Many homeowners take pride in their lawn. You set up a watering schedule, you plan ahead to fertilize, and you make sure your lawn is the thickest and greenest in the neighborhood. It’s time to dig deeper into your lawn care – literally. Under the surface of your lawn, the soil is compacting season after season, stunting your grass growth.
Believe it or not, one of the main causes of soil compaction could be your lawn care routine. That’s right, pushing your mower over your lawn every other week puts pressure on your lawn. Those small wheels sink into the ground and force your soil to compress. This compression can also occur with animals trotting around your yard – whether it’s your furry family member or intruders like raccoons, neighborhood cats, or deer. Even having friends and family in our backyard or kids playing in your yard can cause your soil to compact faster than you think!
When soil compacts, it becomes more dense and stronger. This makes it more difficult for your plants to grow roots, as it takes a lot of energy to break through the dense, thick soil that has been compacted. This also makes it difficult for nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to move through the soil to your plant’s roots. These nutrients are vital for the growth and greenness of your lawn. Soil can also compact towards the surface of your lawn, often called “soil crusting,” which can make it difficult for water and fertilizer to be absorbed into the soil. The consequences of compacted soil, even only a quarter of half an inch deep, can lead to poor plant growth or dormant growth.
When the soil is compacted, we need to give it room to breathe and move nutrients again. That’s where lawn aeration comes in. Aerating your lawn includes poking holes into your soil and removing small, tubular parts of your lawn. This leaves small holes for your soil to breathe! That aeration also gives nutrients paths to move through the soil to plant roots, which then have room to grow. Amazing what a little extra room will do for your lawn.
If it’s not already, monitoring your soil for compaction should be an integral part of your lawn care routine. Compacted soil deprives your plants of water, oxygen, and nutrients. Here are the signs your soil is too compact, and your lawn needs to be aerated:
If you’re still not sure if you need to aerate your lawn, there is one way to test your soil. The final test to tell if your soil is compacted and your yard needs lawn aeration is called the “screwdriver test.” All you need is a regular screwdriver! Take the screwdriver and stick it in the ground. A healthy, aerated soil will easily slip the screwdriver into your soil with no resistance. If it is difficult to put your screwdriver into the soil, then your soil is compacted. If it’s difficult for your metal screwdriver to penetrate your lawn, imagine how your plant roots are doing!
The short answer is: right before your lawn’s main growing season. You should never aerate your lawn when it is not growing, it can cause unnecessary stress to your already-struggling lawn. Remember, cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses have different growing seasons. Similar, but different. If your lawn is full of cool-season grass, meaning you live in the north, the best time for lawn aeration is in the early fall or early spring. For warm-season grass, those lawns that thrive in the Sun Belt, the best time to aerate is late spring and early summer. Here’s why: growing grass is regenerating every day, so it’s easy to recover from soil damage (which is essentially the process of lawn aeration). The grass roots and nutrients will fill in the gaps lawn aeration opens up in your yard.
There are a few ways to aerate your lawn, but most homeowners choose to use spike aerators, which is a tool you can push into your lawn and pull up a tube of soil, creating aeration holes. All you have to do is poke the spike aerator into your lawn, evenly spreading out your spots for a good distribution of aeration holes. You can even DIY a pair of spike aerator shoes and quickly walk around the yard – easiest lawn care step ever! There are spike aerator machines out there, but just like your lawn mower, they can actually worsen soil compaction because where they don’t poke holes, they compress soil! If you still would rather push an aerator than poke each hole, choose a slicing aerator or plug aerator. We recommend using a wide set slice or plug aerator with smaller wheels, to avoid any unwarranted compaction. This does leave the lifted soil on top of your lawn, which isn’t pretty, but remember that it will quickly breakdown. Your diligent lawn care created that rich soil, so allow your lawn to absorb it and designate it to the proper spots.
The biggest mistake homeowners can make in their lawn aeration is forgetting about their sprinkler heads. We just described to you many ways to slice and cut through your lawn, but if you aren’t mindful of your irrigation system, you could damage it. You could end up breaking expensive equipment or worse – springing a leak, leading to a swamp of a lawn! All you have to do to avoid this costly mistake is flag your sprinkler heads. This way, during lawn aeration, you can easily maneuver and avoid your sprinklers.
Now that you know how to aerate your lawn, here’s how you can prevent your lawn from needing aeration more frequently than once a year:
Lawn aeration is a vital part of your lawn care routine that does wonders to restore green, healthy grass. Right after aeration is also the best time to fertilize your lawn! You just created pockets and airways that allow your soil to properly absorb nutrients from lawn food. Depending on the time of year you decide to aerate, choose a fertilizer fit for that season. Here at Simple Lawn Solutions, we have liquid lawn food perfect for spring & summer, as well as summer & fall. For the best-looking, healthiest lawn possible follow these steps:
Our products are kid and pet safe, so your freshly aerated and fertilized lawn is on its way to greener grass, without the harsh chemicals! Ready to aerate? Get your liquid lawn food right now so you’re ready for prime fertilization time.
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