A Comprehensive Overview of Lawn Aeration

lawn_aeration_picAt certain points of the year it is good to aerate your lawn to improve its health and wellbeing.

Aeration is a process that many domestic and professional turf maintenance operators undergo more than once a year.

It helps to improve the following of your grass:

  • breathability
  • nutrient flow
  • water absorption

This in turn makes the grass a lot easier to maintain and helps it become more resistant to disease. There are several methods and tools you can use for aeration; each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. Proper lawn care and aeration will help you avoid many fungal issues and weeds.

In this article, I will attempt to give you a comprehensive overview to the process of aeration. It will cover what the process actually is, the time of year you should aerate, optimal ground conditions, different equipment types and after care.

How Does Aeration Actually Work?

Aeration put simply is the process of creating holes or hollows in the surface of a lawn or expanse of grass. It allows fresh air to circulate and reach the roots of the grass plant.

Simultaneously aerating grass also helps to release old recycled air that is trapped under the surface of the soil.

Aeration also helps water, nutrients and minerals to reach the grass roots easier. Often a layer of dead organic material and debris forms on the soil’s surface. In severe cases this build up is referred to as thatch; which can be very difficult to treat.

Over time this material builds up and prevents water and nutrients reaching the grass roots effectively. Aeration goes a long way towards countering the negative effect that debris on the soil’s surface can have on grass health.

It is a very simple process that does not involve any chemical fertilizers, grass feed or other external solutions. This makes it favorable due to the fact that it is environmentally friendly and does not cost a lot as a process in itself.

At What Time and/or Conditions Should You Aerate?

There are two optimal periods for aerating during the year; they are:

  • Spring
  • Autumn

The reason for this is that grass growth is not in full summer bloom or winter dormancy. This allows the grass time to adapt and break in after aeration has taken place. You should think of it as a healing process that helps grass to regenerate after the extremes of winter/summer.

When aerating the ground should be moist but not wet. This is so that the spikes/tines can penetrate the soil effectively and the hollows created will remain. If the soil is too wet then the groundwater pressure will cause the holes created by aeration to close over again. Contrastingly, if the ground is too dry it will be near impossible to penetrate and your equipment will be susceptible to damage.

Different Aerator Units and Tools Available to You

There are a number of different styles of lawn aerator units out there, but there is really two main types of aeration tools; they are the spike and core aerators.

Spike aerators are more simplistic and straight forward in the way that they operate. As the name would suggest they literally stab or spike a hole into the ground. This is done by a sharp solid tine which is usually attached to a rotating cog or bar.

Almost all manual methods of aeration use a spike mechanism. This is because it is low cost and easy to maintain.

Some common methods of manually spiking a lawn are:

  • using a pitchfork
  • aeration shoes
  • a walk behind spiked roller

There are also many automatic machines that rely on a spike mechanism. These can be anything from pedestrian operated petrol/electric machines to large towed industrial units. The advantage of spike aerators is that they are low in cost compared to core aeration machines. However the results are usually not as long lasting and the process consequently needs repeated more frequently.

Core aerators are machine operated units that actively take cores of earth out of the soil bed. This helps to achieve a longer lasting effect that has more of an impact. Because core aeration machines take many physical cylinders of soil out of the ground; the channel they create stays for a lot longer. With spike aerators the soil is simply compressed and pushed to the side to create the hollow. This means that it closes over faster.

So as has been touched upon the advantage of core aeration is longevity. However the units do cost considerably more, which makes it an expensive option compared to using a spike aerator.

Soil After Care

After aeration there are certain things you can do to help give your soil and grass an extra boost.

Many people like to give their lawn a top dressing of fertilizer; this implants fresh nutrients into the grass roots. If you aerate in autumn you may want to over-seed your lawn as well. This will help the lawn to grow in with more density and fullness the next spring.

Have you used aeration before? What results have you seen?

Image Credit: grahamking via Flickr.