Aerating your lawn will keep it vibrant, green and growing strong during the summer months. There are several reasons why lawn aeration is important. The most important reason is that compacted soil can be hard on the root system. It can actually hinder how the roots absorb the nutrients they need. Aeration breaks up the soil, allowing fresh oxygen and water to enter easily. The water will loosen the compacted soil and allow it to shift, freeing up the roots and allowing them better access to existing nutrients.
Tip #1 - Water Heavily
Watering the yard the day before will soften the soil. In areas where the air is extremely dry, make sure to allow the water to run long enough to saturate the ground before it is lost to evaporation. The extra water will also allow much needed nutrients to be brought towards the surface. Once the lawn has been aerated, the roots will have better access to the things they need to thrive and continue to grow. Watering will also help the soil to “decompress” between the aeration holes. The rule of thumb before aerating a lawn is to provide at least an inch of water to make sure the area is thoroughly hydrated.
Tip #2 - Aerate Twice a Year
The best time to aerate a lawn is in the spring and fall. During the summer, high levels of foot traffic can trample soil, compacting it tightly around the sensitive root system of the grass. This makes it difficult for water to be absorbed before it begins to evaporate. Aerating in the spring, breaks up ground that has been frozen solid for several months. Lawn aeration is important during this time to re-establish a good nutrient base for the roots to pull from.
Tip #3 - Don't Use Spike Aerators
Spike aerators only create holes. Forcing a spike into the ground compresses the soil and does little to loosen the dirt surrounding the root system. Using a core aerator pulls small plugs out of the soil. It’s cutting action does not compress the soil around the opening and the plug that is pulled out can be left on the top of the ground. Raking the plugs back into the top layer of grass serves several purposes. Once the plugs dry out, they will crumble easily and be reabsorbed through the top layer of soil. As they pass through the grass and thatch that covers the top layer of soil, they will add much needed bacteria and microorganisms that will help the thatch break down.
Tip #4 - Burry Irrigation Lines
Lawn aerators vary in depth. Most core aerators range between two and three inches deep. Spike aerators may be slightly longer. If a homeowner plans on having a sprinkler or irrigation system installed on the property, they must account for the times they aerate their lawn. When installing irrigation hoses, they must be deep enough so they will not be cut or penetrated by the spikes and coring tools used in lawn aeration. Because of the way aerators are designed, it is difficult to keep track of where the spikes/cores and irrigation lines will intersect. The best possible recourse is to bury the lines at least 4 to 6 inches deep. This will prevent damage to the irrigation system and eliminate the risk of flooding the lawn.
Tip #5 - Avoid Shoe Aerators
While some people rely on shoe aerators, they actually can cause more harm than good. Shoe aerators are basically shoes with spikes attached that penetrate the ground as the person walks across the lawn. While they do put holes in the ground, that is mainly where their benefit stops. The main problem with spikes is the compression of the dirt around them. With shoe aerators, not only does the spike compress the soil, but so does the weight of the person wearing the shoes.
Lawn aeration is beneficial in areas where grass is beginning to thin out due to heavy traffic, excessive amounts of shade or drought conditions. In these areas, it is a good idea to aerate before replanting grass seed. Not only does it make it easier for the grass to get a head start, it allows its tender roots better access to the soil and nutrients it will need to survive.