All that walking and playing on your lawn can compact the soil, forcing out the air. If your turf has become so dense that the roots are starved for nourishment, it may be time to give it some breathing room by aerating your lawn. Aeration is when you punch holes all over your lawn, or use a machine to pull out small plugs of soil and grass, to improve air, nutrient and water penetration.
Three easy-to-spot signs that your lawn may need aeration include:
- There are areas where the water always puddles up
- There are worn areas where the grass has stopped growing
- Water just seems to run off parts of your lawn, and it’s become impossible to keep it moist.
Aeration also breaks through the thatch barrier, improves the habitat for beneficial microorganisms, encourages roots to grow deeper into the soil and results in a healthier, more attractive lawn.
You might try getting your exercise by walking all over your yard while wearing spiked shoes, but that’s not going to be nearly as effective as using a core aerating machine. With the machine, you’ll end up with those little plugs all over your yard (the ones that resemble dog poop). Afterward you can rake them up, but it may be better to just leave them in place. They’ll break down naturally and act like topsoil.
The best time to aerate
Aerate cool weather grasses now, as the temperature begins to drop. Aerate warm weather grasses in the spring once it starts to warm up. Don’t aerate your lawn if you’ve recently re-seeded it, or if it’s less than a year old. Most lawns only need to be aerated once a year.
How to aerate like a pro
- Rent a mechanical core aerating machine. Having the right tool will ensure the best outcome. Be sure to read and follow all safety instructions. Core aerating machines operate similar to a roto-tiller. If transporting and pushing the machine is physically too much for you to manage, most lawn services offer aeration services.
Moisten your soil. Giving your lawn a thorough watering a day or two beforehand will help the machine’s hollow tines to penetrate the thatch.
- Mark electrical and irrigation lines. This extra precaution may save you repair time and money later. If you’re unsure where your utility lines are, call 811 which automatically routes you to your state’s “call before you dig” response center.
- Set the aerator to pull three-inch cores. If you choose to pull smaller cores, you may have to aerate more often.
- Follow your typical mowing pattern. Make sure you’re aerating the entire lawn. You’ll also want to space the holes evenly, about three to four inches apart. You may need to make several passes to achieve the right spacing.
- Stay off the lawn for a few days afterward. This will ensure you or the kids don’t track the loosened soil and turf inside.
Annual aeration will give you greener and more vigorous turf. Your lawn will be thankful when it can breathe easily again!