When your grass looks wimpy, you are in an unending war with weeds and your yard looks a swamp every time it rains, you know your lawn is in trouble. The problem may not be with your weed killer or fertilizer habits. Compacted soil is a common problem many homeowners overlook. If you are asking yourself if you need to aerate your lawn, the answer is probably yes.
Why Aeration Matters
Grass roots need loose soil that is easy to dig deep down into and air circulation to help keep disease at bay. Over time, rain, irrigation, and foot traffic pounds and compacts soil into a dense brick like coffee grounds in an espresso machine. Grass roots become shallow, strangled, weak and disease-prone.
Signs of compacted soil can include:
•Thin, weak grass that does not respond to fertilizers
•Excessive water pooling after rain or irrigation
•Bare spots from foot traffic
•Ongoing problems with root diseases and pests
•Weeds like chicory, knotweed and quack grass
•Topsoil that seems to wash away no matter what you do
Natural landscapes like forests have a diverse range of burrowing critters and diverse plant roots that help break apart the soil and keep it airy. Our lawns need a little human intervention, and mechanical aeration is just what Mother Nature ordered.
When and How Often Matters
Timing your aeration can have a big impact on the overall health of your turf. If you have never aerated your lawn before, getting it done right away may be a good idea no matter what. After that, a regular schedule is warranted.
•Most lawns: Aerate at least once a year in fall, immediately before overseeding or fertilizing
•For lawns with heavy foot traffic: Aerate twice a year, in spring and fall
•Newly established seed or sod lawns: Not within the first year; after that, check for robust root growth before your first aeration
You can also use your aeration timing to help you improve your overall soil health. A scant layer of quality compost applied over a freshly aerated lawn will gradually fix drainage issues and fortify nutrient availability.
Aeration should be on every lawn maintenance plan. Schedule it now so it will not slip your mind when the next aeration season rolls around.