Just like your body needs oxygen to survive and thrive, so too does your lawn. With varying weather conditions, usage patterns, and debris build-up, it’s important to provide your yard with the time and space it needs to build a healthy, sustainable foundation. Although there are a handful of different ways to tackle that very task, few will work as well as a thorough lawn aeration.

In this article, we’re going to explore lawn aeration in great detail, discussing the project need-to-knows and the steps you can take to ensure that your lawn sees a year of incredible health.

What Is Lawn Aeration?

To put it simply, lawn aeration is the process of creating lawn turf openings – think of hole punches – that allow for deep roots and soils to gain oxygen and nutrient access. Over time, your lawn will experience plenty of debris build-up, otherwise commonly referred to as thatch. Primarily stemming from grass clippings and other organic materials, thatch can be a wonderful aid in the development and sustained health of your lawn due to it’s compostable composition. That said, you’ll begin to run into issues with thatch that builds up any thicker than 1-inch, at which point the debris will begin to suffocate the lawn, retain excess moisture, and lead to slowed growth or long-term decay.

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It’s this thatch build-up, and the lawn issues it inevitably presents, that lawn care aeration aims to assist. By punching holes throughout the lawn you’ll be able to separate much of the thatch and other debris build-up that is preventing the adequate flow of oxygen and nutrients. The aeration process will break up compacted soil and allow water and other nutrients to permeate the root zone, reinvigorating an otherwise dormant and unhealthy lawn foundation. When done correctly, aeration will allow for years of healthy, green grass. Areas with high foot traffic will require more maintenance than those with less, but lawn sustainability is achievable anywhere with the right care.

When to Aerate?

Lawn care aeration should occur near the peak growing season of the grass you’re working with, offering it the best likelihood of making a full recovery to health. Like most other grass projects, this will depend heavily on the type of grass you’re working with. For warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass, you’ll want to plan your aeration for late spring to early summer. For cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky Bluegrass or Bentgrass, you’ll want to aim for early spring or fall. Selecting to aerate at the proper time of year will ensure that your grass has the climate it needs to receive nutrients and make a successful recovery.

How to Aerate?

The lawn care aeration process is not particularly complicated, however, it will require some know-how and a job-specific toolkit.

In order to a successfully aerate, you’re going to need a lawn aerator. You’ll want to water your lawn a day or two prior to the aeration job, as moist soil will be far easier to work with. The key to effective soil watering pre-aeration is to ensure that you don’t create any puddling, as that will prevent the aerator from effectively doing its job. As you walk the lawn aerator around the soil on your property, the machine will pull cores, otherwise known as “plugs”, from your lawn. It’s these plug-pulls that break up dense thatch debris and create a direct path for nutrients and water to access the soil base.

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The machine will pull a core every 3-inches or so, the only requirement on your end being to keep the machine straight while moving. The plugs that are pulled will be dispersed across the grass and it’s important that you leave them there, as they will become the foundation for nutrient dispersion.The machine will pull a core every 3-inches or so, the only requirement on your end being to keep the machine straight while moving. The plugs that are pulled will be dispersed across the grass and it’s important that you leave them there, as they will become the foundation for nutrient dispersion.

A lawn aerator can be rented or purchased from most local hardware stores. Dependent on the condition and usage of your grass, lawn aeration may only be required once every few years. If this is the case, it may certainly be more affordable to rent when needed, as opposed to purchasing an aerator only to have it sit around. For lawns that have heavy activity levels and require aeration each season, you may find that purchasing one is well worth the investment.

What to Do After Aeration?

Following a successful aeration job, there are a few key elements that you’ll want to address to ensure that your grass grows back lush and green.

To start, it’s recommended that you apply some fertilizer to the newly punched grass, as the aeration holes will allow for seed to reach the soil base of your lawn. This fertilizer will spread thoroughly throughout the area and encourage grass growth. To help with properly fertilizing the lawn, it’s advised that you read up on fertilizer best-practices and ensure that you’re following the proper steps to provide valuable nutrients to the yard. Beyond fertilization, it’s also important to continuously water your lawn for a few weeks following aeration. A general rule of thumb is to water your lawn every two to three days for two to three weeks following aeration, ensuring that the soil has the moisture necessary for proper development. Be sure to not over-water your lawn, as this will prevent the soil from adequately consuming the nutrients it needs to grow back healthy.

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As you work through the lawn care aeration process, it’s likely that questions will arise surrounding project specifics and best practices. Below we’re going to cover some of the most common questions we receive about lawn aeration and the answers we recommend.

Should you overseed after aeration?

If your lawn has weak points or dead patches throughout, it can certainly be beneficial to overseed following a lawn care aeration project. Due to the increased passage of oxygen and nutrients to the soil bed, aeration offers your lawn an increased ability to access and retain more nutrients that it’s typically able to, allowing for accelerated growth. By overseeding, especially in areas that are struggling to survive, you can speed up the recovery process by quite a significant amount. Overseeding alone typically won’t solve lawn problems, but the combination of overseeding, increased oxygen and nutrients, ample water, and space will allow for incredibly healthy growth.

Can you aerate too much?

Yes, you can certainly aerate too much. At most, you should be lawn aerating once each year, providing it with a fresh flow of oxygen and nutrients for the season ahead. Because soil is very delicate and takes time to recover, lawn aerating too often can lead to damage that may be irreversible over time. Once per year, take the time to aerate, seed, and water your lawn to encourage healthy growth, waiting one full year before completing that entire cycle again. For lawns that don’t receive heavy foot traffic, remaining in good condition throughout the summer months, it may only be necessary to aerate the lawn once every few years.

Can you mow your lawn after aeration?

Technically, you can. However, it’s not recommended that you mow your lawn immediately following aeration. Because the aeration process creates a series of holes throughout the lawn, it’s the ideal time to seed and water – directing nutrients straight to the soil bed. Mowing your lawn may create debris that impedes on this process, limiting the amount of valuable growth you’re going to see. A best practice is to mow and water your lawn prior to aeration, with the post-aeration mowing to come a few days following aeration when the lawn is showing signs of growth.

Should I fertilize or aerate first?

The objective of fertilization is to get valuable nutrients to the roots of your lawn’s soil, allowing for strong, healthy development. With this in mind, you should most certainly aerate prior to fertilizing. The aeration process will create a series of holes throughout the lawn, these holes acting as direct pathways to the soil beneath the surface. By fertilizing once these holes are established, you’ll be able to get a greater amount of nutrients (and water, and oxygen) to the foundation of your lawn. This nutrient boost will allow for incredibly strong growth – typically not possible with standard top-level fertilizing initiatives.

Although the aeration process is relatively straightforward, there’s no substitute for professional lawn care. If you’re in search of expert lawn aeration service and support, ISR Gardening is here to help. With years of experience in the lawn aeration and maintenance space, our professional team is ready to make your dream lawn a reality. Contact us today to learn more about our GTA lawn care services!