If you’re a lawn care fanatic—or just like to make your lawn look good—you probably already know that proper lawn care requires many different things each season. You don’t want to plant new grass seed or sod in the fall or beginning of winter. You also don’t want to put fertiliser on at the wrong time of the year and miss out on its benefits. Helping your lawn grow healthy and lush takes the proper care at the right time. Lawn aeration at the right time can help your grass grow thick and strong.
You also need to be sure that you know exactly what your lawn needs to be healthy. If your grass is brown and dead, maybe it just needs water, fertiliser, or something else entirely. Who wants to spend money on expensive fertiliser if all the grass needed was some extra water? All of this is true when aerating your lawn. But before you go poking holes in your yard, you need to know why lawn aeration is important, when the best time of year is to do it, and how to do it properly.
Why Aerate Your Lawn
All plants need water, nutrients, air, and sun to grow well. At first, your lawn will get all that easily, but over time the soil becomes compacted. It gets so compressed and tight that grassroots cannot get the nutrients they need to be green and healthy. New seeds have no chance to grow because they cannot get a good start.
Lawn Aeration helps loosen the soil up and gives your lawn access to nutrients again. If you don’t take the time to aerate your lawn it will turn yellow, thin out, and die during stressful situations for plants. Stressful situations can include a lack of water and intense heat. You could save yourself quite a bit of money by aerating your lawn instead of trying to solve the problem by simply putting on more fertiliser. Just because there are a lot of nutrients in the soil does not mean the grass is taking it in.
Aeration is especially important when you have clay-like soil. Clay soil is heavy and compacts easily. So even though there is a lot of nutrients, the grass cannot get them because the soil is super compressed.
When to Start Lawn Aeration
There are obvious times of the year that you will not want to aerate your lawn.
- The middle of winter is not a great time to aerate your lawn. It is not effective because the ground will be super hard or covered in snow.
- Don’t aerate your lawn when it is dormant. It will not have time to heal and fill in the holes you made.
- Aerating your lawn in the winter just sounds cold—nobody wants to be out in the cold unless they have to.
The best time of the year to aerate your lawn is during the growing season. This can be in the early spring or autumn. Aerating your lawn at those times of year allows it to recover from what you have done. It has time to heal and fill in the holes. It also allows any natural seeds or seeds that you put on the lawn to grow and get established before becoming dormant during the winter.
How to Know If You Need to Aerate
If you are not aerating your lawn every year, you may not know if it needs help or not. Several signs tell you if your lawn needs aeration.
- Grass looks stressed
- Soil is hard to the touch
- Rainwater puddles instead of soaking in
Now sometimes, when the grass looks stressed, it just needs water or fertiliser. You are welcome to try both of those solutions before aerating your lawn. However, if watering and fertilising don’t resolve the stressed grass, then you need to aerate.
When you see rainwater puddling in your lawn, it may mean it is raining too fast for the water to absorb in the soil or that you have a low spot. But you should take note of where the water is puddling. After the rain has stopped and things have dried up a bit, go to the spot and touch the ground. If it feels hard, then you know that it’s not a low spot. Instead, you have soil that is too compacted for water to be absorbed into the ground.
Another way to know if your lawn needs aeration is the screwdriver test. Take a screwdriver, it does not matter what type and push it into the ground. If it goes in easily, then your lawn does not need aeration. But if the screwdriver is difficult to push in, then you need to aerate.
It is a good idea to make this lawn care activity a yearly habit. Your lawn will benefit best if you aerate it every year instead of waiting until it is desperate for help.
Where to Aerate
You do not need to aerate the entire lawn, though that is not a bad idea to do anyway. Soil compression happens in many different ways. Obviously, if you drive a vehicle or small equipment around your garden it will compress the soil. However, even walking or playing on the grass can cause compression. If you entertain guests in your garden it will also compact the soil.
You should aerate high-traffic areas that get stepped or driven on a lot. If you take the same path from your door to the back of the garden or your dog runs the same path to find a place to go the bathroom. These are high-traffic areas that need aeration.
