Fall Lawn Prep Part 1: Aeration

With cooler temperatures settling in across central Indiana, many homeowners shift their focus away from their lawns and towards leaf clean-up. This is completely understandable, but the fall season is also a perfect time to prepare your lawn for next year. By taking a few steps in the fall, you can put your lawn on the right path for a healthy summer next year. There are two main ways in which this can be accomplished. The first thing you can do is aerate your lawn, which will be covered in this post. The other is to overseed your lawn, which will be covered in next week’s post.

What is Aeration?

Aeration is a process by which you puncture the surface of your lawn to allow water and nutrients to penetrate deep into your lawn’s root system. There are a couple of different ways that you can aerate your lawn. One way is with a spike aerator. This tool is literally a solid tine, or fork, that punctures through the top layer of your lawn and into the root system of your grass. This type of tool is not recommended because it is inefficient and can actually cause harm to your lawn. The second, preferred, method of aeration is with a plug aerator. This is a machine that punctures your lawn and pulls out plugs of soil, about 1 inch long and as big around as the average human finger. This method is preferred because it really opens up your soil and allows for water and nutrients to reach deep into your soil. Over a few weeks, these soil plugs will dissolve into your lawn.

Why should I aerate?

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Over time, lawns become compacted with organic matter. This is caused by foot traffic, heavy use by pets and children, and natural settling of grass clippings and other organic matter. As the lawn becomes more and more compacted, a “barrier” forms just below the grass, which makes it difficult for water and nutrients to get deep into your lawn’s root system. This lawyer is known as lawn thatch. If water and fertilizer cannot penetrate this thatch layer, then your lawn’s roots will grow above the thatch in order to get the water and nutrients it needs. Developing these shallow root systems makes your lawn more susceptible to drought, disease, and insects.

Aerating your lawn will help to break up this thatch layer. Depending on the severity of the thatch, it might take a few cycles of aeration to see improvement in your lawn health. Aeration is recommended in either the spring or fall, or both. As the layer of thatch is eroded, your lawn will grow deeper, healthier roots. This will increase overall root health, making it easier for your lawn to fight off disease, drought, and insects.

How do I go about aerating my lawn?

Now that you know the benefits of aeration, you are probably wondering how to put your newfound knowledge into action. The easiest way is to rent an aerator from your local equipment rental store. The price of rental can be a bit steep, so it is recommended that you go in with a neighbor or two and split the cost. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on how to properly use the machine. The employees at the rental store should be able to give you a quick rundown of how to operate the machine. We would recommend making at least 2 passes over your lawn, to make sure that you hit any affected areas sufficiently.

Next week, we will discuss how to overseed your lawn in conjunction to aeration.  This combination will give your lawn a jump start on a happy and healthy 2015.  If you have any questions about your lawn, please contact us at (317) 575-1100, or fill out the form below.

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