Your Full Guide to Lawn Aeration
Author: Blair Matthews | January 5, 2022
A great way to set your lawn up for success next season is aeration. The purpose of aeration is to help the roots of your grass grow deeper to produce a stronger and healthier lawn.
But like many other homeowners, you may have some questions, so we are going to cover topics such as:
- Aeration—Core vs Liquid Aeration
- The Benefits of Aeration
- How To Aerate Your Lawn
- FAQ About Lawn Aeration
Aeration is the process of making small holes to break up thatch and reduce soil compassion, allowing water, oxygen, and nutrients to more easily reach the roots. This process helps the grass to establish stronger root systems, retain more water, and become less susceptible to lawn diseases and pests. When it comes to aeration, you have two options—liquid aeration and core aeration.
Core aeration, also known as mechanical aeration, uses a machine called a lawn aerator to pull out thousands of plugs of soil from your lawn and mechanically open up the soil to allow water and nutrients to penetrate deep into the root system of the turf.
Though the holes created by the core aerator typically close up on their own and the soil plugs disintegrate before the onset of winter, this method leaves an unsightly lawn for several weeks. Additionally, this method pulls out soil cores that are only about 3 inches deep—meaning that it only addresses a small portion of the soil surface, leaving about 80 percent of the soil undisturbed.
If you are interested in this method of aeration, head to your local hardware store to pick up an aeration machine, which looks like a lawn mower (as pictured above), but instead of blades, it has spikes that penetrate the ground.
Instead of pulling up the soil, liquid aeration uses key bio-stimulants and highly oxidizing material at specific growth stages of turf to break up and loosen the topsoil to encourage a deeper rooting and more oxygen into the topsoil.
Liquid aeration helps break up thicker soil much more effectively and is easier to apply—sprinkler heads don’t have to be flagged, no more heavy equipment being dragged around, and we can fix the root of the problems of our native soil for a healthier lawn.
Liquid soil loosener can also be purchased at a local hardware store. To properly apply the liquid treatment, we encourage you to also purchase a hose-end sprayer.
Core vs Liquid Aeration
While core aeration has a more immediate impact on your soil and the appearance of your lawn, the effects are not very long-lasting. In turn, liquid aeration has less of an immediate impact on your turn, but the effects are longer-lasting, leading to better results over time.
While we generally recommend liquid aeration, if your turf is extremely compacted or has an excessive thatch layer (over 1/2 inch thick), we actually encourage a combination of core and liquid aeration. The holes created through core aeration allow the liquid to more thoroughly penetrate your lawn.
What Are the Benefits of Aerating Your Lawn?
The benefits of fall lawn aeration are countless, but some of the most important include the following:
Reduces Soil Compaction
Over time, the soil in your lawn is naturally compacted—through heavy foot traffic, vehicle traffic, construction activity, or by mowing your lawn too often or with a heavy mower. Compacted soil is less able to support plant growth, and can lead to problems such as waterlogging and reduced root growth. Aeration combats this by breaking up the soil and allowing more air into the soil.
Over time, thatch will naturally build up on your soil. Thatch is a layer of organic material that develops between your grass and your soil, composed of dead and dying shoots, stems, roots, and grass clippings—and once it starts accumulating faster than natural microorganisms can break it down, it can wreak havoc on your lawn. Aeration punches through layers of thatch, restoring your grass’ ability to breathe!
While grass can live for a long time, fresh growth is still important! Without fresh grass, large areas can die off all of a sudden, leaving big bare patches in your yard. Aeration encourages fresh growth of healthy grass in your yard, keeping it thick and healthy all season long.
Your cool-season grass will start to slow its growth in the fall, but its roots will continue to grow. By giving the grassroots easy access to fertilizer, nutrients, and water, you’re helping them grow deeper into the soil. The deeper the roots, the stronger and more resilient the grass.
When you aerate the soil, you give the roots of your grass more breathing room. This added space encourages the roots to expand through the soil. Weeds can not grow in an area that is already full of healthy grassroots, so strong grassroots make it harder for weed seeds to take root and surprise you next spring!
Oftentimes, lawns that are withered and exhausted in the fall don’t survive the cold temperatures, making it expensive come spring to fix all the brown patches. What’s more, once the brown patches are handled, it may take weeks for new grass to take root and grow. This means that you may need to invest in a few weeks of corrective action to nurse your backyard back to health! Aerating in the fall will rejuvenate your lawn, making it better equipped to handle our freezing winters and setting it up for success once spring arrives!
It can be overwhelming to get started when you’re ready to aerate in the fall. However, the process can be done with a little research and careful preparation. To get you started, we’ve put together the basic steps for you to follow when you aerate in the fall.
Step 1: Check That Your Lawn Is Ready for Aeration
There are several signs to look for that can clue you in that it’s time to aerate your lawn. If you’re noticing that your turf is taking a while to absorb water, that’s a common sign of soil compaction. Another easy way to gauge the state of your soil is to dig up a small cube of about six inches. How far do the roots extend down? If they’re two inches or shorter, it’s time to aerate. Also, take a look at the amount of thatch buildup. More than 1.5 inches of thatch is a sign that your lawn needs aeration.
Step 2: Pick The Type of Aeration
There are several different methods for DIY fall lawn aeration. If you are opting for mechanical aeration, handheld spike aerators can be used for a straightforward, if slightly slow, approach. Slicing aerators use blades to slice down into the soil and create access for water and nutrients to reach the roots. The most thorough approach can be found by using a plug aerator or liquid aerator, equipment for both of which can be bought or rented—check your local garden center or hardware store in advance to figure out what’s available and what might be the best choice for your lawn.
Step 3: Prepare Your Lawn For Aeration
A day or two before aerating your lawn, ensure that you water it thoroughly with at least one inch of water. Note any areas that might interfere with your aeration equipment, such as hidden irrigation pipes or tree stumps, and mark them if needed so you don’t run them over by accident.
Step 4: Aerate Your Lawn
Then it’s time to aerate your lawn! Use your chosen equipment to aerate your lawn completely in one direction before repeating the process perpendicularly to the first lines of aeration for best results.
Step 5: Overseed Your Lawn
After aeration is completed, you want to make sure you do everything you can to boost your lawn’s health and prepare it for the coming winter. This is a great time to overseed with a hardy grass seed chosen for your region and climate. A lawn care professional can help you determine which grass types would be best for your landscape. Applying a treatment of your chosen fertilizer will help boost the growth of both your existing grass and the new seeds.
Consider Reaching Out To Professionals
This guide can help you get started aerating your lawn in the fall, but while these DIY treatments can be a great start, they rarely deliver the same results that a professional aeration service would. Not to mention, trained lawn technicians with years of experience know how to aerate your lawn without damaging your turf—something that is all too easy to do by accident.
If you need any help, have questions, want more lawn care tips, or want to learn more about our 5-Star Lawn Care Program—which includes aeration, seeding, and proper fertilization—just give us a call at [phone-number]! Learn what other lawn care services we offer in Greeley.