A lush green lawn is pleasant to the eyes and attractive to both humans and animals. However, many residential and public areas place warning signs to keep people off the grass. It is because heavy foot traffic can cause soil compaction, which can reduce the quality and appearance of your lawn grass.
It is better to plug or aerate your lawn to ensure the grass can spread its roots deep into the soil to access more moisture, air, and nutrients. Otherwise, the compact soil can prevent the roots from acquiring these growth essentials, resulting in poor grass health and appearance.
In the rest of the article, I will discuss the benefits and downsides of plug aerating the soil. I will also explain the best way to go about the task, such as when and how often to do it and what tools you need. Keep reading to learn more!
The Benefits of Plug Aerating Your Lawn
Soil aeration is crucial to the overall health and growth of your plants. Poor soil aeration can make the plants more susceptible to diseases because the roots become weaker while the soil pathogens proliferate in moist, compact soil. As a result, the plants have lower resistance to microbial infections and pest attacks.
Here are some reasons why you need to plug or aerate your lawn:
Plug Aerating the Lawn Can Relieve Soil Compaction
As discussed, heavy foot or wheel traffic from wheelbarrows can result in soil compaction on your lawn. In addition, frequent heavy rains and floods can push the soil particles together, leading to soil compaction. This condition can be detrimental to your lawn grass when left unresolved.
Plug aerating your lawn can improve the soil’s texture. The process involves poking a tool or machine into the ground and extracting plugs of soil. The gaps formed in the ground provide an entryway for air, water, and fertilizers.
The Roots Can Grow Bigger
The sizes of the roots and shoots complement each other because the plant needs more extensive roots to support the needs of the plant parts aboveground. If the roots are small, the plant will inevitably suffer stunted growth.
Compact soil can restrict the growth of roots. Plug aeration can loosen up the soil enough for the roots to spread laterally or vertically. This improved capacity for root growth can benefit the grass blades on your lawn as they can also grow bigger.
Plug Aeration Can Improve Soil Drainage
There are only a few traffic-tolerant and flood-tolerant grass species. Many lawn grass varieties prefer loamy or even loose, sandy soil. Most plants cannot thrive in heavily compacted clay soil, making plug aeration necessary as it can poke holes into your lawn and improve its drainage.
As a result, the roots can recover from previously waterlogged conditions, and you will soon see improvement in the appearance of your lawn grass.
Downsides of Plug Aerating Your Lawn
Although aerating your lawn has plenty of benefits, it also has downsides, especially when done in excess. Let’s discuss them below:
It Can Increase the Soil Drainage
Improving soil drainage may be one of the benefits of plug aeration, but it can be counterproductive in excess. Imagine applying fertilizer into your freshly aerated soil and having it leached away from the short roots.
The roots of lawn grass in previously compacted soil are typically short. They might not be able to absorb the nutrients quickly enough before they are washed deep into the ground, resulting in wasted resources and the risk of contaminating underground water reservoirs.
How to avoid: Aerate your lawn only once a year and avoid poking holes too close to one another. Ideally, the holes should be at least 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart.
It Can Damage the Plants
When you imagine the process of plug aeration, which involves digging into the soil with a tool and pulling out chunks or cores of dirt, you can easily see several grass parts extracted along with the soil.
The grass may already be sick due to the poor soil condition, so cutting chunks of them can result in further damage and delayed recovery.
How to avoid: Check the condition of your lawn grass and confirm if soil compaction is the only cause of problems. If there are other underlying problems, you may need to address them separately.
You Risk Spreading Diseases
If you’ve seen plenty of lawns, you may have come across some with seemingly lifeless or yellow patches. The waterlogged conditions make the soil conducive to the growth of harmful microbes, making your plants susceptible to fungal diseases.
The unhealthy patches indicate that the disease is concentrated on a particular area of the lawn, and the other parts with lush green blades are likely unaffected. Pulling out plugs of infected soil and plant parts may spread the disease to other areas.
How to avoid: In most cases, it is best not to move the soil plugs around and just leave them on the surface of your lawn. However, if you have sick grass patches, you may need to address the situation first before plugging your lawn.
How To Plug Aerate Your Lawn
Plug aerating your lawn can be a time-consuming and physically strenuous task. Still, it is essential to ensure a long-lasting and healthy lawn. Thankfully, there are numerous tools and machines available in the market to make the task less of a chore.
You can use a handy tool like the Yard Butler Lawn Core Aerator (available on Amazon.com). It is made of durable rust-resistant steel with soft cushioned handles to prevent hand bruises while using the tool. It has two prongs and a foot bar to help you exert more force into the compact ground.
Alternatively, you can use an aerator with more prongs or a wheeled soil core aeration machine.
Here’s a video showing some methods and tools for aerating your lawn:
When To Plug Aerate Your Lawn
One good thing about plug aeration is that although it can be tedious, you only have to do it once a year.
Moreover, you can do it during the growing season so that grass can recover more quickly. Various types of grass typically grow in spring or fall, making the weather and environment more tolerable for an outdoor gardening chore.
Depending on your grass variety’s growing schedule and the climate in your area, aerate the lawn when the grass is actively growing. A good rule of thumb is to aerate lawns with warm-season grass late in spring and those with cool-season grass in early fall.
Tips for Plug Aeration Schedule
Now that you know the importance of aerating the soil on your lawn, you may need to learn a few more tips that will help ensure you are doing it correctly. The suggestions below can help you reap the best results.
- Mow the lawn before aerating. As explained, the best time to aerate the lawn is during the growing season. The leaf blades may be too long to efficiently plug or aerate the soil, so you might as well mow the lawn before doing so.
- Aerate the soil before the rain. Wet soil will make it too mushy and difficult to aerate. The excess water in the ground will fill the pores, rendering your efforts useless.
- Leave the plugs on the lawn. You don’t need to remove the plugs of soil on the lawn. Leave them there to gradually break down and go back into the ground. Alternatively, you can use a metal rake to speed up their crumbling.
- Apply fertilizer and spread the seeds after aeration. Once the texture of the soil improves, you can apply fertilizer without worrying about it being stuck on the surface of the ground. The grass seeds will also have more slots in the soil to burrow into.
- Water the lawn deeply and thoroughly. The moisture will dissolve the fertilizer and allow it to seep into the soil for the roots to absorb.
It is always better to plug or aerate your lawn at least once a year than to leave it as it is. Extreme weather conditions and frequent activities in your yard can be detrimental to the soil quality and your grass’s health.
However, remember not to aerate your lawn too much or too often. Otherwise, you risk damaging your grass even further. Remember to address other grass health issues separately before aerating the soil.