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Do you simply love gardening and just want to learn how to aerate the lawn by hand? Or, are the high prices of powered machinery forcing you to look at the manual alternative? I found that aerating by hand not only gives me satisfaction, and it is also budget-friendly. Lack of aeration is one reason for a listless and dull-looking lawn, and its importance cannot be overemphasized.
Read on to get tips for aerating the lawn. This article will teach you what aeration is when to aerate and how to do it. Since wrongly aerating your lawn will do more harm than good, pay close attention to all the aspects highlighted.
What is lawn aeration?
This is the process of putting small holes in compacted soil to loosen it and allow water and nutrients through. When soil is compacted or hard beneath the surface, it has too many solid soil particles in a given space. This prevents proper circulation of water, air, and nutrients into the soil. Aeration is done to ensure that the grassroots grow very deep and restore adequate flow—grass, which is deeply rooted in strong, green, and very healthy.
When planting new seeds into your lawn, it is wise to aerate beforehand. This will ensure that the seeds settle deep into the soil and grow deep roots too. There are two broad methods of soil aeration. You can do it manually or using automated tools. This article, however, will detail how to aerate the lawn by hand.
How do you decide whether your lawn needs aeration?
Your lawn likely needs aeration when:
- The grass is starting to change color or look unhealthy.
- It is difficult for water to sip below the surface when watering.
- You fail to push a screwdriver through the moist soil.
- Your soil type is clay. This soil type needs aeration as it tends to become condensed over time.
- Your lawn is then subjected to a lot of traffic. This is especially true if it is used as a play area or race track. Regularly aerate your lawn if it is continuously trampled on because this makes it compacted.
- You find that the roots of your grass do not go more than 2 inches into your soil. You can check this by using a shovel to dig out about a square foot section of grass. The part should be about 6 inches deep. Check from this section how deep the roots extend.
- It quickly gets dry after it is watered. This is caused by too much thatch or debris below your lawn’s surface, which starves the roots. Though thatch is healthy for your lawn, too much of it can destroy your garden. Thatch usually builds up when it develops faster than it is broken down by living organisms in the soil. It makes the ground feel spongy mainly when it has grown to over ½ an inch deep.
- To check for a thatch problem, simply dig out a 4-inch deep lawn slice. A thatch layer that is more profound than ½ an inch is a sign that aeration is needed. If the thatch layer is some inches deep, you have to dethatch first before you aerate.
- It was planted by sod. When this planting lawn method is used, a layer of fine soil that comes with the sod is placed over the existing coarse soil. This creates soil layers that prevent water from adequately slipping through the ground since the finer topsoil holds the most water. Aeration will help to break up these layers and allow proper root development.
- It was planted as part of a house that was recently built. When the lawn is newly constructed, the topsoil is usually removed or buried. The subsoil that the grass is planted on often gets compacted by too much traffic from construction.
You should not aerate lawn that has been recently planted. It should more than a year old before you think of aeration.
Which time of the year is best to aerate your lawn?
This is reliant mainly on the climate in the place you stay and your grass type. Grass has periods when it is dormant and hardly growing. Lawn aeration is best in the season when it ceases to be dormant and begins to grow. This ensures that the grass recovers quickly after aeration and closes any open areas that are created in the process. Never aerate during winter. This is because, during the harsh cold, water can turn into ice is the holes you make, giving rise to more lawn problems.
How often should you aerate your lawn?
This depends on your soil type, traffic that your soil is subjected to, and the climatic conditions you live in. If you have clay soil, it is wise to aerate at least once a year. For sandy soil, compaction is very unlikely, and aerating once every 2 to 3 years is enough. Also, if your lawn is subjected to heavy traffic, aerate at least once a year.
If you stay in areas where the climatic conditions are very harsh, aerate your lawn at least twice a year. Also, aerate twice if you experience very cold and dry winters.
What will you need to aerate your lawn with no machines?
