Why is aeration important for your lawn? Throughout the year, the top layer of your lawn’s soil becomes more and more compacted. This occurs as thatch builds up which invites all sorts of harmful bacteria, mold, mildew disease and insects. This thick layer prevents oxygen, water and vital nutrients from reaching the soil, leaving your lawn dull and lifeless. This is why your lawn soil needs to be loosened from time to time.
How does aeration work?
Aeration is the process of removing soil plugs through putting shallow holes into the ground. For a medium to large lawn, typical in the Raleigh area, a special machine is used – an aerator. Not all aerators are equally good for this task. Some machines just push the soil down and contribute to compaction of lower layers. Moreover, an aerator should have the right tine diameter and be heavy and powerful enough to reach the necessary penetration depth.
The penetration depth is usually determined based on the type of your soil. It is also crucial to decide if the soil has the right moisture level. If the soil is too dry, the holes may not be deep enough, but if it’s too wet, even a perfectly fit aerator may tear up the lawn and further compact the soil instead of loosening it.
A lawn that has been neglected for several years may need to be power raked before aeration to remove excessive thatch build-up.
Once extracted, the soil plugs should be left on the surface of the lawn. They promote a healthy population of microorganisms that help further break down your lawn thatch.
How often should a lawn be aerated?
Ideally, aeration should occur at least twice a year, in the spring and late summer/early fall, especially for lawns with clay-based soil like most of the soil in the Triangle, North Carolina. When aeration is performed in the fall, it is beneficial to a use winterizer in addition to a regular fertilizer to keep your lawn healthy throughout the winter.
You can do a simple test to find out if your lawn is in urgent need for aeration. Take a screwdriver and insert it into the soil. If the screwdriver goes down easily, the soil should be fine. If insertion is difficult, it’s time for aeration.
After aeration, your lawn needs about four weeks to recover, so this procedure should not be performed more than every month.