"AIR"ation: Why aeration is important to a healthy lawn

Last updated: March 20, 2024

It’s the time of the year again, if you haven’t already, to AERATE your lawn. The play on spelling in the title says it all. Your lawn needs AIR, which includes oxygen and carbon dioxide (O2,CO2), to survive.

Just like, almost, every living thing, turfgrass needs to breathe, it just does it slightly differently. It can “take in” and “let out” O2 and CO2 through its leaves and roots. Above the soil surface there is nothing to get in the way of leaves “breathing” but in the soil there must be lots of pores (small spaces) between soil particles for the roots to “breathe”. The problem is that we, as users of the lawn, walk all over it, push lawn mowers all over it, and in the case of golf courses, drive golf carts all over it. All that weight over time makes those pores (small spaces) even smaller, this is referred to as compaction.

In general terms core aeration loosens your soil. Specifically, core aeration relieves soil compaction by removing compacted soil with hollow tines.

The creation of larger pores allows exchange of AIR (Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide) in the root zone. Aeration also helps reduce the excessive buildup of other potentially harmful gases that are created during decomposition or stagnation.

Your lawn needs ROOM to grow new roots. The space you just created by core aeration can also be used by plants to grow new roots. Try living in a pantry for a while, it has food and oxygen but very uncomfortable and most likely stressful. You might survive but you would not thrive. So the more and longer roots a plant grows, the more water and food it has access to.

Your lawn needs WATER. Aeration creates big pore spaces for water to flow through the soil. An added benefit to water flowing through soil is it draws fresh air in, while replenishing the smaller pores with water. Aeration also allows for water to flow faster thru the soil, ensuring that your soil drains better and stays drier.

Your lawn needs FOOD. Aeration will feed your lawn indirectly. Creating room for microbes to do their job (decompose organic matter in your soil) will benefit your lawn with extra nutrients.

If you can’t core aerate now, some other form of cultivation is needed (i.e. solid tine, power rake or slicing) to keep your lawn healthy.

Now go out and use your lawn, it will make you feel better. Scientific fact…
Good growing,
Your friendly neighborhood golf course superintendent.