Aerating Your Lawn
Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Does my lawn need an aeration? When should I aerate my lawn? What are the benefits of a lawn aeration?
In this post we will take you through the basics and benefits of a lawn aeration. We will explain what a lawn aeration is, the best time of year to aerate your lawn, how to prepare your lawn for an aeration and if you should overseed with your lawn aeration.
What is a lawn aeration?
For many of us an aeration of the lawn is the machine that leaves behind the "dog turd" like soil plugs.
In essence this is true. A lawn aeration is the mechanical removal of cores of soil measuring approximately 1/2 inch wide and up to 3 inches deep. These soil plugs are deposited on top of the lawn along with any thatch, where they will begin to filter back into the lawn and the thatch will start to break down naturally. While the thatch is breaking down, it will increase microbial activity in your soil. Increased microbial activity creates a healthy environment for your lawn to grow in and will help break down additional thatch build-up. Aerating your lawn each year will help keep thatch levels in check, alleviate soil compaction and increase root development.
When is the best time of year to aerate?
Late August through mid October is the best time of year to aerate your lawn in the Kansas City metro area. Aerating your lawn in the spring can delay the application of pre-emergents, leaving your lawn vulnerable to crabgrass & foxtail breakthrough. It can also potentially expose the roots to freezing temperatures. Aerating your lawn in late summer to early fall will allow you to overseed with the aeartion, giving the seeds proper time to establish a root system before the heat of next summer.
What are the benefits of aerating my lawn?
Once your lawn has been plugged and the soil is opened up you will begin to experience the benefits of your lawn aeration.
Soil in our area is largely clay based which can become easily compacted. Heavily compacted soils can cause many problems in your lawn such as thin and bare areas, improper draining, uneven and stunted growth, shallow roots and lawn disease issues. Removing soil plugs through a lawn aeration will help alleviate soil compaction, allowing more oxygen, water and nutrients to reach your lawns' rootzone.
A lawn aeration will also help reduce thatch build up in your lawn. Overtime a layer of thatch can develop in between the crown of the grass plant and the soil.
Thatch consists of organic matter that has yet to decompose. It is primarily made up of your lawns roots, stems & stolons, both living and dead. A thick layer of thatch can restrict air flow to the roots. Your lawns' roots can also become entangled in the thatch layer, leaving you with a shallow root system. This will cause the lawn to dry out much quicker during hot, dry periods while also decreasing your watering efficiency. Insects and fungus, responsible for lawn damaging disease, harbor in the thatch layer making your lawn more vulnerable to these additional stresses. Bluegrass lawns will be much more susceptible to developing thatch build up as this variety of grass spreads through rhizomes or underground roots.
A lawn aeration will help improve fertilizer and watering efficiency as nutrients can find their way to the rootzone much easier. Your root structure will also become stronger as it has more room to expand and dive deeper into the soil. A strong root system will create a healthier, more durable stand of turf.
Does my lawn need an aeration?
Given the many benefits, an aeration is encouraged on every lawn each fall to help the soil breathe, encourage proper root development and increase healthy microbial activity in the soil.
If you suspect or experience any of the following issues in your lawn, then an aeration would be beneficial.
Dull color, uneven or thin growth.
Heavy thatch build-up in the lawn.
Hard clay soil.
Improper draining of the lawn.
Compacted or worn areas due to pets and kids playing in the lawn.
Lingering lawn disease issues.
Click the link below to schedule your lawn aeration or request a lawn evaluation if any of these issues apply to your lawn.
How do I prepare my lawn for an aeration?
So you've decided you want to aerate your lawn. How should you prepare your lawn to get the most out of your aeration? If you've enlisted Bison Lawns to assist you with your lawn aeration we will notify you at least 2 days ahead of your scheduled service date to give you ample time to prepare your lawn.
The first and most important thing you want to do is to make sure the soil is soft enough for the aerator to pull decent sized plugs. If the aerator tines are not able to penetrate the soil very deep you will not receive the benefits of a proper lawn aeration. If our area has been in a dry spell and the ground is hard you will want to run your irrigation system the next couple of mornings prior to the aeration to help soften up the soil. If you do not have an irrigation system you can place a sprinkler in an area for half an hour to help add moisture to the soil.
The next thing you want to do is to give the lawn a fresh mow. If you are overseeding the lawn with the aeration it would also be a good idea to lower the deck to around 2.5 inches and bag up the clippings. This will help the seeds find their way into the holes plugged and create better seed to soil contact.
Finally, if you have an irrigation system, you will want to mark each of your sprinkler heads and valve boxes with a small flag so these do not get damaged during the aeration process. Any electric dog fences and shallow or exposed utility lines should also be flagged.
Should I overseed with my aeration?
Before overseeding your lawn, whether it be with an aeration or a verticut, you want to first evaluate the current condition of your lawn. What variety of grass do you have? Are there any large bare areas or really thin areas? Next, you want to decide what type of grass seed to buy and where to purchase it from. This, above all, is the most important factor when overseeding the lawn.
Overseeding with a Turf Type Tall Fescue blend is largely recommended for our area as it is more heat tolerant and drought resistant than bluegrass. Fescue takes twice as less water as bluegrass to thrive and is also a more dense variety of grass which will result in a thicker lawn. Thicker lawns will crowd out weeds much more efficiently.
If your lawn is primarily bluegrass and you intend to overseed with fescue, it is recommended to also verticut the lawn
with your aeration. Fescue grows in a small clump and would only germinate and grow in the plugged holes. This could create a pot marked, uneven appearance in your bluegrass lawn. Verticutting creates small slits and rows in the soil where the grass can germinate evenly throughout. Any really thin or bare areas should also be verticutted.
Next, it's time to choose which seed to purchase and where to get it from. Seed from big box stores contain a mixture of grass, weed and crop seed that you DO NOT want growing in your lawn. They can contain perennial grass seeds such as orchardgrass, which can become an issue in your lawn for years to come. It is very important to read the label on any seed you purchase to make sure it contains 0% weed seed and 0% crop seed. Quality seed mixes can be purchased at any landscape supply or nursery locations.
For example, one pound of Turf Type Tall Fescue contains roughly 250,000 seeds and one pound of Kentucky Bluegrass can contain over 1 million seeds! Purchasing the wrong bag of seed could potentially introduce thousands of unwanted weed and crop seeds to your lawn.
As you can see from the pictures on the left, bare areas fill in much quicker and more evenly when a verticut and overseed is performed as opposed to an aeration and overseed.
For more information about overseeding your lawn, please read our Overseeding Your Lawn post!