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How to Aerate Your Lawn

Is your lawn as green as your neighbors or does it looked stressed and faded? It could be that you’re missing an important step in lawn care. If you’ve never heard the word “aeration” before, it’s time that you understand the importance of aerating your lawn and how to do it using a yard aerator.

When to aerate your lawn

Aeration is necessary when the roots in your grass aren’t getting enough oxygen necessary to grow deeper into the soil. Soils that are predominantly clay, or turf areas that get heavy foot traffic, can become too dense, making it tough for grass roots to mature properly.

Perform a simple test by using a shovel to dig a square-foot grass section 6 inches deep. Do the roots extend further than 2 inches deep?  If they don’t, it’s time to aerate your lawn.

If your lawn is cool-season grass like fescue, bluegrass or rye, aerate from August through October when the grass is coming out of hot weather dormancy and begins active growth again. Warm-season grass, such as Bermuda, St. Augustine or Zoysia, should be aerated from April through June.

Yard aerator equipment

The aerating process can be done using a power aerator (also called a coring machine), a mower attachable universal style, or a foot-pressed manual aerator.  The power style is about the size of a snow blower and has a circular wheel with hollow cylinders or spikes. A larger machine is needed for big yards.

Manual yard aerators will usually have four hollow cylinders on the bottom of a foot plate that allows you to press it into the ground like a shovel. This type works best for small grassy areas, unless you really want a serious physical workout.

How to aerate your lawn

With the right equipment and a little muscle, you can learn how to aerate your lawn.

  1. Prepare your lawn: A day or two prior to aerating, water your lawn with a sprinkler or hose and apply at least 1 inch of water. Measure the water by placing a small container in the watering area and stop when there is 1 inch inside. This step softens the soil for deeper penetration and to make it easier to remove the plugs.
  2. Use markers: Use markers on any irrigation heads or other hidden objects that you don’t want to go over with the aerator.
  3. Work the aerator: Use a pattern that works each area only one time if you have sandy soil or have aerated previously. For clay or highly compacted soil, you should make two passes, using a different angle the second time.
  4. Plugs and holes: Those unsightly plugs can be allowed to decompose naturally, or you can rake them and add them to your composter. Use your own compost to fill in the holes or apply peat moss or sand.
  5. Reseed and fertilize: Plan to apply grass seed and fertilizer soon after aerating your lawn.

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