In talking with customers over the years I have noticed some confusion around the topics of aeration and thatching. In this article, we will discuss the purpose and best practices concerning aerating your lawn.
Over time and use our lawn’s soil can become compacted. This stresses your lawn and can lead to secondary problems. You may have heard the term “the soil needs to breathe.” Our soils are alive and over time, gasses build up and need to be released. Gas exchange is difficult in compacted soils, and this is the real benefit to aeration. Bad gas (carbon dioxide) leaves and good gas (oxygen) takes its place.
An aerator is a heavy machine similar to a Thatcher, however, there is a major difference. An aerator uses small hollow tines. As the machine goes over the grass the tines push into the soil and pull up a “plug.” It is a good idea to water the lawn before aeration as this will allow the tines to go deeper into the soil and be the most effective. There are many opinions concerning what to do with the plugs at this point. Personally, I leave the plugs in the lawn. However, I like to spend a little time raking them into the low spots in the lawn. It is also fine to rake them all up.
The Extra Step
This process by itself is beneficial. To really make aeration worth your time, however, I strongly recommend top dressing. Your top dress can be any number of things. Zamzows compost, Zamzows Garden Pearls, Zamzows Huma Green, all of these will increase soil complexity and add trace minerals and food for the tiny soil animals living in our soil. I do not recommend using sand. Our soils are usually high in clay and contrary to popular belief, the small amount of sand applied in this way is not helpful. I do not recommend re-seeding at this time either. If you want to reseed, broadcast the seed above the top dressing or wait until the holes have closed.