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What is Lawn Aeration?

Sonia Nair Jun 18, 2019
Aeration is one of the important lawn repairing procedures, that can be beneficial in many ways. Here is a brief overview about this technique.
You might have heard of dead skin cells that can be one of the reasons behind the dull and unhealthy look of the skin. After exfoliation, such skin looks bright and healthy. The same applies to soil too. In case of a lawn, the upper layers of the soil get compacted due to the constant movements of kids and pets.
Apart from that, layers of dead grass may also accumulate and get compacted with soil. As the soil gets compacted, the roots that lie inside or beneath it find it difficult to absorb water and essential plant nutrients. The roots cannot spread and grow. This leads to unhealthy growth of grass, that will eventually die.
You might have noticed that those parts of the lawn, that are constantly in use, have dull and unhealthy grass. You may suspect that the problem is insufficient water supply, pest attack, or disease. You end up trying all possible solutions, but to no avail.
In such cases, lawn aeration can solve your problem. Aeration is one of those lawn maintenance methods that prevents compaction of the soil and lawn thatching (buildup of dead organic tissues that blocks oxygen to the soil).

Lawn Aerators

Lawn aeration is done with equipment called lawn aerators, that can be as simple as shoes with spikes to specialized machines. The operation of lawn aeration tools can be in two ways.
They may either make holes in the soil or create cavities, by removing plugs of soil. These holes/cavities made by these tools allow water and nutrients to reach the roots, and also makes it possible for the soil to shift more easily.
Lawn aerators can be classified as spike aerators and core aerators. While spike aerators punch holes in the surface of the soil, core aerators possess hollow spikes, that pull out plugs of soil. If thatching is the problem and there is no compaction, then spike aerators can be used.
If compaction is the problem, then core aerators must be used, so that the soil gets loose, and has enough space to shift. It is also said that spike aerators can promote soil compaction, by pressing the soil, while making holes. So core aerators are always preferred for lawn aeration.

Benefits of Aeration

In short, as the soil in the lawn gets compacted, aeration is done, so that the thatch layer is broken, and the compacted soil loosens up. Otherwise too, it is good to aerate your lawn once or twice a year. This is usually done during the late spring (for warm season grass) or early fall (for cool season grass).
Lawn aeration improves drainage, and provides sufficient oxygen to the worms and other microorganisms in the soil. These worms and microorganisms become active in decomposing thatch. It also enhances the movement of water and nutrients within the soil, and the roots will be benefited. As the soil loosens up, the roots get enough space to spread and grow.
This results in denser growth of the grass. However, there are various factors that have to be considered before aerating your lawn. It can be done if the grass is getting dull and thin, even after watering and feeding; or if the water does not sink in for a long time.
These symptoms can be commonly seen in lawns, which are used heavily, or where thatch layer is thicker than half an inch, or in lawns with clay soil.

Lawn Aeration Tips

  • Aeration is best done before fertilizing and reseeding the lawn.

  • Water the lawn thoroughly, two days prior to aerating, so that the soil does not stick to the tools.

  • It is also advisable to undertake weed control measures before aeration. Avoid aeration of your lawn during drought.
  • In case of clay soil, aerate the lawn twice a year, and for soil with sand, aeration is needed only once.

  • You can crush up the soil plugs and mix it with compost or peat moss, and fill the holes.
  • Once aeration is done, apply a slow release formula, and water the lawn. You may also spread some grass seeds.

  • However, mowing is not recommended for another three to four weeks.
Lawn aeration can be done by yourself, if you have proper tools. Otherwise, professionals can be hired. Aeration cost depends on various factors, like the area to be covered, the type of tool used, and the cost of hiring professionals (not applicable for those who choose to do it on their own).