Aeration is one of the kindest things you can do for your lawn before putting it to bed for the winter, especially if you have the heavy clay soil that predominates our area. Fall is a good time to aerate your lawn, and I recommend that you do it before you do any overseeding.
Plant roots need water and oxygen. When soil is compacted, there’s little space between soil particles for these essentials. Aeration removes plugs of soil, giving the particles a little more breathing room. The spaces created by aeration quickly close up when a heavy lawnmower is run over it every week and the family plays on the lawn. As a result, aeration may be an annual part of lawn care in many area communities.
At first glance, aerators may look like a big walk behind lawn mower. Instead of blades, though, an aerator has spoon like tines or hollow tubes that the machine drives into the sod. The tubes come out of the soil filled with sod and deposit it on the lawn surface. The “plugs” are left in place to decompose and return organic matter to the lawn.
Initially, the holes left by the sod plugs provide a wide open space for water and oxygen to enter. With time, though, the holes close up with surrounding soil, which expands to fill the empty spaces. The looser soil provides the water and oxygen with a path to penetrate the whole lawn.
Aerators can be rented at equipment rental stores. If you decide on the DIY approach, I think it’ll be a one time task. Next time, you’ll turn it over to our lawn care professionals. An aerator may look like a lawn mower but it’s heavier, takes more strength to control and operates slower than a lawn mower. When you calculate the cost of renting the machine, transporting it to and from your home and the sweat and hard labor you put into the task, I think you’ll opt for having the job done professionally.
Two other jobs that are often associated with aerating are rolling and dethatching. They shouldn’t be. Lawns should not be rolled, especially those growing in clay soil. Rolling is done to take bumps out of the lawn but the soil in those bumps needs to end up somewhere. It fills up already restricted spaces between soil particles, further compacting the soil. If you do roll, it’s best to aerate right after, whether you planned to or not, in order to allow the soil to breathe. Dethatching is the gathering of dead grass plants that accumulate in turf, not grass clippings. Some lawns never need dethatching and most don’t need it as often as aerating. A lawn care professional can advise you on any services needed for a beautiful, healthy lawn.