Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another important issue for lawn health: Aeration

Okay, so now is a good time for aeration. You might have even had someone come to your door to convince you to pay them to aerate your lawns.

I hope you accepted.

Here's why.

The next time you go to a garden center or a DIY store's garden section, peruse the aisles that deal with lawn care.

As you walk down the aisle of the garden center your eye might be caught by an amazing looking device. It looks like a boot with spikes jutting out of the bottom. Is it an armored soccer or football shoe? No. It is a lawn aerator. But what is the difference between these spikes and the plug method of aeration? And which is better for your lawn? Let's explore some of the going wisdom about this issue.


A spike for your lawn is exactly what it sounds like. It jabs deeply enough into your lawn to get through the grass's root system. Theoretically, this allows air, water and fertilizer access to the roots of your grass, thus making the lawn healthier and greener. However, spikes simply don't cut it on lawns planted on heavy clay or even in very loose soil. Why? Because clay is very resistant and will often seal right up as soon as you slide that spike out. And looser soil will just fall back into the hole, filling it right back up. Spikes take no dirt and no grass out, like plugs, but instead they just make an iffy hole.


Plugs are, once again, exactly what they sound like. They are tiny cylinders of your lawn that are cut and pulled out by a machine. These cylinders leave behind small holes which don't collapse much, if at all. And if loose soil collapsed into these small holes, that would be fine, there would still be a hole left, as the plugs remove a small quantity of soil and grass. What is more, the plugs are left on your lawn to break down and actually provide some nice natural fertilizer for your grass. A small drawback of having plugs taken out for aeration is that these little plugs are indeed left all over your lawn. So for a day or two your lawn might look like a tiny gopher was building a metropolis under your yard. However, the plugs deteriorate fast with water and traffic. And the holes that the plugs leave behind provide good, reliable access for fertilizer, water and air to the root system of your grass.

Which do I recommend for your lawn's aeration? Plugs, all the way. A local grass care company should be able to plug your lawn in a matter of minutes, usually for no more than $20. So leave the insane cleats at the garden center and hurry home to call the aerator guy.

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