I hear a lot of people talk about aeration as if it isn't really part of necessary lawn maintenance. It is only for golf courses and the guy who wants the best lawn on the block. You might even have this gentleman as your neighbor. He's the guy you see in his yard at 5:00 in the morning with a dandelion puller while you have your morning coffee. You have already conceded to Mr. Jones and determined since you won't be pulling weeds at 5:00 with him, you probably don't need to aerate like he does either. While Mr. Jones might be completing aeration twice a year, how do you know if and when you should be?
- Typically a compacted lawn is thin. If you haven't changed any other lawn care practices recently and the lawn seems to be getting thinner every season, it's time to aerate.
- If you now swear that fertilizer is also a waste of time and money, it's time to aerate. Mr. Jones lawn looks great after he fertilizes right? It must be the brand he is using! Fertilizer won't do you much good over compacted soil as it can't penetrate it. The nutrients simply wash away and never reach the roots.
- You seem to have more wash outs than normal after rainfall. Again, if you haven't made any changes to the grade or surrounding area and suddenly mulched or other areas are washing out, it's time to aerate. Just as compacted soil won't allow nutrients to reach the roots of your turf, it won't allow water to infiltrate either. Not only does this create more runoff, it also forces the turf into drought stress earlier than it normally would.
"OK, OK I get it, but when should I do it?" If it has been awhile and/or you have never completed it before, aerate a few weeks before you fertilize. Then complete an annual aeration about month before our first frost.
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