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The Science of Lawn Aeration

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Learn about the benefits, techniques, and best practices for lawn aeration in San Diego.

As a homeowner or business owner in San Diego, you know the value of maintaining a healthy, vibrant lawn. However, even with regular watering and fertilization, your lawn may become compacted over time, leading to poor drainage, root growth, and overall lawn health. That's where lawn aeration comes in. Lawn aeration is the process of mechanically removing small cores of soil from your lawn to alleviate soil compaction and allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate more easily.

Aeration can provide numerous benefits for your lawn, including:

Improved soil structure and drainage: Compacted soil can inhibit water infiltration and promote runoff, leading to poor drainage and erosion. Aeration creates pathways for water to enter the soil and percolate down to the roots, improving soil structure and reducing soil erosion.

Enhanced nutrient uptake: Aeration can also improve the uptake of nutrients by your grass, promoting healthy growth and color. By creating channels in the soil, aeration helps nutrients penetrate deeper into the root zone where they are needed most.

Reduced thatch buildup: Thatch is a layer of dead grass stems, roots, and other organic debris that accumulates on your lawn over time. While some thatch is beneficial for your lawn, excessive thatch can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the roots. Aeration can help break up thatch and promote its decomposition by encouraging the growth of beneficial soil microorganisms.

Improved root growth: Compacted soil can restrict root growth and lead to shallow, weak roots. By creating channels in the soil, aeration allows roots to grow deeper and stronger, promoting a healthier, more resilient lawn.

Reduced pest and disease pressure: Dense, compacted lawns can also be more susceptible to pests and diseases. Aeration can help promote a healthier lawn that is more resistant to pests and diseases.

Now that you understand the benefits of lawn aeration, let's take a closer look at the science behind this important lawn care practice. Soil compaction occurs when soil particles are pressed tightly together, reducing the space between them and making it difficult for water, air, and nutrients to penetrate. Compaction can be caused by a variety of factors, including foot traffic, heavy machinery, and even weather events like heavy rain or flooding. In San Diego, where soil is often heavy and clay-like, compaction can be especially problematic. Lawn aeration is a mechanical process that uses a machine called a core aerator to remove small plugs of soil from your lawn. These plugs, typically about 2-3 inches long, are left on the surface of the lawn to break down naturally over time. By removing these soil plugs, aeration creates channels in the soil that allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate more easily.

There are several different types of lawn aerators, including spike aerators and plug or core aerators. Spike aerators use solid tines to poke holes in the soil, while plug aerators remove small cores of soil. While spike aerators are less expensive and easier to use, they are generally less effective than plug aerators because they can actually increase soil compaction by pushing soil particles together. Plug aerators are the preferred choice for most lawn care professionals because they are more effective at reducing soil compaction and promoting healthy lawn growth. However, plug aerators can be more expensive to rent or purchase, and they require more effort to operate because they remove soil plugs from the lawn. Green Rabbit only uses plug aerators for our customers.

When should you aerate your lawn? The best time to aerate your lawn in depends on a few factors, including your grass type and the severity of soil compaction. We recommend aerating twice per year for optimal soil health. It’s also important to aerate when the soil is moist but not overly wet.

In addition to proper timing, there are a few best practices that should always be followed when aerating your lawn to ensure the best results:

Use a plug or core aerator: As mentioned earlier, plug or core aerators are more effective at reducing soil compaction and promoting healthy lawn growth than spike aerators.

Make multiple passes: We make at least two or three passes over your lawn in different directions to ensure even coverage and better aeration.

Leave soil plugs on the lawn: Our technicians do not rake up or remove the soil plugs after aerating. They will break down naturally over time and help improve soil health.

Water your lawn after aerating: After aerating, it’s important to water the lawn deeply to help promote healthy growth and to wash soil plugs into the holes left by the aerator.

Overseed after aerating: Aeration creates an ideal environment for grass seed to germinate and grow. Green Rabbit always overseeds your lawn after aerating to fill in thin or bare spots and increase turf thickness.

As you can see, lawn aeration isn’t an extremely complicated process. That being said, it is cheaper, safer, and more effective to leave it to licensed professionals like Green Rabbit. We have aerated thousands of lawns throughout San Diego and know how to transform your lawn quickly and effectively.

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