Who should have aeration done on their home lawns?
You are probably wondering to yourself, “Do I need to have lawn aeration performed on my lawn?”. As a general rule, I recommend aeration to all of my customers whose lawns I manage. Some lawns are in greater need of aeration than others, but it will be beneficial for all lawns. I feel it is part of a complete lawn management program and should be done on an annual basis for most lawns.
What is aeration?
For people that do not know what lawn aeration is, I always mention golf course greens. If you have ever played golf in the fall on most golf courses, you might see all the half-inch diameter holes in the green. These holes are from an aerator, where they have removed the plug of turf and soil from the green. On a golf course these cores need to be picked up because obviously putting would be impossible if the cores were left on the green. Here is an example of what the aerator and the cores look like.
Aeration is basically the process of removing plugs of soil and turf from the lawn. An aerator operates much like a walk behind mower. It travels across the surface of the lawn with 3-4” long hollow tines spaced a few inches apart that pull the soil core out of the ground. Those cores are left on the surface of the lawn to naturally break down. Unlike on a golf green, picking up the cores is not necessary in a home lawn and we actually want the cores to break down and fall back into the holes.
When should I aerate?
Aeration is most effective in the fall, typically between September 1st and November 15th . Aeration any earlier than that can lead to drying out of the lawn because of the exposed holes to the hot dry summer air. The aerator itself would also be less effective on a hard lawn that hasn’t seen much rain in weeks. Aeration any later than that will not be as effective because the lawn will not have enough opportunity to recover before the winter. The best time to aerate is when the ground is moist and the air temperatures are going to remain below 80 degrees for the most part.
Spring aeration is still acceptable, but I would always recommend the fall aeration over spring aeration. Spring aeration can be very tricky because of how wet the soil gets from the high level of precipitation. I would generally only recommend spring aeration if it was a really troublesome lawn needing multiple aerations per year. I also feel that a double aeration (going over the lawn twice, pulling twice the number of cores) in the fall can accomplish the same results as an aeration in the spring and another in the fall. Not to mention, it will save you money doing it on one visit as opposed to splitting the service into two visits.
Why do I need to aerate?
You may be thinking . . . what could I possibly do to compact my lawn?
Lawn mowers, people walking on the lawn, irrigation and precipitation, and soil types all contribute to compaction. Aeration accomplishes multiple things that are beneficial for home lawns. The main benefit is the reduction in compaction. Aeration also allows air, moisture, and nutrients easier access to the root-zone. Aeration can also play a role in maintaining an adequate thatch level. Some people think all thatch is bad, which is untrue, some thatch is needed to protect the turf, but it is when it gets too dense and become puffy that the thatch layer can become a problem. The expanded growth of the root system is the ultimate goal because it allows better drought tolerance and simply promotes stronger turf.
Where should I go to have my lawn aerated?
Believe it or not the big box stores and hardware stores do rent lawn aerators if you desire to perform this process on your own. You will need a pickup truck and some ramps or a trailer of some sort to pick-up the machine, because it is large, cumbersome, and will not fit in most other vehicles. The rental cost will be a minimum of about $60 (for 4 hours) up to $85 for the entire day. You will need to clean the machine thoroughly to remove all dirt and debris, and you will need to return the aerator to the store. It will take you at least an hour to pickup the machine, clean it, and then return it when you are done. Really, at this point you should just call us! The average medium sized lawn will cost you $180.00 for aeration by a professional.
Still thinking of DIY aeration? Consider your time! On top of the cost and time to get the aerator to your home there is the actual time it will take you to aerate your entire lawn. All lawns are different in shape and obstacles, but it should take anywhere between 30-60 minutes to complete a fairly open 10,000 sq. ft. lawn. If you have a lot of little tight spots or obstacles to go around and you need to continuously turn the aerator your time will increase dramatically. Add in the fatigue factor which can be pretty high with the rental aerators (they are simply not really user friendly, they are heavy and take a strong arm technique to lift the tines out of the ground when turning around. The rental units are usually 24” or less so it would basically be like push-mowing the lawn, but factor in some extra time for the maneuvering and the heaviness of the machine. So does this sound like an enjoyable way to spend a fall afternoon? . . . if not then please feel free to contact Beautiful Blooms Landscape & Design LLC for professional lawn aeration. We have a state of the art aerator that is 50% larger than most rental units. It also has a steering mechanism for easy maneuvering around obstacles and along bed edges and a chariot that the operator can stand on and be towed around the property. It makes aerating an enjoyable experience, especially when you think about how much of an impact you are having on the health of the lawn!