Aeration is one of the most important things you can do for your lawn. It is the process of removing thousands of plugs of thatch and soil approximately 2 inches deep and 5/8" in diameter from the lawn to improve soil aeration.
Core aeration helps the lawn's health and vigor, and it reduces maintenance requirements. The following are other benefits of core aeration:
- Improves air exchange between the soil and the atmosphere
- Enhances soil water uptake
- Improves fertilizer uptake and use
- Improves turf grass rooting
- Reduces soil compaction
- Enhances heat and drought stress tolerance
- Improves resiliency and cushioning
- Accelerates thatch break down
Why is Lawn Aeration Necessary?
In most home lawns, the natural soil has been seriously distributed by the building process. Fertile top soil may have been removed or buried during excavation of the basement or footings, leaving top soil that is more compacted, higher in clay content and less desirable for healthy lawn growth. These lawns need aeration to improve the depth and extent of turf grass rooting and to improve fertilizer and water use.
The ROOT SYSTEM of your lawn is constantly attempting to renew itself by forming and sending out new shoots. This new growth is more extensive in loose open soil. In clay soils or heavy compacted soil, new roots will stay near the soil surface. if there is a thatch build up and the soil is hard, new roots mat remain in the thatch layer. This produces a lawn that dries out quickly and accumulates thatch at an accelerated rate compared to a lawn that is deeply rooted.
Compaction is greater in heavy clay soils, and it is most prevalent in the upper 1 to 1 1/2 inches of soil. Aeration helps lawn growing in compacted soils and heavily used lawns by improving the depth and extent of turf grass rooting, allowing better water uptake, enhancing fertilizer use, and speeding up thatch breakdown.
Most home lawns are subject to thatch accumulation. Thatch is a tight layer of living and dead roots and stems which accumulate at the soil surface. Thatch accumulation will cause the grass roots to be shallow making the turf susceptible to damage by heat, drought, environmental stress, and disease infestation. If thatch is left unmanaged it will lead to serious maintenance problems.
The aeration process reduces thatch build up, minimizes its accumulation, and modifies its make up by incorporating soil with the thatch. As soil is combined with thatch debris, soil organisms are better able to break down the thatch and reduce accumulation.
Thatch accumulates faster on compacted soils, clay soils, and subsoils that are disturbed during the building process. Therefore lawns require frequent aeration to prevent thatch build up. Most home lawn growing on heavy clay, or highly compacted soils require annual aeration to restrict thatch accumulation.
When Should Lawns be Aerated?
Annual aeration is beneficial for most lawns. Lawns growing on heavy clay or subsoils, and lawns exposed to intense use benefit from more than one aeration each year. Aeration can be done spring or fall. Fall aeration is preferable as new root development is more prevalent at this time of year and continues through most of the winter. Aeration creates the growth zones new roots need to achieve the maximum benefit from the season. Aeration before or at the time of late season fertilization enhances root growth and response and improves spring green up and growth.
What Can You Expect from Lawn Aeration?
Immediately after aeration your lawn will be dotted with small plugs of soil. Within a few weeks these small plugs of soil will break apart and disappear into the lawn.
Don't expect miracles from a single aeration, particularly on lawns growing in extremely poor soils. By aerating your lawn on a yearly basis, you will create an environment for healthy turf, and you may prevent the need for more extensive renovation that often becomes necessary on lawns with poor soil.