All lawns will benefit from aerating, and from the point of view of a domestic lawn, it is not possible to aerate it too much!
Lawns love to have an aeration treatment applied, and always react really well by greening up and thickening.
The very best premiership football pitches will be spiked after every match, to open up the soil and help it to recover quickly, especially in the most prone areas such as by the goal mouth. On lower standard pitches, the goalmouth area always struggles top keep a good grass layer because the goalie is constantly standing on it, squashing the air out of the soil, preventing the grass from being able to recover for next time. Running an aerator over this area after use, prevents this compaction, and helps the grass recover quickly.
So how badly does my lawn need aerating?
The compaction level of all lawns does vary, and even on one lawn, the level of compaction may differ throughout due to different amounts of wear, changes in the soil profile and the amount of sun or drainage it gets.
Often, an expert is able to see, just from the colour and health of the grass which areas of a lawn are compacted and which areas are doing well. This is a skill which comes with assessing hundreds of lawns. Compaction is the most common problem for lawns, but often the most overlooked!
How do I measure my lawn for compaction?
The only way to measure the compaction level of a lawn properly is to use a compaction meter. This is a special tool which measures the difficulty in which a probe is inserted into the soil. The more air in the soil, the easier it is to spike it with the probe. All reputable lawn experts carry such a probe.
To measure the compaction level in your own lawn, the first step is to simply stand back and have a good look it and select the areas which you think would be most susceptible. This maybe the area near an entrance, along a path to a shed, or an area under the shade of a tree.
Then, using a tool with a spike on the end such as a garden fork, try to drive the fork into the ground with your boot.
If you have a perfect garden lawn, without a compaction problem, then you will be able to drive the fork in at least six inches using only a small amount of weight, or just your hands. For most lawns, this situation is what we are after, but unfortunately is very rare indeed!
If you can drive the fork in, but have to use a significant amount of weight, and really lean on the fork, then your lawn will really benefit from aerating.
However, sometimes it is almost impossible to penetrate even the top surface of the lawn as it is far too hard. If you find that this is the situation on your lawn, then you urgently need an aeration treatment, and this will most likely need to be repeated within the next six months to get it back to a usable state!
How do I prevent compaction?
The best way to keep lawn compaction problems under control is to aerate your lawn regularly, to prevent it from becoming a problem. Not only is it much easier this way, but it will keep the grass fresher, drain more easily, prevent thinning and causing other problems to the grass.
If you are concerned about a compaction issue in your lawn, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I will be happy to advise.
Lawnscience (South Manchester) Ltd
Next time: How does aeration relieve a compacted lawn?