The moment you spot brown spots on your lawn during warm weather or water pools forming after a rain shower or after watering, you should get a lawn aerator ASAP. This is because brown grass is a sign that roots are not getting access to moisture and nutrients, and water pools are a sign that lawn drainage is not good. And a lawn aerator is just what is needed when drainage is bad and when nutrients do not get deep into the soil.
What exactly is a lawn aerator?
A lawn aerator is a lawn care tool that utilizes hollow tines or rows of spikes to get into the soil, cut into thatch (dethatch), and/ or break up compact lawn soil to enable nutrients, water, and air to get deep into your lawn soil. In other words, it is a tool that allows you to open-air, water, and nutrient supply lines to the root networks of your lawn,
The use of a lawn aerator can help to make air and water reach where they are needed. It can also help to make fertilizer (nutrients) to reach root networks. Lawn aeration is great for promoting the development of strong root networks. It is also great for making lawns thicker, greener, and more resilient.
When is a lawn aerator absolutely necessary?
There are several ways you can tell if your lawn needs aeration.
Check soil compaction
The easiest way to know if your lawn needs aeration is to do a soil compaction test. Simply take a screwdriver and drive it into your lawn. If the soil gives easily, there is no need for aeration. If it does not give, then aeration is necessary.
Check the roots
Another relatively easy way of telling if your soil needs aeration is to dig up a patch of your lawn. Go about five inches deep. If the root networks are less than 2 inches tall, your lawn needs aeration. If they are more than 4 inches, your lawn is okay.
Check thatched areas
If your lawn has areas that are thatched (a buildup of dead grass and debris that is difficult to separate quickly), you should assess the thatches. If they are more than 0.5 inches in thickness, they can deprive your lawn’s grass root networks of nutrients, air, and water. You should, therefore, use an aerator on them. If they are less than o.5 inches thick, you should just use a simple rake to remove them.
When you have thin patchy grass
Thin patchy grass areas on your lawn is a sign that your lawn needs aeration. This is because it is most likely that the reason why the areas are patchy is that they are not receiving sufficient amounts of nutrients, air, and water.
When your lawn soil is clay
If your lawn soil has a high percentage of clay, you should aerate it regularly. This is because clay has the characteristic of compacting itself and preventing efficient movement of air, nutrients, and water.
When your lawn is a play zone
If your children play a lot or walk a lot on your lawn, then it needs regular aeration. This is because playing or walking compacts topsoil and can negatively affect a lawn. So aerating such a lawn is necessary to ensure root networks continue receiving the resources they need.
When your lawn is new
New lawns need aeration. They need aeration to ensure roots grow well and the grass plants have what they need to grow lush green blades quickly.
When your lawn is growing slowly
If your lawn is not growing rapidly, you can make it grow rapidly by enabling its root networks to receive more water, air, and nutrients through aeration. This will most likely make your lawn grow.
What is the best type of lawn aerator?
There are several types of lawn aerators available on the market. The two most common ones are core aerators and spike aerators.
Core aerators have hollowed out tines. They pull out soil plugs and leave about three-inch holes. They are perfect for aerating lawns that have relatively shallow topsoil.
Spike aerators have got spikes on a rolling drum. The spikes get deep into the soil to create holes about four to five inches deep. Spike aerators are generally regarded to be more efficient than core aerators. They are perfect for preparing lawns for overseeding and for lawns that are loosely compacted.
Both spike and core lawn aerators can be manual or motorized. If you have a big lawn, it is more advisable for you to get a motorized aerator. If you have a small lawn, a manual aerator is enough.
The cost of lawn aerators
The cheapest lawn aerators are those that are handheld. They cost about $40 online. Towable core aerator spikes are perfect for large lawns. A good towable core aerator will set you back $250.
The most expensive lawn aerators are those that are motorized. You have to walk behind them to operate them. They cost about $3,500.
If you do not want to buy a lawn aerator, you can rent one. It usually costs between $50 and $100 to rent a motorized core aerator for a day.
How to aerate your lawn without using a lawn aerator
If for some reason you do not want to purchase a lawn aerator to aerate your lawn, you should use the means below. Most of the means described below are perfect for aerating small lawns or small patches on lawns. If you have a big lawn and you need to aerate it uniformly, you should get a motorized lawn aerator.
Here is how to aerate your lawn without using a lawn aerator.
Using spiked shoes
If you play a sport that involves wearing spiked shoes e.g. track running, football, soccer, lacrosse, golf, and the likes, your shoes should have spikes on them. You can use them to aerate patches of your lawn that need aeration by wearing them and jumping up and down on them. However, please note that if the soil is too compact, using spiked shoes will not help.
Using a pitchfork
If you have a pitchfork in your garage, you can use it to aerate patches of your lawn. You can do this by pushing the pitchfork gently into the patches to a depth of about 3 inches. Do this severally for every patch and cover every bit of the patch.
Using a dethatcher
If you have a dethatcher or a scarifier, you can use it to break up thatched areas on your lawn for better aeration of the grass root networks beneath them. Thatches form when dead grass, moss, debris, and other materials lock together on the surface of the soil. They usually grow thick and can prevent air and nutrients from getting into the soil. The good news is that dethatchers or scarifiers are plentiful on the market, and they can be used to conveniently dethatch grass thatches on lawns. Some dethatchers are manual, while others are electric. It is up to you to choose that which will work best for your lawn.