Aeration is a standard lawn care practice that can improve the quality and performance of your lawn. The most common reason aeration is performed is to help reduce soil compaction. Soils that contain a lot of clay, or lawns that see heavy foot or equipment traffic can become compacted over time. This constricts the amount of oxygen, nutrients, and water that is allowed to move through the lawn and root system. When a lawn is too compacted, the turf will grow slowly and poorly, which can in turn make the lawn more susceptible to insect damage, drought conditions and disease. Lawns that become compacted often may be aerated several times a year. Proper aeration will in turn help control thatch, which is often a result of compacted soil. Aeration helps water and fertilizer move to the roots, often reducing water runoff. When removing the cores of soil, the aerator machine also severs roots, stimulating the grass to produce new growth, creating a denser lawn.
Aeration is done by using an aerator that pokes holes into the ground throughout the lawn, removing cores or plugs of soil. These soil cores should be about two to four inches deep, 1/4 - 1/2 inch wide, and about four inches apart throughout the lawn. You may need to make multiple passes over your lawn, especially the most compacted areas. Thoroughly watering your lawn a day or two before you aerate will allow for the cores of soil to be easily removed, but avoid watering too much. If the soil is too wet or sticky, aerating may cause further soil compaction. Cores may be either removed or left on the lawn, but it is recommended to leave them on lawns, especially lawns that have more than a 1/2 inch of thatch. Lawns can be fertilized immediately after aeration and watering should also occur soon after aeration. Hand aerators can be rented, or for large or extremely compacted lawns, machine aerators can also be rented.
The best time to aerate is in the spring or fall, when the ground is not frozen but also not too hot or dry. Spring is a great time to aerate warm season grasses as the grass is actively growing. Cool season grasses are best aerated in the fall when there is less heat stress. If you see areas of your lawn that have been damaged because of too much compaction, for example, you will definitely want to aerate your soil during the spring or fall months. If certain areas of your lawn are sparse or bare, seeding about a month after aeration will improve the look and density of your lawn. Aeration is a simple part of lawn maintenance that is often overlooked. Taking the time to aerate and maintain your lawn can have a huge impact on the quality and appearance of your turf grass.