Lawn Aeration is an excellent way to revive your lawn for a relatively small investment of both time and money. Using a hollow tine aerator just once a year will reverse the damage caused by thatch buildup, compacted soil and even fungi. They are fairly easy to use and even the efficient, gas-powered models are for around $50.
Although there are many choices for lawn aerating tools, a hollow tine aerator is by far the best option. Those with spikes, such as the kind that attach to your lawn mower, simply displace the soil, where the hollow tines, or spoons, actually remove a core of soil, allowing for better aeration. The goal of lawn aeration is to create space for roots to expand and to make sure water, nutrients, and air have full access to the roots.
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You can find hollow tine aerators in both manual and power varieties. Both function in the same way, but the manual aerators are much more labor and time intensive. The only time you would want to use a manual aerator is if you need to aerate only a small chunk of land. This is the case if you have fairy rings on your lawn. Fairy rings are signified by a ring of very green, fast-growing grass surrounding an area of patchy, dying grass. They are caused by a fungus that is also sometimes present in and around the ring. Use an aerator to break up the fungus by removing chunks of soil. Because this is a finite area of land, and may need more precision, it will be easier to use a hand aerator than a power aerator.
For all other aeration tasks, a gas-powered aerator is the way to go. These are rented from most home and garden stores for around $70 a day. They weigh upwards of 200 pounds and work sort of like a lawn mower. As the aerator pushes across the lawn, a rotating cylinder surrounded with hollow spoons punches out chunks of soil. The penetration depth is adjustable up to 3 or 4 inches, depending on the aerator. Because of their heft, they usually need two people to move. In addition, although operation is fairy uncomplicated, it requires a good deal of physical strength and endurance.
Before you get started, there are few things you can do that will make the process easier.
First, choose the right time of year. The goal is to catch the grass right as it begins to grow. For warm season grasses, this is in spring; for cool season grasses, late summer or early fall is best. The night before you plan to aerate, thoroughly water your lawn. This will loosen up the soil and make penetration easier. This is especially important if you live in a very dry or arid climate or have high clay content in your soil. Next, identify sprinkler heads, particularly those that are low-lying. If there are several on your lawn, you may want to mark them with a flag.
When you are ready to aerate, you will need to decide how many passes to make. If the clay content is high, it has been more than a year since you last aerated, or your thatch is thicker than ¾ of an inch, then you will probably want to make two, or even three passes. Otherwise, one pass will be fine. Begin your first pass the way you would mow your lawn – move in straight rows back and forth over the area. If a second pass is needed, this pass should be done perpendicular to the first. When you finish, there will be thousands of small cores of soil scattered across your lawn. You can rake those up and remove them, rake them into the lawn, or leave them be and let them dissolve. Leaving them on the lawn, though somewhat unsightly, will actually help new grass seed grow more quickly.
If you follow these lawn aerating tips, and aerate once a year, you will have a lush, thriving lawn for years to come.