Cranky Man’s Lawn Care: An Idiots Guide; Chapter 2 – Aerating

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

3 thoughts on “Cranky Man’s Lawn Care: An Idiots Guide; Chapter 2 – Aerating

  1. Thanks for the tip, we have a 6 year old lawn that seems to bee feeling tired, I think an aeration might be just what the doctor ordered…some questions/ and a comment…
    -how do you deal with sprinklers?
    don’t say ‘avoid them’, I have those sneaky ones that allow themselves to get overgrown and then pop up through when I ask for water.
    if a hollow thing-a-ma-jig hits one, am I off to the home center for new sprinkler heads?
    -is this device something one can go rent?
    I’ve never looked so I don’t know…follow-up what’s the ease of use/learning curve? I’m a builder and have operated just about every sort of machinery from a screwdriver to a Bobcat or a forklift. feels like this might be roto-tiller on the scale of difficulty
    -I see you don’t like overseeding unless needed, do you do anything other than pulling little holes out of the ground? How long does it take the plugs to go away?



    • Good stuff … I have to punt on the sprinkler issue. I don’t have one; and haven’t helped anyone who does. So avoid them! ROFL … My only suggestion (probably way too obvious) would be map & mark the sprinkler heads somehow. Perhaps turning the things on so you can note and mark (maybe with a sports-field lining type spray we used to mark out our kids soccer fields?) their locations. But I think the machine is heavy enough and the hollow spikes hard enough to do significant damage to any sprinkler heads.

      Of course, my other concern would be how deep your piping is. Frankly, I’m a little embarrassed that I never considered what to do with an in-lawn sprinkler system. It’s a rather nasty hazard to aerating, eh?

      The aerator is about the size of a mower – only bulkier, heavier, taller. I think the rototiller is probably a good approximation. They’re rather easy to use … a very short learning curve. Just make sure to stretch out that back before tackling one. Of course, if you have a riding mower, you might be able to rent/buy an attachment to it that would make the job all that much easier. I can rent one in my area for $40 a half-day/$70 a full-day.

      If you think you have a tired lawn, overseeding might just be the way to go. Suggest you give the lawn and seed a headstart with an application of starter fertilizer after you seed. The combination should give your lawn a good lift.

      My lawn currently is looking good enough that I’m purely in maintenence mode. I actually de-thatched (Another machine-oriented process for removing dead undergrowth from the lawn.) in September, so things are looking good. So yes, I’ll simply aerate and stick to my normal fertilizing schedule (See my next post later this week!)

      Since the plugs are simply grass and soil, they will degrade slowly and disappear on their own in a few weeks. Depending on sufficient rain, they could be gone in two weeks. If the lawn is thick enough, you might not even notice the plugs at all.

      Good luck! And let me know how you get around the sprinkler issue, if you take this on.


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