To have a beautiful, well-manicured lawn around your home or office building takes a lot of hard work. Managing and maintaining your lawn involves a lot of planning and time, but the end result is worth the effort! Aerating and fertilizing are maintenance tasks that you need to do, but can you do them at the same time?
You can aerate and fertilize your garden at the same time. By performing both maintenance functions at the same time, you will get this seasonal job done quicker, reducing the time you spend on this task in your garden every year. Aerating followed by fertilizing is recommended for healthy gardens.
Every gardener, whether a small at-home gardener or a big commercial gardener, understands the value of aerating and fertilizing your soil at least once a year. The benefits of not only cleaning out the old, dead grass and foliage but also introducing new minerals and nutrients into the soil are a well-known practice amongst the gardening community.
Why Should I Aerate And Fertilize?
The purpose of aeration is to ensure that essential nutrients, oxygen, water, and fertilizer reach the soil beneath your grass. If you do not aerate frequently, your grass could die as the roots are starved of essential elements which cannot reach them as the soil is too hard and compact.
Plugs of earth and thatch are removed from the ground to loosen the soil under the lawn and to expose the grassroots. Once the ground has been loosened up through aeration, the grassroots are able to spread through the soil and absorb what they need to grow well.
It stands to reason that we add fertilizer immediately after aerating, as the holes are open in the soil and the fertilizer will be able to soak down into the ground, especially once covered with a light sprinkling of water.
Adding fertilizer to your lawn is good practice and should always be spread over your lawn immediately after aerating to aid in the distribution of the nutrients and oxygen that the grass requires to grow.
When Should I Aerate And Fertilize?
Your lawn does need frequent aeration and fertilization to keep it in good health and looking beautiful. The secret is knowing when to aerate and fertilize and how often throughout the year this process needs to be done.
As aeration provides temporary stress relief to your lawn, it is important to keep in mind the annual growth cycles of your lawn as well as the growing conditions in your area.
We all live in many different climates with different growing cycles and different growing conditions, so you may need to research which is the best time for aerating and fertilizing for your area.
A general rule would be to aerate at least once a year on most lawns or twice annually if the ground is particularly compact or has heavy traffic over it.
Fertilizer is best applied during the growing season or directly following the aeration process and should be applied at least three more times throughout the year for best results. Light fertilization in the spring and early summer is recommended, with a heavy application in the fall. Fertilizer can be applied as late in the year as six to eight weeks before the anticipated date of the first frost.
You Should Aerate Your Soil If The Following Conditions Apply
There are certain circumstances in your garden or with your lawn where aerating would be recommended to improve the health and quality of your lawn and keep it in great condition.
The area gets heavy use. Playgrounds and racetracks are used year-round, so they will benefit from aeration and fertilization at least twice during the year and may even need additional treatment if the soil is too compact and the grass is wearing quickly.
Building sites. Existing grass is often destroyed during the building process. If you have recently had any building work done, pay extra attention to your grass.
Dry grass. Using a shovel, remove a slice of lawn about 4 inches (10cm) deep. If the grass layer is deeper than 1 inch (2.5cm), then the soil requires an aeration treatment.
Sod and soil. If the existing soil is more compact or has a high clay content, the grassroots will struggle to penetrate the soil. Aeration will be a bi-annual requirement to allow the grass to thrive.
Re-seeding. If your lawn is sparse and dying, re-seeding the area would be a good option. Aerating and fertilizing would be a requirement to prepare the soil for new seeds.
Requirements For Each Season And Types Of Grass
- Cool-season grasses. If your lawn has cool-season grasses such as Bluegrass, Fescue, and Ryegrass, the best time to aerate is during the growth periods in the spring and fall.
- Warm-season grasses. Bermudagrass, Buffalograss, St Augustine, and Zoysiagrass are typical warm-season grasses and should be aerated during the warmer times of the year, between late spring and early summer.
- Aerating in the spring. Its recommended that you mow your lawn a few times before aerating in the spring. This is to allow the grass to recover after the winter season and to then benefit from the additional space and oxygen after aeration. Aerating too soon after the cold season will not be beneficial to the roots as they would not have started their spring growth.
- Aerating in the fall. If your lawn does need aeration before winter, it should be done early enough in the fall season so that the roots can recover before the dormant winter season. Check for frost before aerating the soil.
How To Aerate And Fertilize
Once you have decided that your lawn needs some attention, the next step is to plan when and how you are going to attempt this task and which tools to use.
There are a few important steps to follow to ensure the best results from your hard work and to provide the correct conditions for optimal new growth in the garden.
Scarify The Grass.
Set your mower on a low setting and mow the grass! The idea is to remove some of the dead grass before starting the aeration process, as the aeration tool that you are using will be able to access the soil easier without a pile of dead grass in the way.
The scarifier does the job of a rake by removing dead leaves, moss, and dead grass from the lawn and allowing air to circulate before you begin the aeration process. Crisscross the area to be aerated a number of times with the scarifier to make sure that the entire area is covered. Reduce the height of the blade setting at each pass.
Water The Soil.
The ground is likely to be extremely hard so trying to aerate rock-hard soil is not a good idea and could take up a lot of your time. Try and water the area at least the day before and then, if possible, an hour before you are going to begin the job.
Be careful not to overwater as the soil should not be muddy. Muddy soil will flood the holes and wash away all the nutrients provided by the fertilizer.
Aerating after a rain shower is a great idea as the soil should be thoroughly soaked by the rain, saving you from the job of watering with a hose and reducing the time needed for preparation.
