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Aerating your lawn

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After a long, cold winter, what is the first thing you do at home? You open all the windows to let the fresh air in. It sweeps out the stale air and breathes new life into your home. This exercise isn’t just important for our living environment, but also for your lawn. It has been trapped under heaps of snow and needs your help come the spring thaw. This is where aerating your lawn comes in.

The process

To be scientific, aeration is a process in which air is circulated through a liquid or substance. In relation to lawn care, it involves punching holes in soil that has been compacted. That happens in high traffic areas where kids may play or when something has been resting on the surface for a long time, such as a mound of snow. Think of it as a dumbbell weighing on your chest. You struggle to breathe even after it has been lifted off your chest. So someone pats you on your back until you can breathe regularly again. That is basically what lawn aeration does. Of course, nature does provide its own little aerator with the lowly earthworm.  As it wriggles underground and consumes soil, the earthworm creates tunnels that allow air and water to flow through.

The benefits

I know most people don’t want to see holes in their lawns, but trust me it’s worth it in the long run. In order for your grass to grow and get all green, the soil needs oxygen. Aeration does this and also forces out excess CO2 that inhibits proper growth. By opening up the pores in the soil, you also allow the roots to get better access to water and nutrients. It also aids in improving drainage. The process will encourage root growth and increase rooting depth. Good microbes in the soil will be stimulated, as well, and what they do is important in developing healthy soil. Overall, aeration has many benefits to the health of your lawn.

The tools

The basic tool for aerating your lawn is a garden fork. This device has a long rectangular frame with a handle on one end and three to five tines on the other. They come in different sizes depending on your need. A garden fork is used by stamping it into the ground with your foot and then pulling it back at a slight angle to loosen up the soil. There are mechanical aerators as well for larger lawns. Some may have different tines, such as solid, hollow and chisel tines. Solid tines are pretty standard, though there is a move away from this kind. Hollow tines will remove a core of soil as it pulls away. The core gets deposited on the surface of your lawn to be recycled back into the earth. A chisel tine is what many professionals will chose because it allows for greater volume of air and moisture.

The steps

Before you go around poking holes in your lawn, make sure it actually needs it first. A good way to check is to insert a screwdriver into your lawn. If it goes in easily, it doesn’t need aeration. Otherwise, the next step will be to clear away any debris. For those with sprinkler systems, you will want to clearly mark where those are, especially if you’re using a mechanical aerator. Mow, rake and water, as well. Once that is all done, you can start aerating your lawn. Work in a pattern that will allow you to remember where you’ve already been, perhaps starting at the outside edge and working towards your house. Then, on a dry day, you can add a thin layer of top-dressing to loosen the soil and help with drainage. From there on, your lawn should be happy and healthy and able to breathe.

By Meagan Dieroff  

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