Lawn Aeration Service
Air is vital to everything that lives - and plants are no different, including grass! The problem with aerating lawns is that homeowners don't see the benefits of this process quickly like we do with typical treatments, and with the benefit being seen below the surface of your lawn. The process of lawn aeration (lawn spiking) delivers medium to long term benefits to your lawn which are not to be avoided!
Lawn Aeration and Drainage
The obvious benefit which homeowners can visualise clearly is surface drainage. By making holes in the turf, it is assumed that water will enter soils quicker, and improve drainage.
This isn't always the case as if aerating with a solid tine (spike) with no heave (lift) to the soil. Aerating lawns in the wrong conditions will only serve to compact the surrounding soil and the base of the hole.
The problem is quite literally being pushed around your soil. This doesn't mean to say that there is no impact or benefit on drainage - just one which is more limited in many cases dependent on the soil structure.
Lawn Aeration and Root Development
Grass roots do not grow in soil - they grow in air pockets within the soil. A healthy soil should be made up of 40-50% air in the form or macro and micro pores. By spiking the lawn, we encourage roots downwards and in greater mass.
With this in mind, it is important that we aerate to a good depth, and to varying depths as to not create a shallow pan of roots.
A dense root mass will serve your lawn well through good growing conditions, but also aid your lawn through tougher periods of weather, such as drought conditions.
We are big advocates of aerating lawns as deeply as possible with this in mind, even if the machines cost us a bit more. If we’re going to travel to you and unload, we want to be unloading the best machine for the job, rather than just the quickest!
Lawn Aeration and Nutrient Availability
Although we apply professional fertilisers to add the required nutrients to lawns, these nutrients are often already present in lower quantities deeper in the soil.
In clay soils, these nutrients can hold in the soil for a long time before leeching out. Why is this important? If we are able to aerate, your grass roots is then able to access tonnes of untapped soil.
A relatively small 100m2 lawn, through aerating just 1cm deeper than before can access an additional tonne of soil - let that one sink in for a second! On the relatively clay-heavy soils that we work on, there is ample potassium and phosphorous and magnesium present in the soil, it's just not being accessed.
It can be argued that lawn aeration is a form of fertiliser recycling!
Can I aerate a wet lawn?
A wet lawn in terms of a wet surface is no problem to aerate. A wet lawn in terms of a wet soil is likely to cause more compaction than it solves as touched on previously.
It's good to have a level of moisture in the soil in order for machinery to gain the best possible depth, but a 100kg+ machine on a wet soil (x3 the weight of a typical lawn mower) is a bad move for the health of your lawn.
With this in mind, we only aerate at certain times of the year when the soil conditions allow.
When is the best time to aerate a lawn?
Lawn aeration can be completed much of the year round in the correct soil conditions and with the correct tines (spikes).
As above, there may be difficulty with getting on a very wet or very dry lawn to make the impact that you wish. Spring or autumn may provide the best soil conditions but in an age of global warming nothing should be taken off the table!
We enjoy the months of October and November for standalone lawn aeration work to avoid extremes of weather and uncertain ground conditions.
What constitutes lawn aeration?
A garden fork is not a lawn aeration tool. As mentioned, it is very easy to compact surrounding soils.
Excessively lifting the soil with a fork is also not recommended as this will work to damage roots solidified within the soil - tearing roots away from their home.
Small drum style hand pushed aerators, or aerator shoes are better than nothing, but will only make up to maybe 2" holes (50mm) in your lawn. You could hire a machine to carry out the work, but after the cost of which, transport, and completing the work in the correct conditions, you would be better served in contacting a professional.
Many lawn care services are able to include aerations within their lawn care programmes if be standalone, with a standard treatment, or within a lawn renovation while scarifying and overseeding the lawn.
Hollow or solid-tine aeration?
There two types of common aerator tine (spike) used in lawn care, these being solid and hollow, with chisel / fracture tines a close third.
A solid tine is just that - a solid spike which goes into the ground. A hollow-tine works by removing small cores (also known as core aeration across the pond) from lawns, thereby removing a level of bulk density and thatch.
Aerator tines come on all manner of shapes and sizes for differing benefits. We can recommend the best course of action at the time of your first lawn treatment.
We possess a range of machines to bring poor lawns up to scratch through our renovation work, and through aerating formal lawns an annual basis alongside our lawn care services.
Should the soil plugs from hollow-tine aeration be cleared up?
This one is always a slight area of controversy within professional lawn care!
Our take is that soil cores can only be left in perfect circumstances to decompose naturally. Even with this, they will look unsightly and will prevent mowing for a little while. Pressing these plugs into the surface will only lead to a lawn becoming bumpy. The action of hollow-tine aeration is to remove bulk density and thatch. Not clearing the plugs isn’t completing a full job in our eyes.
We have previously cored lawns and swept soil plugs into a border as an experiment. A year later this soil had not broken down. It is not a one-size fits all approach.
We always clear plugs from standalone hollow-tine aeration work. If on lighter soil, they can be drag matted following the work to create a top-dressing and start the breakdown process. Without drag matting, or on clay soils this natural breakdown process could take a very, very long time. These perfect circumstances would include a light soil structure, rich with soil biology for good core breakdown. If this is the case, is your lawn even a candidate for hollow-tine aeration?
After hollow-tine aeration, shouldn’t these holes be filled with sand?
This is common place on golf greens where this soil exchange is beneficial for the dilution of thatch, the management of casting worms, and to provide a smooth putting surface for the next day.
We so often get told that ‘we don’t want / need a bowling green’, so with this in mind, we don’t recommend top-dressing.
This is a very expensive operation for the benefits gained –we believe in creating incredible value! Hollow-tine aeration, dependent on the spacing of the tines and size of the plugs will only remove 2-3% of the upper reaches of soil, so there is no need to ‘top up’ soil, certainly with the inert material of sand which has very low nutrient holding capabilities.
This inert material does little for the beneficial fungi and bacteria required within a healthy soil. This practice is limited to golf and bowling greens.
Not only this, it is a historical practice for many who have moved away from the overuse of high sand top-dressings that are not always good value for money.
A recently aerated lawn near Solihull. Even after aeration the lawn still looks well presented.
Marston Green Cricket Club, on the edge of Birmingham Airport gaining a deep solid tine aeration in some late-autumn sunshine
A specialist aerator of ours being a fracture-tine machine. This creates big, deep air pockets, great on our local clay soils