Back To The Basics: Understanding the Importance of Aeration

  • Written by: Killingsworth Environmental
  • September 10, 2018

Understand the Importance of Aerating Your Yard

As homeowners, we strive to achieve and maintain a healthy, lush, and beautiful lawn. We’re able to do so with basic lawn care techniques and practices. These include mowing regularly, fertilizing at the appropriate seasons, watering when necessary, seeding for new growth, treating for weeds, diseases and insects, and more.

One technique lawn caretakers don’t always take advantage of is aeration, likely because they don’t understand the process itself or its benefits. For us, aerating your lawn should be a no-brainer!

What is Aerating?

The process of aeration involves drilling small holes through your lawn into the soil below with the purpose of allowing air, water, and nutrients to pass through to the grassroots. Aeration helps your grass roots grow deeper and ultimately produces a stronger, more healthy lawn.

One of the biggest reasons for aerating is to loosen up compact soil (soil with too many solid particles within a certain volume or space). Compact soil cuts off the circulation of air and prevents water and nutrients from penetrating through the soil and to the roots.

Excess lawn thatch (loose, intermingles organic layer of dead and living shoots, stems, and roots which develop between the zone of green vegetation and soil surface) or any other type of heavy organic debris buried under the grass surface can also starve the roots from these essential elements–aeration helps.

What is the Importance of Aerating?

Every lawn caretaker should ask themselves these questions when determining whether or not to aerate their lawn:

  • Does my lawn see a lot of traffic and heavy use? If kids and pets run around your yard frequently, your soil is likely more compact than others.
  • Was my lawn grown a part of my newly constructed home? Often the topsoil of newly constructed lawns is stripped and lacking nutrients. Also, if your home was newly constructed it’s likely that the soil was compacted by heavy machinery and other forms of construction traffic.   
  • Does my lawn tend to dry out easily? Does my lawn have a spongy feel to it? It’s possible that your lawn has an excessive thatching problem. Grab a shovel and scoop up a four-inch slice of your lawn. If you see that more than one-half inch is thatch, you’re going to want to go ahead and aerate.
  • Was your lawn originally sod? Sod creates soil layering (when soil of finer texture, which you typically get with imported sod, is layered over existing soil, soil which may be more coarse). Layering becomes a problem for drainage, as water is held in the finer-textured soil leading to compact conditions and poor root development. Aerating helps to break up the layering, and allows water to flow through the soil more easily to reach the roots.

When Should I Aerate?

This is a question we get often, and a valid one at that. The best time for aeration is during your grass’ growing season as this is when the grass can best heal and fill in any open areas after spoil plugs (the product of a plug aerator) are removed.

So the answer to your question of when should I aerate depends on what type of grass you have. It’s likely one of these common Carolina grasses. Ideally, cool-season grasses should be aerated in the early spring or fall and warm season grasses in the late spring.

How do I Aerate?

Once you’ve decided your lawn does require some aerating, you’ll probably question where to begin. Allow us to help you out with that!

There are two aerating tools you can use. The first is a spike aerator. With a spike aerator, you simply use the tool to poke holes into the ground with a sold “tine” (a fork-like object). The second tool is a plug aerator which removes a core (or “plug”) of grass and soil from the lawn.

Poking holes tends to be less effective and can even contribute to additional compaction. We recommend using a tool that allows you to remove plugs of soil approximately 2-3 inches deep, .5-.75 inches in diameter, and about 2-3 inches apart.

Before you get started, be sure the soil is moist enough. We advise aerating the day after a rain shower or at least watering your lawn the day before as trying to aerate bone dry soil is tough.

Keep in mind the machine can only cover a small percentage of soil surface per pass. Use your best judgment–if one area is more compact than others, give it multiple passes. If the area isn’t a concern, skip it!

Allow the pulled soil plugs to dry and then break them up by running them over with the lawn lower or pounding them with the back of a rake. This will return your lawn to it’s normal, clean appearance.

After Aeration, What do I do?

After aerating it’s important that you continue basic lawn care practices–you know, mowing, water, and fertilizing or else your lawn won’t reap the full benefits of your aerating efforts. Your lawn will certainly thank you (and reward you by looking its best!) for allowing it to breathe again.

You can always count on the Killingsworth team to provide you with expert lawn care and yard services! Read more about our lawn care services here!

We’ve even created a workbook with lawn care tips, tricks, and checklists. Download your Free Killingsworth Lawn Care Workbook and you’ll find a step by step guide to year-round lawn care best practices, even a few tips and tricks to help you grow a beautiful lawn. Happy growing!

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