Maintaining a healthy lawn that looks great year-round takes hard work. If your lawn care routine only involves mowing and watering, your lawn could be missing out on an essential step in care. Aerating your lawn can help keep your lawn in top shape by promoting lush, green growth. Here’s everything you need to know about aerating your lawn from how often to signs that your lawn needs it. Make sure you don’t skip the Need to Know Aeration Tips Section. Here’s what you’ll learn in the Complete Guide to Aerating Your Lawn:
- What is Aeration?
- Benefits of Aerating
- Signs I need to Aerate
- How to Aerate Your Lawn: Including Seeding and Fertilizing
- How Often Should I Aerate?
- When is the Best Time of Year to Aerate?
- Need to Know Aeration Tips
Complete Guide to Aerating Your Lawn: What is Aeration?
Aeration is the process of removing soil cores or plugs from your lawn by extracting little chunks of dirt from the lawn surface. These dirt clumps(also known as plugs) are ½ inch to ¾ inch in diameter. The holes are typically 1.5 to 6 inches deep (more on what depth we recommend below) and the holes are 2 to 5 inches apart.
So, what exactly does aeration do? It allows for air circulation at the root level of your lawn. This provides the optimal soil condition for healthy grass and growth. Aerating hosts a list of benefits to your lawn.
Benefits of Aerating
Aerating done at the right time can make all your other lawn care efforts more effective, even your watering. Benefits of aerating your lawn include the following:
- Aerating is one of the best yard drainage solutions. It allows for water to penetrate deep into the soil allowing for healthier grass, less runoff, and lower watering costs
- Allows for better penetration of oxygen and fertilizer
- Makes your lawn more healthy, thick, and beautiful
- Reduces soil compaction which leads to water waste, thinning grass, and dead patches (soil compaction happens naturally over time from normal wear and tear use)
- Makes fertilizer more effective because it can reach deep into the root system
- Prevents the growth of moss which thrives in compact soil due to decreased water movement
Signs I need to Aerate
What are some signs that I need to aerate my lawn? Not all lawn care problems are solved with aeration, but knowing the signs of grass that needs some help will allow you to determine if aerating will solve your turf issues. Signs that you may need to aerate are:
- Spots in your lawn with stunted growth
- High traffic on the lawn (including children playing on the lawn often and pet usage)
- Heavy snow or rain seasons after the last aeration (contributed to compacting of soil)
- Water pools or excessive water run off (this can also be solved with cycle and soak irrigation)
How to Aerate Your Lawn: Including Seeding and Fertilizing
How do I aerate my lawn? Following these instructions will help you have the healthiest lawn in the neighborhood. It is important that you aerate, fertilize, then seed in that order to get the most out of your seed and fertilizer.
Before you aerate, mow your lawn low (Timberline lawn experts recommend setting your mower to about 1.5-2 inches above the ground to maximize the effectiveness of aerating, being sure to not scalp the crown of the grass.) You will want to water one to three days before aerating. This is because the soils must be moist when you aerate to help the machine penetrate the soil. Remember, do not aerate overly soaked or completely dry soil. This will cause the machine to not work. (PROTIP: Never aerate in drought conditions. More on when to aerate below.)
Use a hand aerator or aeration machine to go over the lawn. It is recommended to go in two opposite directions to ensure you get plenty of holes.
The aerator will pull out small soil cores from the lawn which should be left to breakdown on the lawn. This will aid in thatch decomposition and return nutrients to the soil. The cores will decompose in two to four weeks (watering will aid in decomposition.)
The holes left behind for aerating will be small and difficult to notice. They will fill with healthy new grassroots within a week of aerating.
Seeding and Fertilizing
When overseeding, it is extremely important to ensure that good soil-to-seed contact is made. The act of aerating opens the turf canopy allowing for the seed to drop to the soil level.
Once the seed has been applied across the turf, use a leaf rake or verticutter to ensure the seed is in contact with the soil. If a soil sample has indicated a need for nutrients, apply a quick release fertilizer that is high in phosphorous, such as 18-24-12 starter fertilizer blend, that will help with root growth while not stimulating too much shoot growth.
Once moisture has hit the seed it is critical to keep the seed moist but not water-logged. Depending on the time of year, you may need to water 2-4 times a day in short-duration-bursts to keep from overwatering and washing the soil away. If a seed is left to dry out after it has taken up water, it will not survive.
How Often Should I Aerate?
How often you aerate your lawn depends on a few factors. Our turf care experts at Timberline recommend once annually for the typical lawn. If your lawn is walked on, mowed, or used very often, this will cause additional compaction. Clay soil types tend to compact more than other soils which could increase the need for aeration.
High use lawns may require twice per year aeration to keep them healthy and beautiful. However, the opposite is also true. If your lawn is lush, beautiful, and almost never has foot traffic, aerating every couple of years may be the best fit. It’s important to remember, aerating to often can cause way more harm than good for your lawn. If you’re unsure how often to aerate or what soil type you have, a turf care expert will assist you in determining your lawn care needs.
When is the Best Time of Year to Aerate?
Timing is everything when it comes to aeration. If you get aeration-happy at the wrong time, you could end up severely harming your lawn instead of helping it grow. To time it properly, you need to consider both the season and the weather conditions.
Your season will be determined by the type of grass you have: you want to aerate at the beginning of the peak growing season. This will help your lawn quickly recover from the temporary damage aeration causes and promote maximum growth of the root system. If the grass is still completely brown, it is not the time to aerate! The grass should be greening first. For warm-season turf like Bermuda, Buffalo, and St. Augustine, the time to aerate is in late spring or early summer. For cool season turf like fescue, bluegrasses, and ryegrass, aerate in the fall.
Weather conditions also must be right for aeration. Aeration does cause some root damage, so you need to avoid dry periods, heat waves, and cold snaps to avoid further stressing your lawn. While the soil should be moist, aeration also should not be done when it is overly soaked, or the soil will clump together and not be aerated properly.
Need to Know Aeration Tips
- Do not aerate newly seeded or newly planted grass for at least a year.
- Make sure that your fertilizer doesn’t contain weed killer if you are seeding your grass. It will stunt seed growth.
- Mark shallow sprinkler lines before aerating to prevent damage.
- Longer tines (the spikes on the aerator) are a good choice. This allows water and fertilizer to penetrate deeper into the soil.
- Make sure that when you aerate, it pulls the plugs out of your lawn vs spiking (solid tines that penetrate the lawn and push soil down into the earth.)
There you have it. This is a complete guide to aerating your lawn. Use these steps to create a lush and healthy lawn, and don’t forget to enjoy your healthy, green yard, of course! Don’t forget to share! Our lawn care experts know Colorado’s soil, common lawn problems, and specialize in plant health care. Contact us today!