What Is Aeration and Why You Should Do It

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If you’ve ever been walking on a field of grass and wondered how in the world it could possibly be covered with so much goose poop (Are geese invading? How have they multiplied so quickly? Where are they all hiding?), chances are it wasn’t goose poop at all. It was aeration.

Aeration is the process of perforating or puncturing your lawn so it can more easily obtain beneficial nutrients—mainly, air and water. While it may seem counterintuitive that repeatedly stabbing your lawn over and over can benefit it in the long run, the result is ultimately a more luscious and resilient lawn with a stronger root system.

So, Who Should Aerate?

While aeration will benefit most lawns, some will benefit more than others. If your lawn fits any of the below descriptions, you’re likely a good candidate for aeration.

  • Compaction. How much activity does your lawn get? Are you frequently hosting backyard gatherings? Are kids constantly running around? High activity on lawns can cause soil compaction, which will hinder the grass’ ability to obtain air and water.
    • New construction. If you just bought a brand spanking new home (congrats) it is likely that your lawn was frequented by construction vehicles and workers, making the soil very compact. Similarly, the root growth may not be as deep as it could be, and aeration can alleviate this problem.
  • Very clayey soil. Soil differs greatly depending on region. If you live in a part of the country known for having dense clay soil, aerating your lawn is recommended.
  • Thatch. Thatch is the layer of organic material (leaves, twigs, clippings etc.) residing between the soil and your grass. Some thatch is okay, but too much can hinder your lawn’s ability to grow. If you have more than a half inch of thatch and your lawn—which will give your lawn a bit of a spongey feel to it—consider aeration.

How to Aerate

For one reason or another, you’ve decided to give aeration a go. Here’s how to get started:

  • First, you’ll need some type of equipment to aerate your lawn. Your choice in aeration equipment will ultimately depend on budget and yard size. Here’s a few options:
    • Spikes. If you have a small yard, you can buy “spike shoes” which will allow you to walk around and aerate your yard. Similarly, they sell pull-behind lawn mower attachments.
    • Plugs. Also sold as pull-behind units, plugs are most commonly used by lawn companies and on sports fields.
    • Slicing. Sold as pull-behind and as push units, slicing aerators cut into the ground using sharp blades.

When to Aerate

The timing will depend on where you live. Aerating at the wrong time—like during the middle of a dry spell—can have an adverse effect. A good rule of thumb is to aerate during the peak of the grass’ growing season to allow for maximum root growth. In colder climates, this will usually be in early spring or fall. For warmer climates, this will be in mid-late spring.

I Aerated. What Now?

A great one-two punch after aerating your lawn is to overseed and fertilize. Seriously, this combination will leave your grass looking pristine. The perforations you created from aerating will allow seeds, fertilizer, air, and water to penetrate deeply and encourage your grass to live its best life.

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