Create The Aerating Holes.
Plugs of earth need to be extracted from the soil. There are many tools available to get this job done, so make sure that you use the tool which suits you.
Heavily compacted areas may need multiple plugs of soil excavated from the area. Check the area thoroughly to how many plugs are needed.
Break up the plugs of the earth with your lawnmower or the back of a rack and spread out over the lawn – they will not be placed back into the holes but will be absorbed back into the soil.
Top Tip: If there is an area of lawn that is growing healthy and strong, leave it alone this time. It may only require aeration before the next new season. Leaving a patch alone every now and then is great for the soil and will save you time and energy!
Apply The Fertilizer
The best time to apply fertilizer over your lawn is directly after aeration. There are two different types of fertilizer that can be used: granular and liquid. Each has benefits and drawbacks, so research each to see which type would be more beneficial for your garden.
If you are using a granular fertilizer, spread a layer over your lawn using a spade or a rotary spreader. Liquid fertilizer is diluted in water and sprayed over the lawn with a liquid fertilizer applicator.
Care After Fertilizing
Always water after aerating the lawn and applying fertilizer. A short sprinkling is enough for the first day as the nutrients from the fertilizer need to soak down into the holes left by the plugs, but you do not want to create mud. Continue watering as usual over the next few weeks.
Now is the time to apply any further lawn care treatments that you would like to add to your lawn or to re-seed if necessary.
The lawn should only require its first trim from about three weeks after the aeration and fertilization process. Check the grass often to see if it needs a trim – some areas may grow quicker than others and may need to be trimmed sooner than the rest.
What Are The Best Tools To Use?
You might have to borrow tools from your neighbors, rent a machine, or perhaps buy what you need if you are going to aerate and fertilize your lawn on a regular basis.
Let’s look at what tools and equipment you will need to get the job done:
- Plug aerator. This is the best tool to use for large areas of lawn or to fix severely compacted areas, as it penetrates the soil and removes a plug of soil and grass from the lawn. The plugs should be about 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7cm) deep, 0.5 – 0.75 inches (1.5 – 2cm) in diameter, and 2 -3 inches (5 – 7cm) apart.
- Spike aerator. A manual tool that is pushed along the ground to create holes in the soil. The tines poke small holes in the soil to allow air circulation but do not remove any soil from the ground. Mostly suitable for small lawns or areas which are not too compacted and may need to be repeated a few times during the growing season for lush lawns!
- The garden fork. With this tool, you poke holes in the ground with a solid tine or fork. Stab the tines into the ground every four inches (10cm) and wiggle to loosen the soil. Using a garden fork is not as effective as using a plug aerator in large areas, as the areas around the holes can become even more compacted.
- The hollow tiner. This tool looks like a garden fork but has hollow tines to remove plugs of soil from the ground. Use this tool as you would the garden fork, using the same spacing but removing the plugs from the tines.
While using machines like a plug aerator are the best tools for getting the job done and saving you time, they might not be affordable to many small home gardeners or unnecessary if you have a small area to aerate.
Using handheld manual machines can produce the same results as using big machines but will take more time.
Which Is The Best Fertilizer To Use?
Which fertilizer should you use on the newly aerated lawn? There are many types of fertilizers available, but they should all contain the same basic nutrients: Potassium, Phosphorus, and Nitrogen. Each one of these nutrients plays a part in maintaining healthy lawns and gardens, but a high level of nitrogen is a particular requirement for beautiful lawns.
Fertilizer should be used at a rate of 1lb (.450kg) nitrogen per 1000 square feet (304 meters) of lawn, but never more than 4lb (2kg) of nitrogen per 1000 square feet (304 meters) of lawn per year. Phosphorus and potassium, although important, are required in smaller percentages than nitrogen.
Granular fertilizers are recommended for most home use as they do not need to be applied as often and can be applied using a rotary spreader. They are more expensive than liquid fertilizers and take longer to show results, but there is less chance of burning your lawn by applying too much fertilizer.
Liquid fertilizers are diluted in water which provides a more even application when sprayed through a wide-sweep sprayer model. These fertilizers are fast-acting with visible results in a few weeks. The drawback is that they require more applications than granular fertilizers, and they can burn your lawn.
What Are The Benefits Of Aerating And Fertilizing?
You do need to regularly aerate and fertilize your lawn to prevent weeds from growing and to maintain the health of your lawn. There any many benefits to aerating your lawn and applying fertilizers:
- Dead grass and leaves are removed, allowing nutrients from the fertilizer to soak into the soil.
- Aeration creates holes that allow oxygen, water, and fertilizer to reach the grassroots.
- Compacted soil is loosened, allowing the root system to extract the nutrients that it needs from the soil to produce a stronger root system.
- Aerating prior to fertilizing will help the nutrients to soak up more effectively.
- Prepares the soil and grass for winter dormancy and a green spring.
- Grass health is improved as the roots are healthier.
- Lush, healthy lawn to admire and enjoy throughout the summer months!
Now that we have listed all the benefits of aeration and fertilization, enjoy the process of renewing your garden for the new season. Remember to use the correct gardening equipment for the job to avoid any unforeseen damages to your garden.
While the aeration and fertilization process is most often used on the grass to produce lovely lawns, the process can be carried out anywhere in your garden to achieve better-growing results.
Your vegetable gardens, herb gardens, and flower gardens will benefit from aerated soil and added fertilizers and minerals.Try using the simple garden fork to turn over and aerate your soil and enjoy the results!
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