Everyone loves a lush, green lawn, but getting that pristine, well-manicured look takes a little work. Basic lawn care practices are needed to achieve and maintain one’s lawn at optimum levels. The homeowner should first make certain that he or she is using the right type of grass for the climate, soil type and amount of shade. The lawn should be maintained regularly by cutting and watering it. Fertilizer should be added as needed. However, a sure step toward achieving a nice lawn is in knowing when to aerate lawn soil to assure that the proper nutrients will reach the depths of the roots and soil underneath. Aeration enables air and water to deeply penetrate within dense grasses by creating tiny channels through which water and air can flow.
Soil compaction is one of the major problems with growing grass. When the soil becomes too tightly compressed, it prevents nutrients, water and air from circulating properly and the grass will begin to yellow and die. When landscaping experts or homeowners aerate lawns, they use special equipment to perforate the soil. This allows water, nutrients and air to find its way all the way to the roots of the grass. The results include a dynamic, stronger lawn.
Don’t Know When to Aerate Lawn soil?
High traffic areas, such as paths, tend to become compacted relatively quickly. This is also true in soil areas that have high clay content. Conditions such as these indicate when to aerate lawn soil to achieve optimum results. Likewise, if a grassy area dries out easily and feels spongy when walked upon, this could indicate a problem with excess thatch. When a layer of lawn is removed and examined, one can tell that aeration is needed if the layer of thatch is more than one half inch. Sod layering can also lead to poor root development and compacted soil conditions. Aerating is useful in braking up the layering and allowing water to flow into the roots of the plants.
Spring and summer are the ideal times to aerate one’s lawn or garden. One should consider the growing season as when to aerate lawn soil. This is the optimum time that grass is able to grow and fill in any open areas after the plugs of soil are removed. It is best to aerate a lawn that has cold season grass during the early spring months or in the fall. This includes bluegrass, rye or fescue. Warm weather grasses such as Bermuda, St. Augustine or Zoysia should be aerated in April, May or June.
Aerating can be done with many different types of sharp tools, but there are two main ones that work best. A spike aerator is used to simply poke holes into the ground with a solid fork. Plug aerators are used to remove a plug of grass and soil altogether. For optimum results, it is best to use one of the two tools that are specially made for this job. The spike aerator is less effective than the plug aerator and can cause additional compaction in the areas immediately surrounding the holes. Therefore, it is best to use this type of aerator in small areas. The most highly recommended type of aerator is a mechanical core aerator. This type of machine has hollow tines that are specially designed to pull soil cores out of the ground. These types of aerators can be rented from home and garden supply stores at a relatively modest cost.
It can be very difficult to aerate hard, dry soil. Two or three days prior to aerating, the lawn should be prepared by watering it thoroughly. It is best to water the ground either in the early morning or in the late afternoon so that the sun will not evaporate the water too quickly before it has a chance to soften the earth. Watering in the bright sun can also cause the grass to scorch. The goal is to place at least 1” of water on the soil to soak. The 1″ water level can be approximated by setting a small tin can in the center of the lawn and watering over it until the water level reaches the approximate desired depth.
The Aeration Process
Prior to operating an aerator, it is important to read the operator’s manual carefully. The person that aerates the lawn should plan to run the aerator over the grass in a slightly overlapping pattern that covers the area thoroughly only once. The soil cores be piled into a compost bin. When the job has been completed, one should sprinkle compost over the lawn to fill in the spaces left by the aerator. Alternatively, peat moss or sand can be used instead of compost. Understanding when to aerate lawn soil and how to do it safely is the first step toward a more beautiful lawn.