Lawn Aeration

Lawn Aeration: What is it and its Benefits

Lawn aeration is the process of creating small holes in the lawn to allow better flow of air, water and nutrients. Lawn aeration can be done using manual aerators or mechanical aerators, depending on the size and requirements of the lawn. Over time, soil can become compacted and hard, preventing water, air and nutrients from reaching the roots of the grass. This prevents the roots from growing deeper, creating a shallow root system that cannot compete against weeds or diseases.

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So, Eden also discusses the benefits of lawn aeration along with what you need to do after aerating your lawn. Eden also answers commonly asked questions like is it okay to walk on the lawn after aeration and how long it takes for grass to grow after aeration. So, stay tuned and read till the end. Let us start with understanding what exactly lawn aeration is.

Lawn Aeration

What is Lawn Aeration?

Lawn aeration refers to the practice of punching small holes on the lawn to loosen compacted soil and allow proper circulation of water, air and nutrients in the soil. This is essential to ensure the roots of the grass receive all the resources needed to develop healthily and to grow deep. Turfgrass with a deep root system is drought tolerant and can compete against weeds and diseases. 

You can aerate your lawn manually or mechanically using a plug aerator or a spike aerator. A plug aerator has hollow tines that penetrate the soil to remove plugs of compacted soil and grass, while a spike aerator has solid spikes that penetrate the compacted soil to push it to the side to make a hole. Most landscapers prefer plug or core aeration as it is more effective and benefits the lawn in the long run.

Benefits of Aerating your Lawn

Aeration helps improve the overall health and longevity of the lawn. Eden lists the various benefits of aerating your lawn below.

  • Loosens compacted soil: Compacted soil prevents the proper flow of air, water and nutrients in the soil. Plugs of soil are generally removed in the lawn aeration process, and this provides more room for the rest of the soil, thus loosening compact soil.
  • Helps break down thatch: Thatch is a layer of dead and living organic matter that forms in between the layer of grass above and the soil below, preventing the nutrients and water from penetrating the soil and reaching the roots of the grass. Aeration helps break down thatch faster by introducing beneficial microorganisms that feed on thatch from the top few inches of the soil into the deeper parts of the soil.
  • Increases nutrient availability: As aeration loosens compacted soil, more nutrients are available to the roots of the grass than before.
  • Aids in deep root system development: Aeration loosens the soil, and this gives room for the roots to spread and grow deeper, thus aiding deep root system development.
  • Increases drought tolerance: As the roots grow deeper and spread wider, they have more access to water and thus can tolerate drought conditions.
  • Makes pH modification more effective: When pH is modified after aeration, the modification process is more effective compared to modifying pH without aeration. After aeration, the amendments added to the soil like lime or sulfur can penetrate deeper into the soil and spread easily as well.
  • Reduces puddling and runoff: Runoff and puddling in your lawn are signs that your lawn has poor drainage or compacted soil. Aeration helps relieve soil compaction and improve soil drainage.
  • Aids thicker grass growth: Aeration aids stronger and deeper root development by making more nutrients, water and air available to the roots. Additionally, cool-season grasses need to be overseeded to fill in the bare spots in the lawn so that you get a thick lawn during spring. Aerating the lawn before overseeding will give you better results as aeration helps in healthy seed germination.
  • Prepares the lawn for dormancy in winter and growth in spring: Before the grass goes dormant in winter, it is essential to supply it with all the nutrients it needs to pass through the winter season, and this is done through fall fertilization. Fall fertilization is more effective when combined with fall aeration as it allows all the nutrients to spread deeper and easier in the soil.
  • Encourages beneficial organisms: Beneficial organisms like earthworms, aerobic bacteria, fungi and other soil insects thrive in soil that is porous and rich in oxygen. Therefore, aeration encourages their presence in your soil, and thus your soil health is also maintained by these organisms.

What are the Signs that you Need to Aerate your Lawn? 

It is important to recognize the underlying issues behind a problem to fix it. Therefore, Eden lists the signs that indicate you need to aerate your lawn below, so that you can recognize them early and prevent the issues from getting bigger and affecting the overall health of your landscape.

