Aerate for a Healthy Lawn
Looking for ways to keep your lawn healthy without chemicals?
Aerating the lawn is a great way to improve the health and vigor of your lawn. Aerating the turf will reduce the need for watering and chemical fertilizers by improving the growing conditions. It is simple enough to do yourself, although you will need to rent a machine. But there are always lawn care companies large and small who have the proper equipment to do the job for you.
So why, specifically, should we aerate the lawn?
Grass growing naturally grows tall with deep roots that reach deep moisture and break up the soil. Constant mowing suppresses the growth and root development that keeps grass strong and healthy.
Lawn soil becomes tightly compacted from heavy foot traffic
If you have a high clay content aeration is very important, since clay soil is by nature tightly compacted.
Tightly compacted soil is not able to hold water, nutrients, air and microbes that feeds that grass
There are a couple types or methods of aeration. A machine, generally motorized, makes holes in the turf and soil. This is done either with tines or spikes that simply push into the soil or with hollow spikes that cut into the turf and soil and pulls out a plug or “core” of turf and soil. The solid tines “punch” thin holes into the soil, which does open up a hole, but it does so while compacting the surround soil The core aeration is preferred as it cuts out a plug and removes it.
The benefits of aeration are so important and results so clear, it is surprising aeration is often overlooked as regular lawn maintenance. Once the compacted soil is loosened, a number of things happen.
Reduces soil compaction
Loosens and opens up clay soil
Allows air to reach deeper into the soil
Encourages deep roots to tolerate drought and heat
Improves water absorption
Improves fertilizer and nutrient intake
Breaks up existing thatch and reduces the buildup of thatch
Thicker healthier lawn without the use of chemicals
So when your lawn starts to look weak and the grass is thinning it is time to aerate. The thatch may also have built up over an inch. The best time to aerate is when your grass is actively growing so it recovers quickly from the stress caused. In the North and Midwest early fall or early summer is a great time to aerate so young spring grass does not get damaged. In the south grass is usually dormant by fall so later spring and early summer is best. The soil should not be wet or muddy when you aerate.
Whether you hire someone to aerate for you or rent a machine to do it yourself, don’t forget about underground installations! The aeration holes can go as deep as 3 to even 6 inches so be sure you know where your sprinkler lines run as well as low voltage light wiring and dog containment wires. Be sure to mark them for a hired service.
After you aerate is a perfect time to overseed or fertilize. The holes opened up in the soil make the turf much more receptive to rooting seed, water and fertilizer. Allow the plugs left scattered over the lawn to decompose on their own, the process encourages the decomposition of thatch.
If you aerate as a matter of routine maintenance every couple of years, in time you will have a stronger, healthier, heat and drought tolerant lawn without using more chemicals.