Pre-Brief: Really, really wanted to aerate this weekend, but without snorkeling gear it would prove difficult. (Had tix for tonight’s Phils game, also a washout.) Since you need to plan an aerating operation (i.e. equipment rental/reservation), here is Cranky Man’s Lawn Care chapter on lawn aeration to get you off your rider. Good news is that wet weather makes for favorable aerating conditions.
Aerating: Spring is the best time of the year for aerating your lawn. Aeration helps to loosen the top most layer of soil, which allows for fuller lawn growth. Aerating – especially for high-traffic lawns – allows much-needed oxygen, nutrients and water to reach grass roots.
Soil compaction can prevent adequate root growth and development. Since compaction is the problem you’re trying to treat by aerating, it’s important that you use hollow-core aeration equipment as opposed to a machine using solid spikes that actually compact the soil further. A core aerator will deposit many, many little plugs of soil and grass on top of your lawn. These plugs will deteriorate quickly and will not harm the grass.
Many lawn devotees will aerate TWICE a year – in Spring and in Fall. I’m not that ambitious or obsessive so once a year in the spring suffices; sometimes even skipping a year with no concerns. But my lawn does not have a high level of traffic in most areas. The higher the traffic, the greater benefit aerating will have. Aerating in the Spring – after melting snows and typical Spring rains – ensures deep core penetration and maximum benefit. Too often aerating in Fall follows hot, dry summers and results in harder soil that will resist adequate penetration.
I would suggest going over very high traffic areas several times, overlapping as you go.
Many lawn owners will accompany aerating with overseeding. I’m not a big believer in overseeding (assuming you are observing other Healthy Lawn Behaviors), but overseeding can benefit struggling lawns.
Next segment: Fertilizing