  • Excessive Thatch Buildup: If the thatch layer in your lawn is thicker than half an inch, you should aerate your lawn as aeration helps break down thatch faster.
  • Heavy Foot Traffic: Lawns that experience heavy foot traffic become hard and compacted due to the constant pressure exerted; they can also become compact if you have kids or pets who play on the lawn. Aeration helps loosen compacted soil.
  • Clay Soil: Clay soils have very few air pockets as their microscopic particles are closely packed together. Aeration helps loosen clay soils and improve their drainage.
  • Thinning Grass: While there are different reasons for thinning grass, one of the reasons is compacted soil, as the roots of the grass are not able to spread properly in hard soils. Aeration provides more room for the grassroots to grow.
  • Poor Grass Growth: Compacted soil also prevents the proper flow of nutrients in the soil, and grass needs nutrients to grow and thus grows poorly in compacted soil. 
  • Puddles: Puddles are a sign that the soil in that area has poor drainage. Therefore, you need to aerate your lawn to improve drainage.
  • The Screwdriver Test Fails:  The screwdriver test involves taking a screwdriver and inserting it into the soil. If you find it difficult to push the screwdriver into the soil, then it means your soil has become too hard, and it’s time to aerate.
  • Yellow and Brown Spots: If your lawn starts developing yellow and brown spots, then it means that your soil has become compact and nutrients and water are not reaching the grassroots, making the grass lose its color. 

Lawn Aeration

What to do Before Aerating your Lawn?

Before you aerate your lawn, it is important to prepare your lawn for aeration so that the process is completed successfully and without any damage to the equipment. Eden lists the tasks you should complete before aerating your lawn below.

  • Flag any hidden objects on the lawn: Any hidden or hard-to-see objects on your lawn like in-ground lights, sprinkler heads, valve boxes or invisible fences should be flagged to mark their positions so that they don’t get damaged and don’t damage the aerating equipment in turn.
  • Check your boundary: Check the boundary of your lawn for any invisible fences or sprinkler heads that belong to your neighbor to avoid damaging them or your equipment during the aeration process.
  • Clear the lawn of any debris: Remove any debris from your lawn like leaves, branches, twigs, stems and other debris that might hinder the lawn aeration process.
  • Mow your lawn: Mow your lawn to a height of about 1.5 to 2 inches without scalping your lawn to ensure proper contact with the lawn surface during the aeration process.
  • Water the lawn if it is too dry: If a few days have passed since your previous irrigation cycle and your lawn is dry, irrigate it a day or two before aerating your lawn. Moist soil will allow the tines or spikes of the aerator to penetrate easily and go deeper into the soil to remove plugs.
  • Do not aerate right after a rainfall: Aerating wet or saturated soil will damage your lawn by removing more soil and grass from the lawn than necessary, creating ruts in your lawn. Also, the tines of the aerator will not be able to hold wet soil plugs inside them.

What to do After Aerating your Lawn?

After you aerate your lawn, it is essential to maintain the lawn well to ensure that the aeration process is effective and gives you the results you desire. Eden lists the tasks you need to do after aerating your lawn below.

  • Leave the removed soil plugs on the lawn: Do not take away the soil plugs from the lawn and allow them to break down and decompose naturally into the soil.
  • Fertilize the lawn: Fertilize your lawn after aerating as this will allow the nutrients to spread better into the soil and reach the grassroots to strengthen them for the summer or winter season ahead.
  • Overseed the lawn: After aeration, the soil is loose and porous and allows better movement of air, water and nutrients and these soil conditions are best for overseeding your lawn to make it dense, especially the bare patches in the lawn. The new seeds will be able to germinate healthily if you overseed after aerating the lawn.
  • Water the seeded lawn: New grass seeds need a lot of water to germinate. Ensure the overseeded area is kept moist throughout the day.
  • Do not walk on the overseeded lawn: Avoid walking on newly seeded or overseeded lawn areas to allow the seeds to germinate healthily and to prevent the seedlings from being trampled underfoot.
  • Mow the overseeded lawn only after the new grass crosses 3 inches in height: Do not mow the newly sprouted grass too quickly as the grass needs time to develop a strong and deep root system that can tolerate the stress of mowing. Allow the grass to grow to cross three inches in height before you mow the lawn.

Can you Walk on the Lawn after Aeration?

No, you should not walk on the lawn after aeration as it will compact the soil again. After aeration, let the lawn rest for some time to keep the soil porous. If you start walking on the lawn after aeration or if your kids or pets play on a lawn that has just been aerated, then the loosened soil will start to harden again due to the heavy foot traffic. 

Should you Mow the Lawn Before Aerating?

Yes, you should mow the lawn before aerating. Eden recommends mowing the lawn to a height of 1.5 to 2 inches before aerating to ensure that the grass does not block the aerator from reaching the surface of the lawn. Mowing the lawn short before aerating ensures that the aerator tines have full contact with the lawn surface, allowing the tines to penetrate deeper into the soil and making the aeration process more effective. For a detailed step-by-step procedure on how to aerate your lawn, read Eden’s article.

Aerating your lawn every three to four years or every year for heavy clay soils will give a lush and thick lawn and increase the life of your lawn. Eden’s lawn aeration service ensures that the right tools are used to aerate your lawn, and the correct procedure is followed before, during and after aeration to ensure you get the results you desire.

Lawn care is all in the details, and we take care of every single one to give you the lawn of your dreams. Contact us today!