Aeration is the process of removing small cores of soil in even patterns across the lawn. While rake aeration (the practice of using a rake to make small holes in the lawn) may create some small benefits, the most effective aeration is done with a plug or core aerator. Removing plugs allows the water to flow deep into the holes, near the grass roots. All grasses, regardless of the seed type, grow better and look greener after proper aeration.
Benefits of Aeration
The benefits of lawn aeration include improving overall lawn health, increasing turf density, increasing the oxygen levels in the soil, enhancing root growth, and allowing water to easily reach the roots, which decreases the amount of water required for a healthy lawn. Your local agricultural extension office is a good place to begin research on local conditions and soils. Many offices have online reading, such as the two listed below under “Resources,” but they also offer help (for a small fee) in soil analysis and specific suggestions for lawn weed abatement.
Reasons to Aerate
Aerating can actually save the homeowner money. Dead grass buildup, referred to as “thatch,” hinders the expansion of healthy grass. Thatch is reduced in aerated lawns, reducing barren areas that require reseeding and constant watering. Aeration also allows water to easily reach the grass root system. This saves water costs by reducing the amount necessary to soak the lawn.
Lawns should be at least 5 to 7 years old before aeration is done. Some soils have greater needs for aeration than others. Soils with a high degree of clay content become compacted easily, especially in high-traffic areas. The lawn should be soaked the day before the process, and should be moist to the touch, but not wet.
Rakes are part of a group of instruments known as spike aerators. A plug aerator is needed to remove circular tufts of grass from the lawn. Gas-powered aerators are available for purchase or rental from gardening centers and farm equipment stores. Environmentally safe push-powered aerators are also manufactured, and these work equally well in creating adequate-sized lawn plugs.
Use environmentally safe lawn chalking to outline any hazard areas such as walkways, sprinklers or inclines over 25 degrees. Turn on the aerator, depress the tines and guide the machine on a wide diagonal. Work in one direction and then return to aerate the open diagonals going the other direction.
When to Aerate
Grass generally grows most quickly during the summer months, when the lawn requires additional cutting. The type of grass seed used also influences aeration time. Grasses are grouped into two types, cool- and warm-weather grasses. Cool-weather grasses grow best when aeration is done during the late summer months of August and September. Warm-weather grasses prefer aeration in the early summer months of May and June.