You have probably heard that aeration is good for your lawn, maybe you’ve seen it done, or maybe you have seen the process done at a golf course, you may have even aerated your own lawn. But did you know that for what it costs to do it, or even to buy an AERATOR to do it with, that it’s the most beneficial and least expensive thing that you can do for your lawn?
First, what is aeration? It’s the process of taking small plugs of soil out of your lawn and depositing them on top of the lawn. Why does this help? Depending on if you have a normal home lawn, a commercial lawn that maybe gets a little more traffic, a school lawn, baseball field, football field, soccer field, or even a golf course, the problems that aerating fixes, will be more severe with more foot traffic, and even some vehicle traffic.
Aerating is similar to taking a house plant that has become root bound and repotting it. The same principles apply. Taking the house plant out of its confined pot and giving it more room to grow is what happens to turfgrass roots when you aerate. The holes that are poked in the ground give the roots more room to grow.
Thatch is a combination of decaying grass clippings, miscellaneous lawn debris, stolons and roots that build up at the crown of the grass plant. Over time this thatch acts like a barrier and keeps water, air, fertilizer and lime from getting into the root zone of the grass to do its magic.
By aerating (making thousands of holes) the lawn, you will help to reduce this thatch layer and allow fertilizer, lime, water and air to get into the soil and the root zone of the turfgrass. The plugs that are left on top of the ground (when using a core aerator) will decompose over time and through microbial activity help to keep the thatch in check.
The picture at left shows the soil with some roots growing in it, the thick thatch layer, the crown of the grass and the grass blades.
As you might imagine from looking at this picture, this thatch layer can get so compacted that it is similar to having a sheet of plastic laying on your lawn. When it does rain or when you water, the water would run off instead of soaking deep down into the lawn. The compacted root zone also restricts the growth of the grass plant leaving your entire lawn looking lethargic, weak and yellowish.
Core aeration is the best type, this is when the machine actually makes a plug (core) and pulls it out of the ground and deposits it on top of the ground. We prefer the core aerators over the spike aerators for this reason. The spike aerator still will poke holes in the ground and allow space, but they actually do a little compacting of the soil at the same time.
What happens is the spike goes into the ground and makes a hole, but since it doesn’t pull a plug of soil out of the ground, it just pushes the soil to the sides and makes the hole. This compacts that portion of soil while making the hole. This is a small disadvantage, so if you are short on available cash to buy an aerator, the spike aerator is better than nothing, and this one is less than $100.00.
A good core aerator can be bought for anywhere from $141.00 for this lesser expensive Precision Brand plugger to over $390.00 for this better built, better quality Agri-Fab Brand 40″ plugger This is another case of “you get what you pay for”. But, from experience, we have learned that the plugger type aerator does a better job, and if the extra bucks that it’s going to cost doesn’t kill you, then get the plugger.
There is one advantage to this particular spike-aerator. That is that you can seed and aerate at the same time with this one piece of equipment.
You will first need to run over the lawn a couple of times with this aerator being sure that you cover all spots of the lawn without leaving any blank spots in the lawn where you skipped. Then fill the seed hopper, and being even more careful, cover the entire lawn until you have applied the required amount of seed. How much seed you will need to put down will depend on the type of seed, and whether you are trying to just fill in a little bit, or if your lawn was nearly all gone and you’re trying to re-establish it. Look at our seeding page for more information about how much seed to use and how much fertilizer is needed, and what type of fertilizer.
You can also buy an aerator that you just simply push like a push mower. This would obviously be a lot of work for anything more than the smallest of lawns, so it’s not going to be a popular type of aerator.
If you want to get a little exercise or you don’t have a riding lawn mower to pull a tow behind type aerator, you can even buy a set of aerator shoes that will put holes in the lawn with every step you take.
So, you can kill two birds with one stone, or (let’s not kill any birds) get two jobs done at once, simply by wearing these.
If you are a serious lawn care fanatic and you have a small tractor that you use for various lawn and landscaping chores around the property, you can get a three point hitch type commercial grade aerator that you can use your tractor to aerate with. This is the type that we use in our Landscape Company. They will do the best job of any that we have shown you so far. However, the disadvantage is the cost.
This unit will run you over $2,100.00 plus shipping to boot. That’s a lot of money to spend for a piece of equipment that you may not use more than a half dozen times a year. But, let’s say that you and your brother, good friend, cousin, etc. go in together to buy one. Then the cost is cut in half and it’s not like the unit is going to be used by one or the other of you each time the other wants to use it. It should be available for either of you when you need it. Of course, one of you will need to own a tractor.
If you are a volunteer at your kids Little League or school, you might find this is just the tool you need to help them keep the fields in good shape.
Renting Equipment to Aerate
Still another option is to rent an aerator. You can rent a tow behind aerator for $50.00 to $75.00 from most rental stores. But, just do a little math and you can see that it wouldn’t take too many rentals and you could have bought one of your own. Plus not having the aggravation of having to drive to the rental store, load it, haul it back, etc.
Many rental stores will also have a walk-behind gas powered aerator. These are plug type aerators and do an excellent job. However, they will work you hard. If you’re not in good physical shape, we don’t suggest attempting one of these. You can buy one like this, Husqvarna 25.5″ for around $3,300.00
There are many options for equipment to aerate, here is another. A three point hitch type aerator for your tractor, in a spike type. Basically, it’s a large drum with spikes welded to it that you can use with your tractor.
Again, your tractor must have a three point hitch and be large enough to lift this unit weighing almost 400#. With this aerator and the 3-pt. hitch plugging aerator listed above, you can’t use just a small lawn and garden mower “tractor”, you will have to have at minimum a small Kubota/John Deere/Kioti tractor that would accept a front end loader, tillers, and other small equipment. You won’t be using what Sears calls a “Lawn Tractor”. Those are just lawn mowers.
And finally, one more option is a hand held plugging aerator. It’s simply a tool with two hollow spears on the end of it. Operating it is plain and simple, raise it up, push it down. Repeat this a few hundred times and you’ll be done. Again, for the person that doesn’t mind some vigorous exercise, or for those that have the smallest of postage stamp size lawns, this might be for you. This one sells for only $24.00 and you can even get replacement tines for it when you wear out what comes on it.
The bottom line of aerating is that it doesn’t matter what type of aerator you use, they will get the job done. The only difference is which type you use, how much money you want to spend and how much work you are willing to do. Aerating is the least expensive thing you can do to your lawn and will give you more benefits than some other lawn maintenance services you could have done.
And of course, if you’re all fired up to get your lawn aerated and you don’t want to buy or rent the equipment, don’t have the time or energy to do it anyway and would rather just have a nice lawn without the sweat, then call your local Lawn and Landscape Company to get it done. It will cost you anywhere from $45.00 to as much as a few hundred depending on the size of your lawn and the market you live in.
The timing for aeration will depend on a couple things. Usually when the soil is soft enough for the tines to go into the ground is the most important, for the equipment to work right. If you have an irrigation system, then this is not an issue. You can simply water enough to make the ground soft, and go to work.
If someone asked I can do this once a year, when should I do it? I would say Fall. The next best time would be Spring. But, remember, golf courses, pro football and baseball fields, soccer fields and other turfgrass areas that get a lot of foot traffic or vehicle traffic will aerate several times a year. It’s one of those things that won’t hurt anything to do it even monthly.
If you have any questions, feel free to email us and we will try to answer for you. If you have found this post helpful, please share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. We wish you greener grass and lush lawns!
Related Posts at LawnMasters