While just about every homeowner knows their lawn needs watering, mowing, and fertilizing to look its best, many people don't know that aerating a lawn is also part of basic yard care. The job can be a bit tedious, but it's not difficult, and the benefits of aeration—green, healthy grass—make those few hours well spent.
There are several ways to aerate your lawn and a variety of soil aeration tools, but the process is roughly the same whichever you choose, as are the indications for lawn aeration and the benefits.
Over time, soil tends to compact and become hard due to foot traffic, mowing, clay soil, or poor drainage. This prevents water, oxygen, and nutrients from reaching the hungry roots. As a result, the turf becomes thin, pale, or patchy.
Lawn aeration—it's basically just a process of making holes in the turf—breaks up hard soil so that water and nutrients penetrate more easily. There are two basic types of soil aerators:
Both break up hardened soil, but plug aerators are more effective.
The best time to use a yard aerator depends on the type of grass you have. Cool-season grasses, such as fescue, bluegrass, or ryegrass, should be aerated in early spring or early fall. Warm-season turf, including Bermuda grass, zoysia, or St. Augustine, does best with aeration in the late spring.
Whatever your type of grass, do not aerate the lawn within one year of planting seed or sod.
Large stretches of turf require gas-powered aerator tools, but if you have a fairly small patch of grass, a handheld (or footheld) aerator will work. There are several types of manual aerators.
For larger lawns, or if you prefer to spare your back, gas-powered aerators make the job relatively quick and easy. These heavy-duty aerators usually remove plugs of soil and grass, which is the best method of lawn aeration, and they are generally available for rent at garden centers or home improvement stores.
Whatever type of yard aerator you choose, the basics of lawn aeration are the same.
To keep your grass looking its best, make sure you aerate annually in addition to watering, fertilizing, and weeding on a regular schedule.