Treating Compacted Soil
The most compacted soil I ever aerated was when a did a lawn for a day care center. The ground felt like concrete when I started aerating it, but was eventually able to soften it up quite a bit by aerating it multiple times.
If you want to treat soil compaction in your lawn, the first thing you’re going to have to do is to get your lawn wet. This makes it easier for an aerator to penetrate the surface and get deeper plugs. Make sure to water your lawn for at least 45 min the night before you aerate it. Then, aerate lawn in the morning because the ground is typically softer during the morning hours. It tends to get hardest in the afternoon.
Most of the time you will rent a mechanical gas powered aerator. You want to use a core aerator rather than a spike aerator because it will give you the best plugs. Make sure to go over your whole on two or three times. Also make sure that you have all of the weights in your machine. You can help the aerator to go deeper by pushing the handle down and lifting up the front while you are aerating.
If it is severely compacted soil, go over yellow or hardened lawn at least twice. In addition, before you start aerating you want to make sure to mark all of your sprinkler heads, or any utility lines or obstacles that you don’t want to hit. It is actually quite difficult (statistically) to break a sprinkler head with an aerator, but you want to mark it just in case so that you can make sure to do a good job when you go over your lawn.
After you have aerated your lawn, you may want to add a little bit of sand to keep the holes from sealing themselves up. In addition, it may be a good idea to add a soil amendment like gypsum to help keep the soil from being compacted. The best way to put this on your lawn is to either throw it on by hand (wearing gloves) or using a drop spreader that has a at least a 2 inch filter. Using gypsum helps to soften up the soil quite a bit. People can use lime as well, but lime tends to also turn the soil alkaline.
The next step is to rake up the plugs, you don’t actually have to do this. A lot of people do it if they don’t want to look at the plugs for the next four weeks. However, if you leave them, they will actually help to form a light top dressing as a breakdown and they may actually help to soften the soil even more. If your have soil that gets compacted regularly, you should plan on aerating your lawn with a lawn aerator at least once a year.
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