Proud gardeners will know the satisfaction of keeping a luscious lawn. Proper lawn care requires regular maintenance, and one of these key bits of maintenance is lawn aeration. Aerating lawns is just as important as watering and fertilizing to keep them thick, green, and healthy.
Lawn aeration is the process of punching holes in your lawn to allow more air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots of your lawn. Your lawn is just like you; it needs to breathe. Aerating your lawn softens compacted soil and gives your lawn a boost, allowing it to grow in thicker and greener.
Understanding the best time and technique for aerating your lawn is crucial as a regular, thorough aeration will keep your lawn fuller, greener, and healthier for longer.
Lawn aeration helps the roots of the grass in your lawn to obtain essential nutrients, as well as giving them access to air and water.
Lawn aeration does this by relieving any compacted soil that might be inhibiting the growth of your lawn. Even compacted soil no more than ¼ of an inch thick can compromise root health and negatively impact the health of your lawn.
How often should you aerate your lawn?
The frequency with which you should aerate your lawn depends on a few factors. The most crucial among these are the soil conditions of your lawn, as different soil types will require different treatments.
Clay-based soils in particular will require more frequent aeration. This is because they are denser, and more prone to becoming compacted. If you live in an area with clay-based soils, you will need to aerate your lawn at least once every twelve months.
Sandier soils require less frequent aeration as they naturally have better water, air and nutrient flow. If your lawn is growing in a lighter, sandier soil, you may be able to get away with aerating your lawn once every two years.
Other factors that impact the frequency with which you will need to aerate your lawn include the amount of foot traffic and ‘vehicular’ traffic your lawn receives.
The amount of foot traffic your lawn receives will probably be fairly self-evident. if you host a lot of barbecues or have your kids or pets playing on your lawn, it’s safe to assume that your foot traffic is fairly high.
The amount of vehicular traffic that your lawn endures might be less obvious. Apart from driving cars, trucks, and trailers over your lawn, heavy vehicular traffic could also include regularly pushing loaded wheelbarrows across your lawn, or cutting your grass with a ride-on lawn mower.
If your lawn receives a large amount of traffic of either kind, then it may require more frequent aeration.
How can you tell if your lawn needs aeration?
There are a couple of tricks and techniques you can use to tell if your lawn is in need of a good aeration.
The first and easiest of these is to simply observe your lawn after watering or rainfall. If you notice that your lawn is not draining as well as it usually does, and that large puddles are forming on top of the grass, it is probably time for a thorough aeration.
Another, slightly more hands-on technique is to employ the screwdriver test. Take a screwdriver and grip it firmly in one hand, then plunge it into your lawn. If your soil is compacted, it will be difficult to stick the screwdriver into your lawn. If this is the case, you will need to aerate your lawn.
What is the best time to aerate your lawn?
Moist soils will be easier to aerate than overly dry soils, so the days post rainfall are usually the best time to aerate your lawn. Don’t aerate a sopping wet lawn, however, or you could end up with a flooded, muddy mess!
The time of year that you aerate your lawn will depend on where you live, your local climate, and the time of peak grass growth for your lawn. It is usually best to time any aeration during the period when your grass will recoup quickly and grow fast to cover any exposed soil.
For cooler, northern climates, this is usually at the start of fall or spring. In the warmer, southern regions, late spring and early summer are best.
Although it is a beneficial process for the long-term health of your lawn, an ill-timed aeration can stress your grass.
How do you aerate your lawn?
There are a few ways you can aerate your lawn, depending on your budget, the tools you have handy, and the size of your lawn itself.
A simple method is spike aeration, in which you take a garden fork or similar tool and poke holes in your lawn every few inches.
The same effect can also be achieved by wearing special aeration sandals, which are essentially covers for the bottom of your shoes with large spikes in them. You will create holes in your lawn simply by walking up and down.
Slicing aerators use rotating blades to cut through soil and thatched grass, creating avenues for vital nutrients, air, and water to reach the roots.
Perhaps the most effective method of lawn aeration is called ‘core aeration’. Core aeration is usually done by professionals, and involves the removal of plugs of soil from your lawn with a specialized machine. These plugs are then left on top of the grass to break down.
What should you do after you aerate your lawn?
After you aerate your lawn, be sure to leave any plugs or clumps of soil on top of your grass. These will break down and provide your lawn with additional nutrients.
Avoid driving across your lawn for a couple of days after you have aerated. You don’t want to undo all your hard work!
Post-aeration is also a great time to reseed your lawn, or perform other minor lawn maintenance such as fertilizing. This is because your careful, thorough aeration will have revitalized both the soil and the roots of your lawn, and the effect of any lawn work will be amplified.
What are the benefits of lawn aeration?
There are many benefits to aerating your lawn, and you will notice that your yard looks lusher and greener if you incorporate a regular aeration into your lawn maintenance routine.
Some benefits of lawn aeration include:
- Allowing roots to grow deeper: Grass roots require ample amounts of space within your soil in order to grow properly. If your soil is compacted, then they cannot grow deep and strong. Lawn aeration provides them with the space needed to, well, take root!
- Allowing vital plant nutrients to penetrate: Like any growing, living thing, your lawn requires the proper amount of nutrients in order to survive and thrive. In order for your lawn to grow strong and green, these nutrients need to be able to be absorbed by your grass roots. Aeration allows these vital nutrients, and air and water, to penetrate the soil and give life to your lawn.
- Preventing run off and soil erosion: If the soil in your lawn is heavily compacted, it is more difficult for water to penetrate. As a result, water puddles and accumulates on top of your lawn, causing excess run off and eventually leading to soil erosion.
How long does it take for aeration to work?
You will begin to notice a difference in your lawn within a couple of weeks after aerating. This is in tune with your lawn’s natural growth cycle, which should be close to or at it’s peak when you perform the aeration.
Two weeks is also the time period that it typically takes for the plugs of soil that were removed during core aeration to break down. As these soil plugs are intended to deliver a variety of nutrients back to your lawn, they are a key part of your grass growth and the overall appearance of your newly lush lawn.
How much should lawn aeration cost?
The exact cost of your lawn aeration will depend upon the size of your lawn. Professional lawn care companies will usually charge a fixed price per thousand square feet, so the bigger your lawn is, the more your lawn aeration will cost.
Most lawn care companies will charge in the vicinity of $15-$17 per square thousand feet to aerate your lawn. So, if your lawn is ten thousand square feet, you could be looking at anywhere between $150 and $170 to have your lawn aerated.
If you wish the lawn care company to perform other lawn maintenance tasks such as seeding or fertilizing after they have performed the aeration, you can expect this cost to increase accordingly.
As lawn aeration is a task that is performed, at most, once per year, this initial outlay averages out to be a cost of just a little more than $10 a month. For a task that improves the health and vitality of your lawn, it seems a small price to pay!