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Occasional Gardening Services: Lawn Aeration

Lawn after aeration

What is lawn aeration?

Lawn aeration involves the removal of small soil plugs or cores out of the lawn, using a machine with hollow tubes mounted on a drum. Known as a core aerator, it extracts 1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter cores of soil and deposits them on your lawn. Aeration holes are typically 1-6 inches deep and 2-6 inches apart.

What will aeration do for my lawn?

As lawns age or sustain use from play, sports activities, pets and traffic, soil compaction can result. Soil compacting forces are most severe in poorly drained or wet sites. Compaction greatly reduces the pore space within the soil that would normally hold air. Roots require oxygen to grow and absorb nutrients and water. Compaction reduces total pore space and the amount of air within the soil. It has a negative impact on nutrient uptake and water infiltration, in addition to being a physical barrier to root growth. This results in poor top growth and lawn deterioration. Core aeration can benefit your lawn by:

  • Increasing the activity of soil microorganisms that decompose thatch.
  • Increasing water, nutrient and oxygen movement into the soil.
  • Improving rooting.
  • Enhancing infiltration of rainfall or irrigation.
  • Helping prevent fertilizer run-off from overly compacted areas.

When should I aerate?

In Alberta, the best time to aerate is in the Spring when the grass is coming out of winter dormancy and beginning a period of vigorous growth. Lawns will recover quickly from aeration at this time. Competition from weeds is also minimal during this time.