How and why to aerate your lawn

reading time: 5 min, 7 sec

As spring arrives there are a wide range of tasks, including lawn care, for gardeners to perform. One that may be neglected is to aerate and then test your lawn. This post discusses why this is a good idea, how best to accomplish aeration, and what to do to your newly-aerated grass.

What is Aeration and why does it matter?

The first question to answer is the obvious one: what actually is aeration? It's a term that is described casually as allowing the lawn to breathe. It's a little more than that, although it's fair to say that your lawn does ingest carbon dioxide and expel oxygen - and aeration helps make that happen!

It's primarily putting little holes into the soil for the purpose of lawn maintenance - it's aimed at allowing air and vital water and nutrients to reach down into the roots. This results in a stronger root system and a more vigorously growing lawn, helping to improve your grass quality.

That's good even if mowing isn't your favourite occupation (like it is ours)!

The problem aeration solves is that of soil compaction, as water and nutrients can't easily find a route to where they need to be when the soil is too compact.

When is the best time to aerate your lawn?

The easy answer to 'the best time' is now - although do finish reading before jumping out of your chair!

As the climate warms up, grass-growing processes become fully active. Spring through summer works best; in autumn and winter the grass grows less so the holes you make won't be as quickly or effectively covered and protected.

Aeration also works as an effective partner activity to other actions you may be taking, such as removing growth-impeding thatch and adding a layer of top dressing.

As for timing, after rainfall is ideal, as it helps make the process easier to accomplish when soil moisture levels are in your favour compared to when the earth is extremely dry and hard.

How often should you aerate your lawn?

How often depends, to a degree, on the type of soil under the surface.

Once a year is recommended for clay soils, and at least every other year if its sandy (although annually is still better).

Another important consideration is the amount of heavy-duty use your lawn is subjected to. For example, if it's a constant 'battleground' enjoyed by sporty kids and their mates or energetic pets, then the level of compaction will be higher than if it's only gently strolled across from time to time!

How to aerate your lawn

Depending, of course, on the size of it, you might decide to manually aerate. For small, or hard-to-reach, areas you might invest in a pair of aerating sandals - yes they do exist. Like a cross between suddenly-lethal flip-flops and exaggerated golf shoes, the spikes do the job as you simply walk over the area. A word of warning though: walking over an area in these might just end up further compacting the soil.

The humble garden fork comes into its own for covering a small area. Insert the tines, wiggle them back and forth and withdraw. A space of eight to ten centimetres between insertions is good. It might be wise to work in both north-south and then again in east-west directions to provide good coverage.

The third option, for larger lawns, or for a more professional finish, is to buy or hire an aerator. The key difference here is that such machines actually remove a plug of soil, rather than simply prising apart what is already there. This is especially valuable for heavier soils, such as clay.

What to do after aerating your lawn

This is a good time to test the pH level of your lawn. Kits are readily available, and a result of between 6 and 7 is recommended - but you'll find a lot of detail on the kit itself.

A lower score suggests a lack of minerals and nutrients, making it more difficult for your lawn to thrive and be as you'd want it to be. Additives can then be used, such as gypsum to assist in the breaking down of heavy clay soils, or lime which can neutralise acidic soil.

After aeration, the holes are a great resource in allowing any fertilisers you use to more easily find their way to where they need to be - deep down in the soil.

Does this sound like hard work? Or are there other personal or family activities you'd prefer to be spending your time on? If so, great news: landscape lawn maintenance is just one of many services our friendly and professional team here at The Garden Men have been successfully providing across Metropolitan Sydney for over two decades.

If you'd like to discuss aerating your lawn, or your lawn and garden care needs, give us a call on 0412 697 045.

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  • Australian Institute of Horticulture
  • Dexus Property Group
  • NSW Strata

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