Do you often experience water-logging on your lawns? Are your plants wilting even with proper watering and fertilizing?
These problems are common in many of our lawns. We assume these issues are related to improper care of the plant. So, we tend to use one-time solutions like strong fertilizers to resolve them.
We don’t realize that the problem might be with the soil, which is generally left uncatered for long. Due to being ignored, the soil compacts leading to less absorption of the necessary nutrients and even air.
Soil aeration is the best solution to solve this. Aerating the soil means creating space for air in the clogged or compact soil.
In this article, we have discussed all the details you need to learn about soil aeration. From the symptoms of compact soil to aerate the lawn soil to the best ways to aerate, we provide everything.
What Is Soil Aeration?
All the plants growing in your lawn require some essential nutrients and air to grow. Nutrients and minerals, like nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, are all provided to them through the soil. Besides these minerals, oxygen and carbon dioxide also flow through the topsoil to the plant roots.
There are times when the soil becomes heavy as well as the molecules stick very close together. This compact soil disrupts the free flow of air and nutrients by blocking the routes. Further, in extreme cases, it can lead to carbon or oxygen poisoning of the soil, as either one collects inside without any space to escape.
As a result, your greenery starts to wilt and die. Creating holes or spaces in soil for better circulation of air and minerals is called Soil Aeration. It is an essential part of the maintenance routine you need to follow for the healthy growth of your plants.
The soil in your lawn needs regular aeration. It is not a troublesome process as you can choose to do it yourself too. There are many tools available for easy aeration.
Why Do You Need Soil Aeration?
You might not realize immediately if your soil needs aeration. Many phenomena occurring slowly and gradually cause poor aeration in the soil layer. As a result, they act as slow poison for your plants while you consistently keep looking for the problems.
Two such main causes of poor aeration are-
Compaction means compressing or pressing the soil. As a result, the density of the soil increases that makes it tight. It happens because the pores in the soil get filled up.
Soil compacts gradually as you walk or stand on it. The use of tractors or other machines in your field quickens the compaction process even more.
These pores that get filled up due to compaction are crucial. Many macro and micropores are the means of transport for water to the roots. Also, the air comprising oxygen and carbon dioxide enters the soil through the same pores to reach the roots.
As a consequence, water starts logging on top of the soil while the roots remain dry. Plants also don’t get enough air and nutrients. This problem may result in an urgent need for soil aeration.
You might have noticed a thick layer of grass and dead material on the crust of your lawn. This layer is called thatch.
Grasses and weeds grow and decompose continuously in the soil. You need not remove them as they make good compost after decomposing. Although essential, they can cause a problem if their growth outgrows the decomposition rate.
Fast-growing grasses like Kentucky and Bermudagrass spread vigorously. They spread like wildfire, while their decomposition is slower. As a result, the thatch layer starts to thicken.
This thick thatch tends to cover the complete top layer of the soil. This layer of thatch is not healthy for the soil and the growth of other plants. This is because it blocks the pores of the soil layer, restricting the entry of water and air.
In this manner, thatching causes the problem of poor aeration in the soil. It is recommended to de-thatch your lawns by aerating them.
Signs That Your Lawn Needs Aeration
It is not wise to aerate the soil when compaction and thatching are at their peak. Numerous other symptoms help you recognize the issue of poor aeration. Some of them are-
1. Water Puddles
The most evident consequence of compaction or dense soil is water-logging. You will notice that after you water the plants, the water collects on the soil layer instead of seeping in. Even the regular quantity of watering will start creating water puddles in your lawn.
The condition will be worse during rainfall. You will notice a lot of water collecting in pits and on the topsoil, similar to clay soil. These indicate an urgent need for soil aeration.
2. Running Water And Quick Drying
Another sign of the depleting health of your soil is water running off. When the water you pour or rains doesn’t get any space to seep inside the soil, it will run off the slopes. It means that instead of staying on the topsoil, it will start flowing away.
As a consequence, your garden land will also dry up very quickly. This gives rise to many severe consequences for the plants further.
Proper growth and blossoms require adequate nutrients, water, and air from the plant. So, any deficiency would start to show soon in the plant.
The very initial sign your plants will give is discoloration. The bright green color of leaves and even grass starts to fade. They turn dull and slowly begin wilting.
How To Aerate The Soil?
Soil aeration doesn’t only mean tilling the soil. It involves proper steps to be followed to make the soil aerated.
Here are few simple steps you need to keep in mind before starting with the aerating process:
1. Decide How And When You Want To Aerate
The first step is to decide when you want to aerate your soil. The grass in your garden affects the time for aeration significantly. The best time to aerate is before the active growth period to yield healthy plants.
Additionally, the type of soil in your garden or yard acts as a crucial factor. Clay soil becomes compacted fast. So, you can choose to aerate it once a year. On the other hand, sandy soil requires aeration every two years.
If you walk over your soil area frequently or regularly, this makes the soil compact. Compact soil needs more aeration.
Also, keep in mind not to aerate within one year of reseeding. It gives grass the time to recover and get strong.
2. Choose The Type Of Aerator
The next step is to decide the type of aerator for your garden or yard soil. There are two types of aerators that you can choose from according to your suitability.
The gasoline or power-driven aerators are most suitable for large yard areas. The aerator either uses the spikes or coring system to aerate the soil. The spike system poke holes in the soil, while the coring system pulls plugs for soil.
This accelerates water and nutrient absorption. You can choose to rent or buy an aerator according to your convenience.
If you have a small yard or garden area, a manual aerator is the best option to opt for. Manual aerators are also available in two types, namely coring-style aerator and spike-type aerator.
A coring-style aerator removes cores from the soil using a cylinder. The core-style aerator boosts water and nutrients absorption more effectively.
