by April Reinhardt
(last updated November 16, 2016)
If you're tired of spending time, energy, and money on your lawn, only to be disappointed with the results, perhaps it's time to try lawn aeration. Sometimes mowing, fertilizing, watering, and weeding aren't enough. To achieve a greener, healthier, thicker lawn, do what professional groundskeepers do and aerate it.
In simple terms, aerating is the process of removing small slivers—or plugs—of soil from your lawn. These tiny holes that you make in your lawn create an avenue of better water and nutrient absorption, and help to eliminate thatch. Have you ever raked your lawn, only to discover a layer of yellow grass underneath the green grass, and just above the soil line? That is thatch, and it can grow very thick, preventing vital nutrients from reaching the grass roots below. When you remove thatch and aerate your lawn, you increase oxygen levels to your soil, helping to decompose the hardened thatch and the organisms living in it.
When you create holes by removing lawn plugs, you sever some of the grass' roots, encouraging new grass shoots and roots to grow and fill those holes that you made. When those new shoots create root systems and grow abundantly, the density of your lawn increases and safeguards it by making it more tolerant to drought conditions.
How do you know when it's time to aerate your lawn? Remove a square section of your lawn at least six inches deep and twelve inches square. If the sample's roots extend only one inch into the soil, then the soil is compacted and needs to be aerated. If your soil contains heavy clay, you can aerate to help break up the clay deposits and encourage more oxygen movement and you should aerate at least twice yearly. If your soil is sandy, aerating just once a year should suffice. Also, it's wise to aerate your lawn according to the type of grass you are growing. Cool-season grasses should be aerated during the months when they experience their fastest growth; typically, the months of August through the middle of September. Conversely, warm-season grasses should be aerated during the summer months of June and July.
If you have a large lawn and don't want to invest your time or energy, then you could hire a professional to do the job. But if you have a small lawn, you can save the money and do the job yourself. Aerating a lawn isn't difficult, but it can be time consuming. Make sure that you call well in advance to rent your equipment since, chances are, your neighbors will have the same idea about aerating their lawns around the same time you do.
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