Lawn advice usually runs toward applying, as in apply x pounds of nitrogen, apply herbicides for weeds or fungicide, or apply water at this rate for success. Well, our advice today is not about applying, it’s about aerating.
By definition, to aerate is “to introduce air into (a material)”. In this case the material is the soil your lawn is growing in. Aeration also permits water and nutrients to better penetrate the soil, but aeroaquanutrification is an awfully long (and silly) word, even if it better describes the full effects.
When air, water and nutrients can more easily reach the root zone, a series of very beneficial events begins that allow all the stuff you’re applying work even better. You may even need to do less applying in the long run if more of what you apply actually gets where it’s supposed to and does what it's meant to. Let’s see how.
First, water, whether from your irrigation system or the next rain, will be able to soak into the soil more quickly. Minor issues of standing water or post-rain puddles might be fixed immediately. Algae growth is reduced or eliminated. Excess runoff is reduced, requiring less water to irrigate to recommended depth.
On an aerated lawn, water penetrates more deeply into the soil, creating a deeper root system that is much more drought tolerant. If you have an irrigation system, this could reduce your water bill (cha-ching!). If nature waters your lawn, every rainfall will have a greater impact on your lawn. These deeper roots are also in a cooler zone of the soil, increasing heat tolerance.
You’ll also notice that your lawn becomes “springier” and more resilient. Because of the additional oxygen in the soil, the roots are thick and healthy, making the blades thick and healthy too. You will fight the constant urge to take off your shoes and dig your toes into the grass. Your grass’s roots will grow to fill in the newly loosened soil, even where growth was sparse due to compaction.
Earthworms (nature’s aerators) will thrive, moving through the soil and benefiting the soil with their tunneling and...poo. (Earthworm poo (AKA castings) is insanely great fertilizer). This in turn allows even more air, water and nutrients deeper into the root zone. And there’s still more...
Along with earthworms, naturally occurring microbes present in healthy soil will also thrive with the additional oxygen and nutrients. These microbes play a much larger role in grass (and all plants) health than most people realize: it is the action of these microbes breaking down the nutrients in the soil (applied or naturally occurring) that allows the grass to actually use what’s there. Without these microbes it wouldn't matter how much fertilizer you use-your grass would starve without them. Actually, we'd all starve without them.
Now that the soil is nice and porous, teeming with earthworms and microbes creating a healthy soil ecosystem there’s yet another benefit. Any applied nutrients stay at the application site (instead of washing off onto your neighbor’s lawn). Because fertilizer, lime and other nutrients can reach the root zone where they are actually utilized rather than sitting on the surface or heading to the neighbor's, who totally doesn't deserve them, everything that’s applied goes that much further.
Hold on, not done yet!
Many common lawn weeds are simply better at thriving in poor soil conditions than grass. Crabgrass, goosegrass and buttonweed grow better in compacted soil than turf grasses do. White clover does well in nitrogen-poor soils (because it can make it’s own), a problem when nitrogen can’t reach the root zone or can’t be utilized because of poor microbe activity.
Apply too much nitrogen and henbit and chickweed have a field day. Annual bluegrass and nut sedge thrive in wet, waterlogged soils. And weed seeds of all types will readily germinate in areas of sparse grass growth. Aeration can improve all these conditions, meaning better weed control with less herbicide use.
After aeration, your lawn will also change your oil and clean your gutters.
Okay, not those last two, but isn't everything else regular aeration can do to make your lawn more healthy enough? Over time, the effects of aerating are cumulative. If you're not aerating at least yearly in spring or fall (twice yearly, in spring and fall, is even better), you should to save water, use less fertilizer and chemicals, reduce weeds and improve overall soil health for a beautiful lawn.