There are several different ways to aerate your lawn. You could call a professional and let them do the work for you. But the average lawn treatment costs £50. You need to know what type of aerator will work for you, your budget, and the amount of lawn that needs aeration. You do not want to get a big machine if you just need to do a small area. Below is a list of different types of lawn aerators. How to use each of these aerators will be explained in the next section.
- Spiked aerator “sandals”
- Spiked aerator
- Slicing aerator
- Core or plug aerator
Before aerating your lawn, you should crop the grass very short. Also, make sure the soil is thoroughly moistened. If you do not have the soil moist, you can cause more problems instead of helping your lawn. You do not want to have it sopping wet. The best thing to do is water it really well and then aerate the next day. That way, it is moist but not a mud pit.
How to Aerate Your Lawn
Spiked Aerator “Sandals”
You can purchase these “sandals” easily online. They are spiked attachments that go over your shoes. Once you have cropped your grass and moistened the soil strap the spiked aerator “sandals” to your shoes. Make sure they are good and tight so it is easier to pull the spikes out of the soil. After determining where you need to aerate begin walking on your lawn.
It may take some extra effort to get the spikes back out of the soil once you have stepped down. Go over the areas a couple of times in different directions. When finished knock off any collected soil on the spikes back onto the grass. The soil will break down later and help add nutrients to the soil.
The only drawback of this aerator is that it can actually press the soil together around the holes and not give you as many benefits as a different aerator.
You can either buy a spiked aerator or rent one from your local garden and lawn store or equipment rental company. If you choose to rent a machine the company will teach you how to use it. The spiked aerator can be a manual item that you simply work into the lawn as you work on the areas that need aeration.
The aerator can also be a drum that you can drag behind a small vehicle or machine. Again, before you aerate your lawn, crop your grass short and make sure the soil is moist. Make sure you go over the same area in different directions, so you get all the benefits of lawn aeration. The one disadvantage to the spiked aerators is that you can compress the soil as you make the holes and lose some of the benefits. Sadly there is not really a way to keep the spikes from compressing the soil of the holes as you aerate your lawn.
You can buy or rent a slicing aerator just like a spiked aerator. The slicing aerator cuts into the grass and any other debris in the grass. The soil should not accumulate on the slicing blades. Unlike spiked aerators, a slicing aerator does not cause more compression when using it. The blades literally slice into the ground to loosen up the soil and allow the grassroots access to water, air, and fertiliser.
You still need to make sure the grass is cropped short, have moist soil, and go over the areas you are aerating a couple of different times from different directions. All of these things contribute to good aeration for your lawn.
Core or Plug Aerator
Professionals prefer the core/plug aerator. You can use a manual type to work into the ground, pull out, and then work into the next spot. The tines are hollow and have no cap on the top. This means that the core or plug will be pushed out of the tines as you work them into the ground again.
There is a manual step and tilt machine that you can use. There are more tines on this machine so the work will go a bit faster. The tines are hollow and a container at the top collects them. After you have cropped the grass and moistened the soil you will want to pick a place to start.
Before you make your first holes set the depth on the aerator. Then tilt the aerator toward the ground. Press your foot firmly down on the collection container. Tilt the machine back and move to the next spot. Keep repeating the process until you have done the whole area that needs aeration.
Spread the cores out on the ground to put nutrients back into the ground. You can also use the cores to repair ruts caused by the lawnmower or raise low spots. The cores will break down and add to the soil already there. You still need to make sure the grass is cropped short, the soil is moist, and go over the lawn in several different directions.
Caring for Your Yard After Lawn Aeration
After aerating your lawn, immediately put on fertiliser. The fertiliser will help your grass recover and put extra nutrients into the soil. Spread new grass seed in your lawn. Do this for areas that look thin or the grass is dead. This will help your grass become nice and thick. It will also help replace any grass that has died.
In the End
Regular and proper lawn care is important to keep your grass thick and healthy. Aerating your lawn is a great way to help your lawn access air, water, and nutrients. The holes that aeration creates help loosen the soil up again so that grassroots can get what they need to grow.
There are several different types of aerators. You need to select the one you feel the most comfortable with and that fits your budget. You also need to consider how large of a lawn you have. If your lawn is quite large you do not really want to aerate it all with a manual machine. Do not forget to make aeration a regular part of your lawn care every year to experience its full benefits.