Empty patches on turf can arise due to animal urine or thatching, and soil compaction is another frequent cause. Soil compaction inhibits the movement of water and nutrients. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the dirt can limit root growth and entirely stop the absorption of nutrients and water; this can contribute to a low amount of oxygen for the grass. Over time neglected compacted soil can significantly slow down the grass. Soil compaction is a frequent cause for turf becoming prone to infections. If you’re looking for the perfect lawn aeration guide, kindly read on.

What is compacted soil?

Optimally, the soil contains air pockets that allow water, worms, roots and microbiota to move through. As soil is compacted, these air pockets are pushed out, and it’s difficult for plants to expand and for water and nutrients to enter the roots of plants. Conversely, the water collects on the ground, and the plant will suffocate.

Soil compaction may be caused by heavy equipment, too much pedestrian traffic, digging the ground while it is wet, and overworking the field. Clay soils are especially prone to compaction.

How to diagnose compacted soil?

A simple test is to insert a metal rod or strong screwdriver into wet soil. If you can’t push it too far, you might have compressed soil. To test this, dig a 30cm-deep hole and cut a layer off the side for a glance. Loose soil is easily separated, while compacted soil is more delicate and stable and has clear horizontal layers. You could also see plant roots expanding horizontally along the line, unable to breakthrough.

How to aerate lawn soil?

The best approach is to prevent compression in the first instance, so avoid driving on grass and make veggie rows no wider than two arms in length, so that you can approach the centre from either end. If you can’t stop having to walk into the garden beds, place the stones in your footsteps to indicate where everyone should step. The soil will still be a bit compact, however, not so much because the load will be distributed out, plus only that tiny section will be disturbed.

Another choice is to build paths along a veggie bed with a wooden plank or some tiles. There are fast and slow forms of compacted soil to fix, based on how much work you want to do and whether you’re raising grass or vegetation.

1- Aerator

This is a successful pre-treatment, whatever other approaches you use. Instead of digging over the field and risking further compacting, using an aerator is a great way to get air, moisture and any additional gypsum and organic material in your soil. Aerators scrape a small piece of soil, however, if you don’t want to purchase a tool, go over a lawn or a bed with a garden fork. Spring and autumn are ideal times to do this, but you can do it at any time of the year, as long as the soil is not waterlogged, frozen, or bone dry.

2- Gypsum

If your soil is natural clay, it might be helpful to add some gypsum, then rinse it. Gypsum interacts with clay and allows small clay molecules to clumps together into bigger particles that cause more air bubbles to form. However, it’s a chemical process that will gradually wear off. As long-term, you need to bring the organic matter into the field as a more concrete way to oxygenate it and attract microbes and worms. You may get gypsum in liquid and powder form – the powder is naturally safer, and the pH is harmless. One or two handfuls each square metre is fine, but don’t forget to water it.

3- Organic matter

There are various ways to add organic compounds based on if you’re focusing on a flower bed or grass. For a lawn, after oxygenating, you can top dress a layer of sand and cattle manure through it; never apply too much that you can’t see grass. You may also scatter worm castings or manure tea to promote bacteria and other tiny creatures in the fields to help aerate it.

In a garden bed, the easiest way to add organic matter without digging is to spread layers to the surface and let microbes do the job for you. Merely pile your bed high (minimum 15cm) with organic matter – timber, grass clippings, compost, chopped plants, yard waste – whatever you can put your hands on, and leave it for up to one year.

The matter will break down faster in warmer, wet environments and take more time in cooler or drier regions. Still, the matter will ultimately decompose and be absorbed into the soil by beetles, worms and other species, producing lighter, more permeable soils.

This is a straightforward way to renew the soil around a newly constructed house, where the ground has been damaged. There’s been a lot of terrible equipment, and you might have been left with only a clay soil. It may be slow, but waiting will give you the chance to get to know your soil before you farm.

A slightly quicker choice is to coat the surface with content filled with soil microbes, accelerating the process. This involves manure, worm castings, and compost, and less dense, tougher substances such as wood chips that take more time to break down.

Make sure you cover this ‘active’ compost with a coating of straw mulch to prevent it from drying out as it destroys valuable microbes that don’t like the scorching heat. Intensive soaking once per week is also going to keep things running. After around a month, you will note the difference, and if you continue to feed your land every spring and fall, it will eventually be full of energy, and all your plants will flourish.

When to aerate the lawn?

It is best to aerate the lawn once or twice per year, you can do it almost throughout the year except for when arid conditions are expected, early in fall, spring or late in summers are all reasonable times.

The soil must not be waterlogged, preferably the turf would’ve had a proper watering and would’ve been reasonably soft but still solid, mainly when you’re doing core aerating.

Things to do before aerating

> Mow your grass really short, preferably a day before.

> Mow your grass again and pick your grass cuttings and make sure the field is debris free.

> If the surface is too rough, you’ll need to soak it first for about an hour.

> If you have pop-up sprinkler systems, use markers to label where the sprinklers are positioned so that you do not harm the sprinklers’ heads.

Things to do after aerating

> To minimise the need for oxygenation in the future, add a lot of worms to the field.

> Enable the field to dry out and do not rinse again until the ground is dusty and you can leave footprints on it; only if you see the impressions left on your lawn then irrigate heavily.

> When it’s safe to water, you can fertilise and plant new grass seeds. Then return to routine fertilisation with organic fertilisers at least two times a year.

Benefits of lawn aeration

You aerate your yard to remove soil compaction that prevents the movement of water and nutrients. Aeration involves perforating the field with tiny holes to allow air, moisture, and other nutrients to reach deep grassroots; once the roots are reinforced, a healthy lawn can be seen. The advantages of aeration involve:

> Reduces soil compaction and promotes the development of new roots.

> Ensures soils permeability and enhances the absorption of nutrients.

> Helps to reduce the build-up of thatch underneath the surface.

> Facilitates soil-borne microorganisms that are essential for the maintenance of healthy soil.

> Enhances drainage, reduces the risk of fungal infections.

> Helps improve air exchange among soil and atmosphere.

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