Why aeration is the key to a healthy, green lawn
Lawn aeration is an integral component of an ecology-based lawn care program that provides a wealth of benefits for the homeowner and the environment. Soil compaction and the thatch layer are reduced through lawn aeration, requiring less water and fertilizer.
The holes created by aeration act as individual germinating chambers for new seedlings, expose crane fly larvae to birds and other predators and allow for the exchange of gases from soil to air, increasing resistance to disease. Aeration also enhances tolerance to heat and helps speed up the repair of winter injury and drought damage.
Lawn aeration helps integrate two soil types together, such as a thin layer of topsoil and clay, for better root development and drainage. It also alleviates many problems associated with unhealthy and poorly maintained lawns, including discoloration and too much thatch.
Aeration removes plugs of soil and prevents thatch buildup. The breakdown of those plugs encourages small micro-organisms to start eating the thatch layer. When thatch, disease and pests are thus discouraged, the result is a thicker, greener, healthier lawn. The roots of your grass will grow deeper and require less watering, which can save you money in the long term.
Homeowners preferring organic-based fertilizers may insist on aerating their lawns twice a year, which contributes to the eco-friendly health of their lawn. I do not recommend the use of Weed and Feed after seeding, as it can kill or disfigure new seedlings. Use an environmentally-friendly, agricultural grade fertilizer with 60 percent slow release. As heavy nitrogen fertilizers will cause improper and unhealthy growth habits.
Many homeowners choose to also apply compost directly after aerating, seeding and fertilizing. I recommend applying one third of an inch of fine compost with organic material to improve your soil profile and break up the thatch even more. Rake the compost across your lawn and get as much as you possibly can into the aeration holes.
Your lawn must be actively growing and the temperature should be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It's best to cut the lawn first. Compost is easiest to spread when it is dry, so keep it covered with a tarp to prevent excess water weight. If the plugs lying on your lawn appear unsightly, a mulching mower can be used to break them up.
Aeration is also beneficial for newly constructed housing developments that often lay 2 inches of soil over hardpan clay or site compacted soil. Adding sand to this type of soil can create worse problems. Sand and clay can turn this type of soil into a concrete substance. Aeration pulls plugs down to 3 inches deep and breaks up hardpan clay. This will allow the lawn roots to grow 1 inch deeper in a short amount of time, while helping to break the hardpan barrier.
In the Northwest, I recommend quality seed, specifically chosen for western Washington lawns. It is disease-resistant and very hardy. It is the most effective and economical way to maintain a lush, green lawn.
About this Angie's List Expert: Stewart Armour is the owner and operator of Aerating Thatching Co., providing lawn fertilization and treatment in Seattle. Opening in 2004, Aerating and Thatching Co. specializes in lawn aerating, thatching, seeding and fertilizing and received the 2012 Angie's List Super Service Award.
As of July 2, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.