March 16, 2022

What Is Aeration (And The Best Way To Do It For Great Results)

When we talk to clients about taking care of their lawn and mention the importance of “aeration,” we are sometimes met with: “What is aeration?!”

Even if a property manager or homeowner has heard of it, they probably haven’t made it a regular part of their lawn care. (If you drive around Dallas, though, and notice where the grass really is greener on the other side in some places…we bet they’ve been aerating.)

In this post, we’ll take a look at what aeration means for your lawn, when to aerate, and how to do it the right way.

In our 20+ years of work in the landscape industry, we’ve seen the difference aeration can make in a lawn. And since we think you deserve a great-looking lawn too, here is everything commercial property owners need to know about aeration!

What is Aeration

Aeration is defined as “the introduction of air into a material.”

The word itself could apply to anything! For your lawn, though, aeration is the process of creating lots and lots of small holes which allow air to get closer to the roots of your turf.

Many soils get compacted over time, especially in high-traffic areas. If you have a part of your lawn that people regularly use as a cut-through path, you know how quickly it can affect the health of the grass there. It gets flattened out, turns a paler shade of green, and eventually dies and turns to dust.

That’s because the roots in those areas literally can’t breathe!

Dr. Rebecca Grubbs Bowling, Extension Specialist with Texas A&M’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences points out that, “roots need oxygen and water to survive, and microbes need oxygen to be productive and create healthy soil.”

Healthy soil produces healthy crops. In a large estate or a commercial property (like an apartment complex, for instance), the grass is the largest “crop” you grow. It’s worth the time and effort to help create the best soil conditions possible for your lawn to thrive!

How to Aerate Your Lawn

There are several ways to aerate a lawn, but only one has proven to be the most effective in de-compacting soil and getting much-needed air, water, and nutrients down around the roots where they’re needed.

Here are some of the ways you can aerate:

  • Spiked shoes – One of the simplest ways to aerate your lawn is to poke holes while walking around on it! Aeration shoes (like these) are basically plastic sandals with long spikes on the bottom that you strap onto your regular shoes. As you walk on the grass, the spikes create hundreds of tiny holes behind you.
  • A Fork – Not the kind you eat with…one that looks more like these. Using a fork to aerate your lawn is a lot like using spikes. The holes are just deeper. You simply step down on the fork tines, push them into the ground several inches, then wiggle the fork back and forth to create holes. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it can be a good workout.
  • Manual Core Aerator – (like this one) This is getting a little closer to what we recommend when it comes to aeration. With this tool, you press a couple of hollow tubes into the soil with your foot. When you pull it back up with the handle, it removes small plugs of soil and grass and leaves behind a nice-sized opening for air and water.
  • Gas-powered Aerator – The methods we’ve mentioned so far work well for smaller spaces. But when it comes to larger properties, it just isn’t possible to manually aerate effectively. That’s when it’s time to step up to a gas-powered aerator. They’ll save you a lot of time and backache. There are two types:
    • Spike Aerator – A powered rolling version of the spike shoes and fork we mentioned earlier.
    • Core Aerator – This is our preferred method. Instead of punching holes in the soil, it rolls along removing plugs.

Spike vs Core Aeration

Regardless of the tool you use, aeration methods come down to spikes that poke holes or cores that remove plugs. There are pros and cons to both.

Spike Pros – less expensive, less disruptive, not as noticeable

Spike Cons – the holes you poke increase compaction over time (they just push the soil aside), they don’t usually penetrate very deep

Core Pros – opens up larger holes without increasing compaction (soil is removed instead of pushed aside), the plugs then break down to become a compost top-dressing, deeper holes create a better long-term solution (roots grow better, grass grows thicker)

Core Cons – looks bad until the plugs dissolve, holes are more noticeable until they fill in, can stress your lawn if done too often or at the wrong time

We generally recommend core aeration for larger lawn areas and better overall turf health.

Best Time to Aerate

When you should aerate depends on the type of grass you have in your lawn.

  • Warm-season grasses (such as Bermuda or Zoysia) benefit best from aeration in the early Spring as soon as the ground has thawed. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, our last freeze date is usually around the middle of March, so soon after that is a good time to aerate these grasses.
  • Cool-season grasses (like Fescue) should be aerated in the early Fall as they begin to start greening up.

For Best Results, Trust Pros Who Know Aeration

Your property makes a statement about you. Since the first thing people see is usually your lawn, you deserve to have it give them a great impression.

To ensure that your lawn looks its best, make sure that aeration is part of your lawn maintenance plan. Our turf professionals know how and when to take care of your lawn so that it always says good things about you!

Learn more about our services, then give us a call!

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