Aerating your lawn manually requires very few tools. It is more labor and time-intensive process but is very budget-friendly. You will need:
- A scarifier (Scarifying Rake).
This is a cheap rake you can use to remove thatch. Though it may take time than using an automated dethatcher, it is also equally effective.
- A Hand Aerator or a large garden fork.
There are two types of hand aerators. There are the Solid Tine and Hollow Tine aerator.
1) Solid Tine Aerator
This is suitable if you plan on making holes that are not very deep. It puts a hole in the ground and forces the grass or turf deeper at its point of contact. This compacts the soil at that point; thus, it is not highly recommended.
2) Hollow Tine Aerator
The spikes on this aerator are hollow. It does not compact the soil on contact. Instead, it extracts soil plugs that can be raked afterward. This type is better than the Solid Tine aerator.
Stages to go through when aerating your lawn.
Stage 1 – Prepare your lawn for aeration
There are many things you need to do to prepare your lawn.
- Scarify or Dethatch
You need to scarify or dethatch your lawn if necessary. To do this, use a scarifying rake to rake the thatch and debris out. Make sure you purchase a proper scarifying rake. A regular garden rake will pull up grassroots and damage your lawn.
- Ensure soil is moist enough to aerate
The soil should be neither too wet nor dry when you want to aerate. If the soil is too damp or dry, you will destroy your lawn. To see how moist your soil is, simply push your aerator into it. If it does not go in at least 4″ deep or the ground looks dry and powdery, the soil is too dry. You need to water it before aeration.
If the aerator goes in but comes out extremely muddy, the soil is too wet. Wait a few days for it to dry out a bit before aerating. You can check the moisture daily until it is moist but not too wet.
- Mow your lawn before aeration.
Stage 2 – Aeration
- Aeration using a solid aerator.
This aerator is recommended for shallow aeration only. Do not push it in more than 2 inches deep. Going deeper will cause compaction and water clogging. Try punching your holes in neat rows. These rows should only be a few inches apart.
- Aeration using aerator shoes.
Aerator shoes are only an option if you intend only to shallow aerate. These shoes look like sandals with buckle straps that you attach to your shoes. Under the shoes are several dependable tine aerators. Thus you simply walk through your lawn to aerate it. It is faster than handheld aerators but is not recommended if you need to aerate deep.
- Aeration using a hollow/core aerator.
When using a hollow tine spike on a core aerator, you can go to a depth of up to 4″. This is the recommended aeration depth. Make put several inches between subsequent holes. I would advise you to purchase a two-pronged aerator that looks a bit like a spade. It has the perfect distance spacing between the holes. Move about 4 to 6 inches from punched holes then push the aerator in again until the process is complete.
When you are done, do not pick up the cores. Instead, just rake them to make them smaller. This will help blend them with your lawn, so they do not have an unsightly appearance. It will also help them to be broken down faster by micro-organisms, thus giving your soil the nutrients it needs.
- Aeration using a spading or garden fork
Simply push the fork into your lawn up to a depth of 4″. Then loosen the soil by rocking it back and forth. Then move a couple of inches then push it in again.
While some gardeners may use this method, I would strongly advise you not to. This is because the full spikes of garden forks can damage the roots of your lawn. Also, just like the dependable tine aerators, it can cause compaction, which is harmful to your lawn.
How to care for your lawn after aeration
Water the lawn then apply fertilizer or lawn food to help it recover fast. Keep the soil most for weeks after aeration to support germination. You also should add half an inch of topsoil mixed with compost on top of your lawn. You can also plant new seeds and grass just after aeration.
I am sure that you have gathered a wealth of knowledge on how to aerate your lawn without machines by our lawn aeration guide. Lawn aeration is essential and should not be overlooked. Whenever your grass starts looking dull and unhealthy, check whether it needs aeration. Aerating by hand may take time, but for garden lovers, it is a worthwhile exercise. I hope this article gave you enough useful tips on aerating the lawn.