What is lawn aeration?
Lawn aeration is the process of breaking up the surface of the lawn to better allow oxygen, nutrients and water to penetrate into the root zone. Aerating helps relieve compaction caused by heavy foot traffic and provides an ideal seed bed for overseeding. Aerating also aids in reducing thatch build-up and promotes deep rooting of the grass plant.
How is aerating achieved?
Aerating can be done several ways. Core aerating uses hollow tines or forks to remove a plug of the turf. The hole provides a seed bed and an entry point for the nutrients, air and water, as well as proving a seed bed for overseeding. The plug is usually left on the surface and is ground up and worn away by subsequent mowings or a vigorous raking. At this time the lawn can also be topdressed with loam, compost or other soil amendments.
Aerating can also be done with solid tines. No core is removed so topdressing and overseeding are slightly less effective but the surface is still penetrated allowing for improved air, water and nutrients uptake and some relief of compaction.
Aerating is usually accomplished with a walk behind machine with hollow or solid tines mounted on a drum which propels the machine forward, poking holes along the way. Aerating can also be done with simple tools like a pitchfork, a pitchfork-like tool with hollow tines, or even sandals equipped with long spikes.
When and how often should I aerate?
Aerating is most effective when done every fall, especially if it is done in conjunction with overseeding and fertilizing as part of a complete lawn care program. However, renting an aerator can be costly, the act of aerating is physically strenuous, and hiring a lawn service to do it can be even more costly. Aerating every other year or even every three years is acceptable if the lawn is low use and low maintenance.