3. Prepare The Soil For Aeration
The soil is best aerated when it is cleared or mowed. This makes the aerating job easy and
allows proper access to the soil. Clean the yard or garden area and remove all the plant matter, sticks, leaves, and other material. Further, after cleaning the yard or garden soil, you can choose to mow the yard space.
This step will ensure that the aerator works without any hurdle and stays in easy access to the ground. Ensure your garden or yard soil is moist. Your soil will yield the best benefits when it is moist and makes the aeration process easy. Sprinkle some water on the ground soil if there has been no rain before the aeration process.
After you water the garden, leave it for few days to let water infiltrate properly. Manual aerators show the best results on softened earth soil, while coring-style aerators work better on dry soil. The corer may find it difficult to pull the wet soil.
4. Now Aerate The Soil
Now, if you have followed all the steps mentioned above, it means your soil is ready for aerating. Start from any side and move to the opposite side till the whole area gets covered.
Don’t double aerate any area until you feel it is required. It is advisable to do a second aeration cycle in the opposite direction to maximize the benefits of the process.
Do not touch the cores of the aerated soil. They will turn into compost with time and provide your soil with more nutrients.
Your job isn’t complete once the aeration process. Another vital step you must keep in mind is to fertilize the soil after aeration. You can add fertilizers, moss, and sand or spread compost for soil to recover. The holes accelerate the absorption of fertilizers into the soil with ease.
Now your soil aeration process is complete. You can grow plants, flowers, vegetables, or herbs as per your wish.
Benefits Of Soil Aeration
Soil aeration is beneficial for your soil for various reasons. Here are some reasons you should know to compel yourself to aerate the soil:
1. It Helps In Plant Growth
Soil aeration is vital for your plant’s growth. It aids plant development by providing the essential supply of oxygen and reducing CO2 that causes harm to the plants. If your soil is not aerated, it will not receive the sufficient oxygen supply required.
Periodic soil aeration prevents waterlogging and the formation of toxic substances in the soil. Further, the roots and soil with regular aeration thrive healthy plants.
2. Nutrients Absorption
Your plant’s healthy growth depends on the number of nutrients gets absorbed. Just like humans need survival food, plants need nutrients to sustain themselves. Nutrients get absorbed through roots. Aerating soil will keep the roots compact and enhance the metabolism system of the plants.
Poor aeration can cause reduced uptake of nutrients and water by the roots due to flooding. It is visible when your plants break down when you don’t take proper care of them.
3. Prevents Diseases
If you do not take care of your plants, there are high chances of the disease spreading in your plants. The disease organisms growing in the roots or soil hamper the plant growth.
It becomes essential to keep a regular check and aerating the soil frequently. Soil aerating changes the susceptibility of disease growing in the plant. Most of the plants are intolerant to improper aeration.
4. Helps Micro-Organisms
Micro-organisms present in your soil accelerate the growth of your plant. These micro-organisms need a large amount of oxygen supply to sustain themselves. Poor aeration reduces the metabolism of the micro-organisms and wouldn’t thrive.
For example, the decomposition of organic matter, oxidation all vary with the amount of oxygen supplied to soil. To grow a healthy plant in your garden area, ensure proper soil aeration.
5. Ensures Proper Drainage
Soil aeration ensures proper drainage of air, water, and nutrients from roots to different parts of the plant. A less compacted soil accelerates better penetration of plant roots into the soil. When they get penetrated deep into the soil, they use water and other nutrients efficiently.
Water drainage is significant to keep the plant healthy. Water drainage doesn’t take place in compacted soil and leads to flooding. Many people make the mistake of increasing the water supply without ensuring a proper drainage system. For water to seep deep into the soil, it is crucial to keep the soil texture light by aerating it.
Ways Of Soil Aeration
Soil aeration involves cost and energy. It is not an easy process and requires considerable attention for better results. However, this laborious task can be simplified and done using different methods that make it easy. The process of aeration requires the use of various tools according to your soil suitability.
Here is a list of aerators you can consider choosing from if you are considering aerating your soil.
1. Spike Aeration
In this method, the tool forms holes in the ground soil using a solid tine or fork. It is best suitable for using a small area because of the components it uses. Its components are soil-aeration shoes, prongs, rollers, and mowers and all have spikes for easy piercing into the soil.
Soil aeration shoes, prongs, or rollers involve pushing or rolling using manual labor. Mower attachments include machine work which requires less energy. This method works best on sandy soil.
2. Core Aeration
As the name suggests, core aeration includes creating ‘cores’ or ‘plugs’ in the soil. This method not only pierces through the soil surface but also pulls its parts out. Its equipment includes manual and mower attachments. It is best suitable for clay soil.
3. Liquid Aeration
Unlike the previously mentioned methods, the liquid aeration process is a little different. It consists of a wetting agent or nourishment for earth-dwelling biota. Wetting agents help in better infiltration together with water seeps deep into the soil.
Soil aeration increases by digging along with allowing space for water drainage. The liquid aerators include nutrients and food for micro-organisms to enhance their activity. The micro-organisms work to increase soil fertility.
This article includes everything to know about the aeration needs of your lawns. When the soil is well aerated, you are bound to see happy plant growth in your garden.
Other than plants, many micro-organisms and animals get impacted by poor soil aeration. They feed on the nutrients in the soil and use the pores to move around. Additionally, they help maintain the pH level of the soil.
Yes, earthworms, or farmers’ friends, are natural aerators present in the soil. Still, when there is too much compacting, they also give up. The absence of earthworms hints at a poor health sign of the soil layer.
Make it a habit to regularly aerate and de-thatch your soil. Depending on various factors, the frequency of aeration can differ.
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.