Lawn aeration is one of those tasks that you think you might need, but are not sure if it’s for you and your lawn.
Lawn aeration is the process of punching holes in your lawn down to the roots to allow more water, oxygen and nutrients to penetrate deeper resulting in better lawn coverage.
Like all of us, grass and soil need to breathe. Aerating allows air to flow into the space underneath the top layer of grass and get the much-need oxygen to the roots of the plants.
The cost of having a professional aerate your lawn will vary. This will depend on the size of your lawn and the company you go with. The national average price for aerating is $122, but it can be found for as low as $30 or as high as $300.
The simple answer to this question is: yes it does.
As mentioned above, grass roots need oxygen to survive. They also need water and nutrients. When soil gets packed down by people, animals, and tools or vehicles passing over it, it prevents these essential elements from getting to the roots of your grass. Aerating creates holes that allow the soil around it to de-compact and let those elements flow free again. Aeration also helps to prevent a buildup of too much lawn thatch, which is all of the buildup of dead plant and animal material that forms between the grass and the top layer of soil. Thatch is good for your grass in a thin layer, but too much of it can start to choke the life from your luscious turf. Aeration allows this thatch to sink into the lower layers of the soil and prevent it from turning the lawn into a brownish mess.
Lawn aeration helps your grass to grow thicker, stronger, and more resilient to the forces of nature. It allows the soil to loosen and, with that, allows the essential nutrients to flow unimpeded to the roots of your grass. Ultimately, the benefits of lawn aeration show in the way your lawn looks and grows. For the best results, it is a good idea to thoroughly rake and water your lawn before you start aerating. This will help keep your grass healthier, and also prevent you from having to put in extra work to complete the task of aeration.
Most aeration tools will have an adequate hole depth pre-built in. For optimal results, you will want to make sure the holes it creates are about two or three inches deep and up to half an inch or so in diameter. This will provide the best depth for nutrients to flow without going so deep you start to damage the soil underneath. It will also allow a healthy amount of movement so the soil can loosen up.
Spike aerators are tools that use a solid tine to punch a hole in the ground underneath. There are a couple different kinds of spike aerators. There are manual ones that slightly resemble rakes, rolling ones that look something like an old school push lawn mower, or, for the real multi-tasker, there are types that you can strap to your shoes while doing lawn work so you can mow your grass or rake the leaves and aerate at the same time. Spike aerators are good enough for a decently healthy lawn, but they lose their effectiveness in areas where the soil is especially compacted. They also tend to cause more compacting in the areas where the spikes do not. If the spike aeration does not seem to be doing it in some spots of your lawn, you might need to switch to a more heavy duty type of aeration. For those kinds of spots, you will want to choose core aeration.
Core aeration is a more effective style of lawn aeration that is often used by professional landscapers. These use rows of hollow tines that remove cylindrical bits of soil called “plugs” and deposit them on top of the lawn. The tools used to do this are often more expensive than regular spike aeration, but it will lead to better results in the long run. Core aeration allows for more complete air flow to the roots of the grass and helps loosen the soil quickly and more effectively. Often, you can rent these machines from your local home improvement store for a fraction of the cost. Care should be taken when doing this yourself to make sure that you are familiar with how to operate the core aerator and that you do not hit any shallow cables or hoses such as water, electrical, or cable lines.
If you use a core aerator, you will want to leave the soil plugs on the surface of the grass and either let the next rain break them down, or run them over with the lawn mower to break them down. Take note, however, that if you use your lawn mower, you may have to sharpen the blade afterwards. Whichever method you choose, it will provide a healthy layer of soil to the top of your lawn. No matter which way you choose to aerate (spike or core), this is a great time to do some simple lawn repairs. Spread some grass seed, fertilizer the grass, water the lawn, or do any other repairs that need to be done now. This is a perfect time because any budding grass will have fresh, open pathways to spread its roots into the soil.
For a few hours after aerating, it is best to try to prevent anyone from walking on the lawn. This is the time when the soil is loosening up and creating space for the roots, and stepping on it will cause the soil to start to compact again. You just spent all the time and energy helping loosen it up, and it would be a waste to have to do it all over again because it all got pressed back into place! Additionally, do not mow the lawn or roll anything particularly heavy across it (we’re talking about you, guy who parks his truck in the grass) for a week or two after aerating. Lawn mowers and the like put a lot of stress on the ground underneath and will force the soil to compact down tighter.
This varies from lawn to lawn. Aerating only really needs to be done when the soil is compacted, so it is best to check every so often to see how compacted your yard is. Some signs of soil compaction are things like pooling water in low areas, bare spots where even weeds don’t grow, or basically any time the soil is too hard to drive a shovel into.
Some lawns do not see much abuse, so they will not need to be aerated as often as others. If you have pets, children, or other types of home environments where lawns are being consistently walked on or otherwise have heavy stuff on them regularly, then you will most likely need to aerate every year.
When you aerate your lawn also plays a part in how effective it will be. It is best to find out your grass’s optimal growth time and aerate just before that. For some lawn, this will be closer to fall. For others, it will be in the spring. It all depends on the type of grass you have and what your regular seasonal climate is like. Additionally, it is best to aerate shortly after it has rained or you have thoroughly watered your grass because that is when the aerator tool of your choice will be able to do its best work.
Aeration is good for your lawn, but there are some things to watch out for. For one, you want to make sure you are aerating at a time when your grass is growing well. Otherwise, all you’re really doing is poking a bunch of holes in the yard. To follow up on that, you never want to aerate a dormant lawn as this will stress the grass and it will likely not grow back as thick and fertile as it was before. Also, most soil aerating machines only cover a small amount per pass, so it doesn’t hurt to do multiple passes to make sure you are fully aerating the lawn.