Once spring has officially hit the calendar, it’s quite easy to get overwhelmed by the number of potential gardening projects you have to start, including buying a lawn plug aerator to make your lawn look perfect.
Seeding, planting, moving flowers from pots to the soil in your garden and many other similar DIY projects might seem to keep you occupied until the next season, so how do you stay on top of the game?
Before thinking about decorative plants and accessories for your garden, you first have to consider the condition of your lawn and what improvements you can make to get thicker, shinier, perfect grass. Here is everything you need to know about the process of aeration and how to properly aerate the lawn.
What is aeration?
Many homeowners are beginner gardeners so it’s only normal they don’t pay attention or don’t know the many processes behind keeping their lawn perfect. Most of them think that mowing the lawn every other week or so and installing sprinkles will get them bright green and aligned grass.
However, looking after your lawn first starts with a process that is called (soil) aeration. In time, the soil becomes compacted naturally as it is affected by direct sunlight, heat, rain, and many months of mechanical mowing.
Most people will notice a superficial or thick layer of thatch, a type of organic matter made out of dead grass and roots. Thatch usually collects at the base of the living grass, making it difficult for the roots to receive necessary water, oxygen, and other nutrients to thrive.
Yard aeration can significantly improve the quality and health of your grass, allowing roots to grow stronger and deeper. By using a lawn plug aerator, you can punch through the build-up and grant your grass access to nutrients. In time, the process will prevent the landscape from diseases and harsh weather effects, promoting the growth of more resilient grass.
What’s even more important is that aeration can make the seeding process more effective, ensuring enhanced seed-to-soil contact for higher chances of germination and growth. In other words, you won’t deal with “bald spots” on your lawn so you won’t have to replace the entire batch too often.
When should you aerate the lawn?
Contrary to common belief, aerating your lawn in the springtime might not be the best solution for you, especially if you live in areas like Virginia and Maryland.
The reason behind this is that most grass you’ll find in Northern Virginia and Maryland is cool-season turf, which means the grass will stop its growing process in the fall, right before becoming dormant in the wintertime.
Therefore, the best time to seed your lawn and aerate it is early fall or late summer, preferably between mid-August and the beginning of October.
Even if you live in other areas in the country, aerating during the springtime should only be done under special circumstances. If your soil is compacted to the point that new grass can’t grow, you can perform aeration in spring.
However, the main reason why you should avoid it in these conditions is that, at this time of the year, aeration holes can offer the perfect spot for weed seeds to germinate. Crabgrass and other types of weed seeds will germinate in early spring, even before your regular grass, which will lead to an uneven lawn with many holes in it.
Late spring aerating is more feasible but only if the soil is excessively compact or if the turf is thin. In any other circumstances, the best time to perform this chore is during early fall when temperatures have cooled off a little and the weed pressure is minimal.
As we previously mentioned, lawn aeration can be conducted in various months of the year, depending on where you live. If it’s mainly recommended in early fall in areas like Virginia and Maryland, other states like Ohio might require it faster.
Generally speaking, weeds start to germinate when the soil temperatures reach around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which usually happens around late March or early April in Ohio. Therefore, if you live in this area, the best time to aerate the lawn is between March 1st – March 15th, before it gets too warm.
Why is rolling bad for your lawn?
Another misconception is that you should roll the lawn in the springtime to smoothen out all the lumps and bumps and get a more even look. However, this is a bad idea because it is the easiest and fastest way to squish down the soil and make it compacted which, in turn, will cause your grass to stop growing or grow incredibly slow.
How to aerate the lawn?
Now that you know what aeration means and why is it important for your lawn, let’s take a closer look at some of the methods to do so.
Depending on your budget, preferences, and the surface of your front lawn, you can choose from spike aerators, slicing aerators, and core or plug devices. Each comes with its own benefits and downsides, so be careful which one you invest in.
Spike aerators are the most convenient in terms of price as their only job is to poke a hole down into the soil with the help of a solid, spike-like line. Some homeowners prefer to wear special sandals with spikes to aerate as they walk all over the lawn, inch by inch.
The technique is only feasible for small-scale gardens and front lawns but some spiking machines and accessories can even cause more harm. They can make compaction worse by pressing the soil together near the holes.
On the contrary, core or plug aerators are mainly preferred by lawn professionals. They use rows of hollow lines to remove plugs of soil from the lawn and deposit them on the surface, where they can easily break down.
Depending on the machine you use, the size of the plugs, and the holes they make vary in width and depth.
Slicing aerators feature rotating blades that slice or cut through the grass and down into the soil. Similar to spike aerators, slicing machines will leave the soil in the ground but they create new circuits for the water, air, and nutrients to move without causing further compaction.
What do you do after aeration?
Soil aeration isn’t a difficult job but it might be time-consuming, especially if you choose spike aerators. After finishing the process, you need to let the extra soil or soil plugs dry. They will either crumble the next time you mow or break down and disappear after the next rain, leaving your grass completely clean and fresh.
The perfect time to overseed and fertilize your lawn is right after the aeration, as this is when the soil is the most susceptible to gain nutrients and regenerate. Consider the process similar to a hot bath that opens your pores – applying any scrubs, facial masks, or creams right after a bath is more beneficial because this is when your skin can soak in all the elements.
The same happens to a freshly aerated lawn – it can absorb nutrients faster and even allow new seeds to grow stronger, thicker, and faster.
Keeping your lawn looking lush and healthy is a full-time job, especially if you cannot afford replacing it after each season.
By using aeration once a year or doing regular compaction tests, you can look after your grass, understand its needs, and act accordingly. This way, you’ll allow the grass to absorb all the necessary nutrients, water, and oxygen, which will help it reach its full potential and grow thicker.
If you don’t seem to have enough knowledge or experience, the best way to look after your lawn would be to call a professional. Gardeners and landscapers know what’s the right treatment for your grass, depending on its type, thickness, and the soil used to grow it. A pro will also determine the perfect moment for aeration and the right tools to do it to get the perfect results.
When comparing prices, you might find that buying seeds, fertilizer, and the aerator, combined with the time and effort you have to spend on the job will cost you more than hiring a professional company to do it for you while you’re sipping on a cold beer.