February 19, 2021
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How to Aerate Your Lawn - Lawn Aeration Guide
Aerating your lawn gives it a higher degree of durability. If you’ve ever seen a lawn looking worn out and lacking the capacity to penetrate water through the surface effectively, chances are high that it’s not getting enough aeration.

If you’ve been having a lot of backyard plays and the family dog has been going back and forth on your lawn, it’s the high time you considered and learn how to aerate your lawn. Basically, such activities cause soil compaction and, as a result, nutrients, water, and air fail to circulate as they should in the soil.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

In this article, you will learn the steps you should take and the knowledge you should have in order to aerate your lawn properly.

1. When to Aerate

If you’re considering aerating your lawn, it’s prudent to know the best time to do so. The best time to aerate your lawn is during a weather season that can support its recovery. Moreover, you should take note of the type of grass growing in your lawn.

There are two types of grass: cool-season grass and warm-season grass. Coming back to the best time to aerate your lawn, the growing season is the most ideal.

  • For the cool-season grass, the best time to aerate is during spring and fall seasons, specifically August through October.
  • For the warm-season grass, it does well during the early summer months, particularly April through June.
The Best Types of Grass USA Map

So, once you are aware of the type of grass your lawn has, you should aerate it at the right time for optimal results.

It’s of interest to assert that if your lawn is healthy, it’s not necessary for you to aerate it on a yearly basis.

Again, if you’ve grown your lawn on sandy soil, it’s not obligatory for you to have a yearly aeration because this type of soil doesn’t compact easily. Instead, you can aerate your lawn after 2-3 years.

If you aerate your lawn often than you should, it’s possible to damage your grass. However, if your lawn experiences heavy traffic or you have clay soil, you will have to aerate it every year.

Moreover, if you live in an environment that experiences harsh climates for example cold, dry winters, it’s best if you aerate it twice.

2. Determine Whether Your Lawn Needs Aeration

Thatch Patches in Lawn

The first thing to do is to determine whether your lawn needs aeration. Here are vital signs that your lawn needs aeration:

  1. If your lawn came about after you recently constructed a house, you might need to aerate it. Normally, the lawn grows on compacted soil as a result of heavy construction traffic. If this is the case, you need to have lawn aeration to improve its healthy development.
  2. If you notice that your lawn gets dehydrated quickly, it could be as a result of excessive thatch. In such a case, you should measure the thatch and if you find out that it’s more than half an inch, it’s the high time that you considered lawn aeration.
  3. If there’s soil layering on your lawn, it’s recommended that you aerate it. Essentially, soil layering inhibits water drainage and, as a result, it leads to soil compaction and poor root development. If you consider aerating your lawn, you will break the layering and allow water to flow through the surface quite easily and feed the roots with the necessary ingredients for healthy development.
  4. If your lawn is a heavy traffic one, you’ll have to consider aerating it on a regular basis. You may have to aerate it annually if children and pets play and run around the yard often. Such heavy traffic leads to soil compaction, which lawn aeration can solve effectively.

An important point to note here is that you shouldn’t aerate a lawn if you’ve planted it within a year.

3. Prepare the Lawn before Aeration

Water Your Lawn

Now, having established that your lawn needs aeration, it’s time to prepare it for the process.

  1. The most important thing here is to make sure that you water your lawn properly, preferably 1-2 days before you aerate it. 
  2. Apply at least 1 inch of water to the lawn grass. The reason for watering the lawn is to allow the aerator to penetrate through the soil and pull out soil more easily.
  3. If you don’t have a system to irrigate, you can still opt for a sprinkler or garden hose to do the watering.
  4. Of great importance still, ensure that you can mark your lawn well so that the aerator doesn’t knock irrigation pipes, sprinkler heads, or any other thing that might be on your lawn. It might cost you dearly to repair them.
  5. Lastly, you should never aerate your lawn during a drought period. If you do so, you’ll be exposing roots to excessive sun, which will potentially damage your lawn.

4. Consider the Aeration Equipment to Use

If you’re thinking of which equipment to use for this process, there are three you can choose from:

Spike Aerators

Sandal Spike Aerators

With the spike aerators, all you need to do is to dig a hole down into the soil surface with a firm, spike-like tine.

You’ll also find some lawn owners wearing spiked aerator “sandals" to aerate the soil as they go on with their backyard work.

Spike aerators are good if you’re doing a small scale job.

However, you should be careful with them because they can increase the degree of soil compaction because of the accumulation of soil in the holes created.

Slicing Aerators

spike aerators

These machines are designed with rotating blades that cut grass into the soil. They create a way through which air, essential nutrients, and water are able to go through the soil to the roots.

Core or Plug Aerators

Plug Aerator

These are the machines that most lawn professionals use. They have tines that lift plugs of soil and settle them on the top, where they eventually break down. The size of the soil plugs depends on the machine you use.

5. Begin the Aeration Process

After you’ve prepared your lawn for the process, these are the steps you should take:

  1. Start by mowing the lawn
  2. Be sure to take note of the areas that are highly compacted because they will need more attention. Here, you’ll have to make sure that the aeration machine passes over the surface several times because most of them pass over a small proportion of soil-surface in every pass. If there’s an unaffected area of your lawn, you can avoid passing the aeration machine over it.
  3. For softly compacted lawn soil, it’s crucial to aerate the entire lawn more than once.
  4. If it’s the first time you’re aerating your lawn or the soil is highly compacted, you should go over it twice. Ensure that the second pass is vertical to the first.
  5. Allow the lumps of soil removed by the aerator machine to remain on the lawn so as to break down. If it rains after the aeration process, the soil plugs will break down or crush the next time you’ll be mowing. Even if it doesn’t rain or you fail to mow, they will still break down themselves. The soil plugs add essential organic matter to your lawn and make it healthier. That is why you shouldn’t remove them after aeration.
  6. After you’re through with the above steps, you should water your lawn properly.

An important point to note here is that the aeration process should take like 2 hours, though it will depend on how large your lawn is.

The soil plugs will take roughly two weeks to break themselves.

Remember not to remove the plugs as they will affect the effectiveness of the aeration process.

6. Steps to Take After Aeration

There are vital steps you should take after aeration. Here is what you should do:

  1. Apply lawn food to facilitate the lawn recovery process. The food provides the necessary nutrients for the recovery process.
  2. Ensure that you keep watering the lawn 2-3 days per week for some weeks to ensure that it’s moist and create the right environment for recovery.
  3. You also need to cover the top soil of the aerated lawn. Generally, you should mix the top soil with compost. The top soil should create a inch layer.

An important point to note here is that you can apply grass seeds and then fertilize your lawn after aeration.

This is the best time for that exercise. Once the aerator machine does its work, it leaves openings that allow seeds and nutrients to have contact with the soil.

Also, the roots get the opportunity to receive the necessary nutrients they need to produce a healthy lawn. In addition, in regards to mowing your lawn, it’s prudent to wait for at least 7 days, after aeration, before mowing it.

Or, you can wait until the lawn has grown at least 3 inches tall to mow it.

The information above shows how important lawn aeration is for its healthy development. Therefore, you should make sure that you do it right for you to get the best results out of the process.

Daniel Simmons

About the author

TheLawnMowingKing.com brings my 25 years experience as a professional gardener and landscaper to you!

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