a good candidate.
  • Excessive Thatching: Thatch is dead organic material which accumulates in your lawn. It is usually caused by your grass shedding as it grows, or it could be leaves, twigs, etc. It is easiest to tell if you have a thatching problem because your lawn will feel spongy.
  • Sod: Sod lawns especially need aeration because of soil layering. Sod is originally planted in a mixture of fine soils, and is then installed on the coarser soils of your yard. As it continues to grow, the roots of the grass could have problems breaking through this harder layer, and drainage problems can develop.

For more information on the reasons for lawn aeration, this webpage has a pretty comprehensive explanation.

When Should I Aerate My Lawn?

Grass is separated into cold and warm weather varieties, which refers to the seasons that they see active growth. Whichever type of grass you have will dictate the best time of year to aerate your lawn. Normally you’ll want to aerate your lawn while in its growing season, so the grass can heal and the roots can fill in the gaps that you’ve created.

Examples of some warm weather varieties are:

  • Bermuda Grass
  • Zoysia Grass
  • Augustine Grass
  • Bahia Grass
  • Centipede Grass
  • Carpet Grass
  • Buffalo Grass

Some common cold weather grasses are:

  • Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Tall Fescue Grass
  • Timothy Grass
  • Rye Grass

If you are unsure which type of grass that you have, you can check out this handy lawn grass identifier.

Also, this is an excellent informational video on how to aerate your lawn:

What Kind of Tools Will I Need?

There are a two common methods of lawn aeration, and each has its own individual piece of equipment. They are spike aerators and plug aerators. We have noticed that plug aerators are more effective and uniform, but we will explain them both for your benefit.

Spike aerators come in many forms, from shoes with spikes affixed to them, to drums that you push around your lawn, to pull-behind machines that attach to your mower. The principle is that the machine pokes a series of holes into the ground that create air pockets around the roots of your grass.

We have noticed though, that spike aerators can magnify a soil compaction issue, which is why we don’t recommend them.

A plug aerator is also sometimes referred to as a core aerator. It comes in a couple of different variations, from rototiller attachments, to pull-behinds, to large machines that you guide around your yard. Because the plug aerator actually removes a piece of soil and root material, it normally doesn’t increase soil compaction.

Check this out for more in depth coverage of lawn aerators if you still have doubts about which type will better suit your needs.

What Should I Know Before Aerating My Lawn?

Now that we have covered the basics, here are a few tips that will aid you in getting the job done right:

  • It’s always good to water your lawn the day before aerating. It can be frustrating trying to poke holes in dry earth.
  • Remember to continue your watering and fertilizing routine following aeration. This is when water and nutrients most effectively reach the roots of your grass.
  • Most good lawn aerators can cost hundreds of dollars to buy, so it will probably be a good decision to rent one. You can diffuse this cost by sharing the machine with a neighbor or family member
  • Plugs that are removed from your lawn can be allowed to dry, broken up with a rake, and dispersed.

Aeration can really aid your grass in growing better, while eliminating thinning, yellow spots and water run-off. And now that we have covered the basics of lawn aeration, it is time for you to get out and do it. This article should be able to give you an idea of whether it’s something you feel up to doing, or if you should hire a professional. Either way, this is a vital step in improving the look of your home.