Aerating your lawn may not be an everyday routine yard project, but it's a task you should be familiar with to help keep your lawn healthy. Though aerating is typically needed for lawns with clay soil, other conditions like thatch, heavy foot traffic and sitting water can indicate a need for lawn aeration. If these potential lawn issues are ignored, they can lead to soil compaction and inhibit the overall growth of grass.
The Benefits of Aerating
To help encourage proper grass growth, aerating removes small pieces of soil from your lawn. This relieves soil compaction and allows grass to breathe, absorb nutrients and establish strong roots. It's recommended to use a core aerator rather than a spike aerator since it removes pieces of soil versus punching holes into the ground, which may contribute to additional soil compaction.
When to Aerate
If you're unsure if aerating is needed, simply dig up a small square of grass from your lawn and look for signs of thatch and if grass roots are well-established - meaning deeper than 2" into the soil.
Aerating your lawn at the right time and during proper conditions is also important to know and practice, since not doing so can make the task difficult and inefficient. Early spring or late summer are the best times to aerate, which gives your lawn plenty of time to repair itself.
It's also essential to make sure your lawn is slightly moist so the aerator can easily break through soil - either after a light rainstorm or by watering your lawn prior to aerating.
Lawn Aeration Tips
Before you start to aerate your lawn, walk through your yard to make sure it is clear of tools and other materials that could possibly get in the way. Then, aerate in a back-and-forth pattern throughout your yard to make sure all areas are covered, just like you do when you mow your lawn.
You can either leave the removed soil cores on your lawn, since they'll naturally decompose, or you can wait until they are dried up and then gently rake them off the lawn.
After you've finished aerating, keep people and heavy objects off your lawn to give it time to repair, as well as prevent any initial stress on the lawn. This is also the ideal time to apply fertilizer or grass seed to help replenish the soil with nutrients for growth.