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What is Aerating?

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

Aerating is the process of punching holes (usually 3-4 Inches deep) into your lawn to allow water, oxygen, fertilizers, and other nutrients to penetrate the soil and better reach the roots of your grass. Aerating is usually done by pushing hollow cylinders into the ground and forcing out plugs of soil to the lawn surface. Spikes are also used to aerating, but are not usually as effective. Because spikes do not remove "plugs" from the ground, they do not create holes in the soil for expansion and in some cases, weed prevention. Aerating can also help in breaking up the buildup of Thatch in your lawn (see: What is Thatch?).

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  • Make it greener
  • Eliminate patches
  • Less weeds
  • Make it thicker
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Aerating Cross-Section

The need for aerating a lawn generally stems from compacting from heavy use such as foot traffic, automobiles, etc.. Typically, the more clay you have in your soil, the more susceptible your lawn is to compacting (see: More on Soil). As we discussed in Knowing Your Lawn, your lawn requires three elements for survival - moisture (water), nutrients, and air. When your lawn gets heavily compacted, its roots get deprived of the air they need to survive and grow. Additionally, aerating also allows water and nutrients to better penetrate into the soil and to the grass roots. If you have problems with pooling of water in your lawn, or are on a steep slope of grade, aerating can help to trap the water and absorb it more quickly into the ground (see: Watering). If you have a small buildup of thatch each year, aerating generally solves this problem as well (see: Thatch).

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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