How Often Should You Aerate Your Lawn?
Maintenance of a lawn has many aspects to it, including fertilization and aeration. Aeration of a lawn can be performed with a range of custom-built equipment; the most basic tasks can be done with a garden fork, using the prongs to press deeply into the earth. However, you may be left wondering how often you should aerate your lawn - we’ll answer this below.
What is aeration?
The process of aeration involves creating small perforations in the soil of the turf. These holes then allow air and water to penetrate the roots of the grass, as well as allowing in nutrients from fertilizer, for example. The result of aeration is that the roots of the grass are able to grow more deeply into the ground, producing more durable turf.
Why should you aerate your lawn?
The science behind aeration involves reducing soil compaction, where the ground soil has become so compounded that air, water and other nutrient molecules cannot circulate adequately throughout the soil. This problem can be worsened by dense organic debris buried beneath the ground's surface.
Simply aerating a segment of your lawn, without applying any fertilizer or carrying out any other type of maintenance, will result in immediate changes and improvements to growth, color and blade density. If you were to excavate an area of your turf before refilling it with fresh, new soil, and then lay grass seed, the newly established grass would always grow thicker and stronger than the existing lawn. By alleviating the soil compaction and stimulating circulation of microbes and nutrients, you’re improving the potential for growth.
This video goes into more detail:
How often should you aerate your lawn?
The frequency with which you are required to aerate your turf is partly dependent upon the type of soil that lies beneath your grass. Clay soil is more malleable and therefore compacts at a far quicker rate, requiring aeration at a minimum of once per year. Soil with a high sand content is different; you could aerate this type as infrequently as on alternating years.
Other factors can increase the frequency with which you should aerate your turf. For example, if vehicles are regularly parked on or drive upon your grass, then soil will compact at a faster rate. Regular footfall can also increase soil compaction, particularly on clay soil types.
Know your turf type
You may think that grass is grass, regardless of your locality; however, lawn grasses can be broken down into 2 distinct types: cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses. Warm-season types experience their most prolific bouts of growth during the summer months, so if you aerate warm-season grasses around late spring or early in summer, the increased period of growth that follows will aid in refilling the holes that you created.
On the other hand, cold-season grasses are dormant during the summer months, emerging from this state at the end of the season. Their period of vigorous growth is during the fall and winter months, when temperatures drop and weeds thin out.
Aerating tools: plug aerator vs. spike aerator
When it comes to aerating your lawn, you could select a spike aerator or a plug aerator. A plug aerator is better suited to treating soil compaction in lawns with a heavy clay composition; the solid spikes on a spike aerator would just compact the problem even further. Conversely, spike aerators are better suited to lawns with a high composition of sand or loam.
Soil composition can also affect the choice of aerator equipment. Plug aerators are better-suited to use on moist – but not saturated – soil. Drier soil material can crumble between the tines, stopping the equipment from working properly.
Finally, you should also consider the season in which you are aerating your lawn, and whether it is cool or warm-season grass. Plug aerators place more strain on the structure of your soil and the grass growing within it, so they should ideally only be used during the most prolific growth periods, as this will help your grass to remain stable.
What should you do with the plugs?
According to this comprehensive lawn care guide at lawnmowerhut.com, if you use a plug-type aerator, it's best to leave the plugs on the lawn until they dry out - otherwise, you're throwing away vital nutrients that could feed your lawn.
Aeration is a crucial step to maintaining a healthy lawn, much like fertilization. The frequency with which you should aerate your lawn will depend upon several factors, with one of the most important being whether you have warm or cool-season grass. Most southern states grow warm-season types, with most northern states growing cool-season types, though you should be sure to research which type you have.