Lawn Aeration As Part Of Your Yard Care Routine
Most people think of lawn care as just mowing and occasionally getting the sprinkler out to let their thirsty garden drink. A few more folk have perhaps give the lawn a meal and feed their lawn once or twice a year. However, we can outline five key steps that you can incorporate in an easy to manage lawn care routine that will save you time, effort and money once you are into the routine and give you a better looking, more organic lawn to boot!
Much like painting a room, or moving house, if you don’t clean out the rubbish first it quickly turns into a mess. Lawn scarifiers or power rakes help to remove a lot of the lawn thatch, weeds and moss that plague many a garden. Thatch is the dead organic material that accumulates on the surface of the turf and includes leaves, grass clippings, seeds and other garden waste. Over time this layer can build up and start to form a barrier that stops the soil from getting its essential nutrients of water, air and feed which leads to dehydration, sparse and thin grass cover and potentially a number of lawn diseases.
A scarifier scrapes or rakes out this organic material that is often not rooted to the ground or much less firmly than grass and the keen lawnsmith is able to remove and dispose of the thatch leaving a cleaner, neater turf that the grass can spread into. Once cleared, it is only necessary to clear the thatch once or maybe twice a year and if the grass and turf are cared for correctly it may be that it is needed less frequently than this even.
Once the soils surface is free of thatch and exposed to the air, the next phase of this lawn care plan can start. Many lawns suffer from soil compaction, where the grains of the soil are pushed together and the air and moisture expelled leading to a dry, nutrient poor soil that is hard and unyielding to grass roots. This type of compacted soil tends to have a lower concentration of bacteria, fungi and earthworms that help to keep the recently cleared thatch at bay and any grass growing in it will likely have stunted root growth that leaves the grass exposed to dehydration and disease. A compacted turf also struggles to absorb and hold rain water or feed and the nutrient rich topsoil is often washed away in heavy rain as the water has nowhere else to go.
The quick and easy solution to the soil compaction problem is to aerate the lawn. Lawn aeration involves either taking small cores or plugs of soil out of the turf or pressing spikes into it to create holes which allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the soil and be retained as well as to physically break up the soil where it has become compacted. Lawn aerators come in a few different varieties ranging from lawn aerator shoes through to push along rotating cylinder aerators or the larger tow-behind type for ride-on lawn tractors.
An aerated lawn is a happy lawn and helps to maintain a thick, lush turf that keeps thatch at bay and promotes grass regrowth. Core aeration is potentially an annual job but spiked lawn shoes or blade aerators can be used every time you mow as their holes close up more rapidly.
Watering the lawn
Now that your lawn is clear and can breathe, drink and feed more easily it is time to address the second most frequent of all the lawn tasks – watering. If your lawn dries out quickly or seems thinner or patchier then your neighbors then aerate first so the water can penetrate deeper into the soil. Watering is as simple as waiting for the rain or more likely, getting the sprinkler out. These can be embedded into the turf or free roaming with one or more sprinkler heads attached to a hosepipe.
Watering is best done in the morning before the sun is too high so the water has time to be absorbed by the soil before it evaporates and doesn’t sit on the grass blades with the sun blazing away on them which can cause some scorching due to a magnifying glass effect.
You should water heavily and less frequently if possible. A shallow watering can increase surface moisture levels and help weeds to germinate as well as causing grass roots to remain in the surface layer leading to higher risk of dehydration in the long term. A heavy watering of 15-30m helps the water to soak more deeply into the soil and promotes a more robust root structure as well as cutting down on evaporation from the surface layers.
A well watered lawn should have thick, springy grass that bounces back when you tread on it and shouldn’t wilt or have a blue-grey tinge to it.
Feed your lawn
If your lawn is looking a little dowdy it may be time to give it a feed and top up the essential nutrients in the soil that it needs to be strong and healthy. The best time to feed the lawn is after any frosts have gone and when the soil or warming up and wet during the Springtime. Any earlier than this and you run the risk that newly encouraged growth in the grass gets hit by a late frost and damages it, leaving you in a worse state than when you started. A slow release fertilizer applied during Spring will give a drip feed of nutrients throughout the Summer months.
Depending on your needs and the state of the lawn you need to make a choice between liquid (fast release) and granule (slow release) based feeds as well as different preparations based on the season. In all cases, getting a push along feed spreader is a cheap and easy way to ensure even coverage and to dramatically speed up the work.
Mow the lawn
Your de-thatched, aerated, watered and fed lawn should now be growing voraciously and brings us to the last and most time consuming lawn care task – mowing the lawn.
To keep the grass in tip-top condition and growing back strongly after being mowed, you should aim to cut only the top third of the blade. Almost all mowers have a height adjustment for the blade, usually a screw or screws on the underside of many mowers, which make this easy to adjust. Cutting too little results in a never ending chore every weekend to keep it in check but, conversely, taking too much off in one go reduces the ‘green’ area of the grass blade where the grass converts sunlight into energy via the chlorophyll (which gives it the green color) and can leave the grass weak and unable to bounce back so thickly and quickly.
There are many types of mower and which one you go for will depend on the size of your lawn, budget and the type of ground and slopes you have. For the small lawn owner, a manual push mower may suffice and is good exercise but impractical for anything of reasonable size where an electric or petrol powered mower will come into its own. These can be hover or cylinder mowers. For those with the largest lawns nothing but a ride-on mower will do. These miniature tractors come with a variety of attachments and features, some even with a CD player to keep you singing along as you mow but all are at a price!
Luckily, mowing is usually only required in the Spring-Autumn months as the grass grows more slowly or becomes dormant over the Winter, especially in more Northern climates where frost and potentially snow are regular visitors. During the peak months you may need to mow a vibrant healthy lawn every two weeks, but in many ways this is a great sign of a truly healthy lawn.
It should be easy to see how aeration could be missed when watering, feeding and mowing can have such an immediate and obvious impact but a solid lawn aeration routine can really pick your lawn up and make it easier to manage and more fun to enjoy. You may have to mow a little more often but with less thatch, fewer weeds and diseases and a full and lush covering of grass you can use it more and spend less time on the other maintenance tasks that could otherwise become a chore.
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