Ah, Springtime. Flowers are blooming; birds are chirping; the grass is starting to turn green. But what do you do if your lawn doesn’t quite look the same as it did last summer? How can you help encourage your grass to thrive? It starts with a little TLC.
In order to get your dormant lawn ready for the spring and summer, check out our suggestions here. One of the most important steps involves aeration. Follow the tips below to determine whether or not your lawn needs aerated and to find helpful information about the process.
What Is Aeration?
As soil becomes compacted, it prevents grass growth. Aeration is the process of removing plugs of soil from your lawn in order to loosen the soil. It promotes growth by allowing air, water, and nutrients to pass more freely to the roots. The plugs of soil are removed with a tool called a core aerator, which uses tines (a prong or sharp point) in order to remove the soil.
What Are the Benefits to Aeration?
Aerating your lawn annually benefits your grass in both short-term and long-term. It improves the overall health of your yard and makes it less susceptible to disease and fungus growth. It also improves your lawn’s ability to combat the stresses created by heat and drought.
How Do I Know If My Lawn Needs to be Aerated?
Aeration is never a bad idea; the process will not impact your yard negatively. However, there are certain times when your lawn absolutely should be aerated without question:
- If your lawn is compacted: Try to stick a screwdriver into the soil. Any resistance indicates soil compaction.
- If your lawn seems water-logged: Water-logging occurs when water does not drain off properly and water sits on the surface of your grass. Water-logging and compaction actually go hand-in-hand because the compacted soil does not allow the water to seep down into the roots. How can you tell if your lawn is waterlogged? Usually, you can see water puddling on the ground. Also, look for muddy areas or yellow patches of dying grass.
- If your lawn is used often by children or pets: Activity on your lawn can increase the likelihood that your soil will become compacted and will not get enough air and water. If your lawn is the neighborhood playground, you should aerate in order to prevent compaction and water-logging.
How Do I Aerate My Lawn?
You can aerate your lawn yourself or call a professional lawn service. If you decide to complete the process yourself, you will need to rent an aerator and follow a few simple steps:
- Thoroughly water your grass the day before you plan to aerate your lawn in order to soften the soil.
- After aeration, leave the plugs of soil on your lawn. As they decompose, they will add important nutrients and beneficial organic matter back to your lawn.
- Continue to thoroughly water your lawn every 2-3 days for the next 2 weeks after aeration. It is best to water your lawn for half an hour in the early morning or late afternoon. Watering midday is discouraged because the water almost immediately evaporates, wasting both water and your money. Although it seems like a good idea, watering at night creates problems as well. The lower temperature causes drops of water to cling to the grass; this continued moisture creates an environment ripe for fungus and diseases to flourish.
- Fertilize and/or re-seed your lawn in order to promote growth.
When Should I Aerate My Lawn?
Never aerate a dormant lawn; wait until the grass reaches its peak time for growth, and aerate when the soil is moist. For cool season grasses, aerate in early spring or early fall; for warm-season grasses, aerate in late spring.
How Can I Prevent My Lawn from becoming Compacted?
Since compaction happens on lawn areas that experience heavy use, the most important preventative measure is limiting the traffic in your yard. Of course, you want to be able to enjoy your yard too! But you definitely should not allow motor vehicles, including golf carts or kids’ motorized toys, on your lawn. Also, cut your lawn on a higher setting and dethatch your lawn annually in order to absorb some of the pressure on the grass roots.
Achieving a beautiful lawn requires regular maintenance. But with a little extra TLC now, you will soon be on your way to a healthy, green yard you can enjoy all summer long.