When it comes to lawn care and maintenance, most gardening enthusiasts are familiar with mowing, watering and fertilising their lawn - however, another important procedure, which is sometimes neglected, is aerating the soil.
An aerator is an essential tool to have in your arsenal if you want to keep your lawn in pristine condition, alongside the garden roller, seed and fertiliser spreader, lawn edger and scarifier.
What exactly is soil aeration, you may ask, and how to do I carry it out? Well, soil can become compacted after a while for various including repeated mowing sessions and even high foot traffic.
Furthermore, undesirable thatch or dead grass can fall to the bottom layer of the lawn, giving your grass an unappealing dry or brownish appearance. Over-compacted soil can have a very negative impact on lawn development - the roots of the grass, for example, have to struggle to work their way deep within the ground in order to absorb nutrients.
If the grass roots are not able to push deep enough into the soil they cannot absorb the nutrients needed to keep the grass alive and healthy. You can test how compact your lawn is by prodding it with a knife or metal rod - if you discover tightly compacted clay-like soil, you need to seriously consider getting a programme of aeration underway.
Adequate air circulation in your lawn is very important - without air, decomposition cannot take place, which can cause thatch and give grass an unhealthy and unsightly appearance. By aerating your soil properly, you can fertilise it effectively and nurture a healthier lawn, as the fertiliser will have a direct channel to the roots.
The best time to aerate the soil is shortly after a light rain, when the soil is moist - your soil should not be muddy or soggy, but it should not be dry either. Dry soil will have the undesirable effect of limiting the penetration of the plugs, spikes, or slice tools found on the various types of lawn aerator.
The spike style of aerator operates with a stabbing motion to make holes in lawn soil - these indentations encourage air circulation and assist with the fertilisation process. Aerating shoes or sandals, for example, operate with this method, as do several push along rotary devices.
Some gardeners are reluctant to use the spike method as they are concerned that ground is in effect still being compacted in this process by the spike itself. The slice process, on the other hand, cuts into the dirt like a knife blade and slices it.
Some aerators, including many of the tow-behind devices, use the plug method which is similar to the spike way of aerating lawn soil - the difference is the plugs actually pull out the soil instead of compacting it. The plugs sink about two to three inches into the dirt, thereby making it less dense, much looser and ready to absorb fertilizer. There are different machines available for the aeration of soil.
Whether you opt to buy a tow behind aerator which can be attached to a ride-on mower or a manual, electric or petrol walk behind aerator is largely dictated by the size of your lawn and your budget. A tow-behind machine, which can also be attached to a mini tractor, is most definitely the best option if you have a very large lawn.
A walk-behind manual aerator is fine for most small to medium-sized gardens but if you want to take a lot of the hard work out of the job, you might wish to consider buying a more expensive electric or petrol-powered device which is similar in appearance to a lawn mower. Another option is to buy a combo device which features a scarifier and an aerator in one machine.
If your lawn is generally in good condition but you have a few patches of grass that are getting quite pale or are showing signs of lawn dethatching then using a shoe spike aerator can usually provide enough aeration. Aerating shoes or sandals may seem like a bit of a novelty but they can definitely achieve the desired results on a small lawn - using them on a large lawn is just not feasible, depite the fact it would be great exercise for the wearer!
Aerating shoes just slip them over your normal footwear and you simply walk over the area of your lawn that needs a bit of care and attention. If you are outside tending your garden anyway with pruning, mowing, strimming and other duties, why not slip on a pair of aerating shoes and carry out another task at the same time?
We feature dozens of top quality lawn aerators from leading brand names including Greenkey, Draper, VonHaus, Garland, Woodside, ZDTech, Handy, Oypla, Kingfisher, Einhell and Powerplus.