Aerating Your Lawn for Spring Revival
As your lawn begins to wake up from its winter dormancy, you are probably concerned with the everyday lawn maintenance tasks: planting, fertilizing, mowing, and watering. But have you considered aeration? Aeration can be a vital factor in maintaining your lawn’s health, and will produce the best results if done before both spring planting and fertilization tasks.Why is Aeration Necessary?
Your lawn’s roots are growing in soil that, over time, has the tendency to become compacted. This effect is usually due to foot traffic and the general soil structure – clay soils have the tendency to become compacted more easily than sandy soils. As the soil becomes compacted, important spaces between soil particles become lost. Passages through the soil become more constricted, which limits how deeply the roots can grow, how much oxygen can reside in the soil, and how much water, fertilizer, and other nutrients can travel through the soil and reach the roots.
Due to a lack of nutrients and stunted root growth, the lawn will begin to suffer and be less tolerant of stresses such as extreme heat or cold, drought, pests, weeds, and disease. How does aeration help reverse all of these problems? To aerate is to physically remove plugs of soil from the ground in order to reintroduce those necessary spaces. Once those spaces are recreated, fertilizer, water, and even new seeds will be able to fall into the holes and become better incorporated into the soil structure.
Testing Your Soil
First, determine whether your soil is compacted in the first place. You may notice that your lawn is more susceptible to stress or that it is having a hard time greening up; but these problems could be attributed to other things besides compaction. Try to stick a screwdriver or pen into the soil – if it has difficulty going down very far, then you have a soil compaction problem.
The Aerating Process
To aerate, you should rent a core aerator from a garden supply store. “Spikers” or spiked shoes are marketed as aerators, but they do not remove plugs of soil and will actually worsen your lawn’s compaction. With the core aerator, you should be removing 20 to 40 plugs of soil from each square foot of grass, with each plug measuring 2 or 3” long and ¾” in diameter.
Leave the soil plugs on the lawn to decompose. They will provide microorganisms and nutrients to the soil. If you don’t like the look of these soil plugs littered across your lawn, use a rake to break them up. Depending on the soil and the amount of foot traffic your lawn is exposed to, you may have to aerate up to twice a year.
It’s important to aerate early in the season because aeration will stress your lawn, and your lawn will need time to repair itself from that stress. Making aeration one of your first lawn maintenance tasks will give your lawn that necessary healing time, as well as make your watering and fertilizing more effective throughout the season. The result will be a beautiful spring lawn for you and your neighbors to admire.
Jonathan McGraw is a natural landscape designer who writes for Naturesfinestseed.com, known for its environmentally safe grass seed, reclamation projects and selection of hearty lawn choices like Buffalograss Seed.
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