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Let your lawn breathe: 3 signs it's time to aerate

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

Aerating a lawn allows essential nutrients such as Oxygen, Phosphorus and Potassium to better penetrate the roots of grass. The process involves mechanically poking thousands of holes in the ground, using an aerator machine.

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Here are three signs that it could be time to aerate your yard:

  1. Your lawn is thinning. If your yard seems to be thinning and you can't trace any other obvious cause, such as a new source of shade or watering changes, the reason may be soil compaction.

  2. Lawn fertilizer doesn't do much good anymore. When soil is highly compacted, the lawn fertilizer nutrients are unable to reach the roots of grass. If you fertilize but don't see much in the way of results, you may have overly compacted soil.

  3. You have a lot of runoff. Overly compacted soil doesn't absorb water as well as soil with space between particles. If you're starting to see more runoff than normal, and more rain or irrigation isn't the cause, you may need to aerate.

If you think your lawn could use a little more breathing room, aerating is not as daunting as it might seem. Rent a core aerator from your local garden center can help you tackle the job in an afternoon--which means both you and your lawn can breathe a sigh of relief.

The Lawn Institute suggests that the best time to aerate lawns is approximately two weeks before applying the year's final fertilizer, or five to six weeks before the first frost.

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