It’s a common misconception that aerating and scarifying are just two terms for the same maintenance task. Nevertheless, aerating a grass surface is a much more intensive process than scratching the surface of the sod with a scarifier. When you aerate your lawn, you’re operating deep into the soil, loosening compaction, eliminating waterlogging and activating root growth. Subsequent sanding increases the positive effect, levels out unevenness and increases shear strength. If you follow these instructions for aerating and sanding, you will then experience a revitalized lawn that will not be damaged so quickly.

When is the lawn aerated?

The wet and cold weather of winter is the greatest strain on the lawn. Frost and snow abuse the turf, moss pushes to the fore, algae spread so that in spring the lawn roots are literally starved of air. Thus, the time for the first aeration of the garden year is obvious. The stresses on lawns during the summer come from a different direction. Playing children, the paddling pool, happy barbecue parties and other activities put a lot of strain on the grassy area. Consequently, at least one more passage for the aeration of the lawn is possible.

  • Aerate the lawn in spring after the first mowing (March/April)
  • Ventilate again in late summer or early autumn (September/October)

If you want to be absolutely sure whether the amount of work required for aeration is actually necessary, you can measure the soil with a penetrometer. This is a measuring device for the penetration resistance of the soil up to a depth of approx. 1 meter. A probing rod is equipped with a dynamometer and is driven into the ground. The readings provide information about the extent of soil compaction.

Instructions for aerating

The main goal when aerating the lawn is to revive the compacted soil pores. Only when there is a balance between fine, medium and coarse pores in the soil can waterlogging be prevented, the roots of the grass thrive and the microorganisms develop. Whatever the reason, compaction of the lawn occurred; aerating and then sanding will fix the problem. The following instructions explain exactly how this works.

Mechanical aeration

In order to improve water drainage and the supply of oxygen to the lawn, special spikes dig deep into the turf. This works best with the help of electrical devices that are available for rent in any good hardware store. Until a few years ago, powerful aerators were so blatantly expensive that they were only used by commercial landscapers. In the meantime, the price level has adjusted to the market, so that hobby gardeners can use these machines without any problems.

  • Equip the aerator with 4 matching spikes, matched to the soil quality
  • Pull the lever to set the thorns in motion
  • Push the device across the lawn at a reasonable speed
  • If the machine drives too fast, the distance between the holes gets too large
  • If the machine drives too slowly, the turf will be perforated too much

The finished aerated lawn is not a pretty sight at first. However, this circumstance is unavoidable, because too timid aerating has almost no positive effect.

Tip: If you are aerating the lawn with an aerator for the first time, first test the device in a hidden spot over a short distance.

Aerate the lawn manually

Where the use of machines is not worthwhile, manually operated devices can be used. There are two or more spikes on a stable rail with a handle and an ergonomic handle. These are made of solid material, similar to nails, and are pierced into the ground at certain intervals. So-called spoons, hollow sleeves with a conical shape, work a little more comfortably. Here the soil is pushed up and collected in a small trough welded to the device. While nails only displace the soil and thus partially compact it again, the hollow spoons actually provide the soil with more oxygen.

  • The drier and harder the ground, the shorter the spoons
  • Choose a frost-free day, not immediately after a dry period
  • The lawn should be slightly damp, but not completely soaked
  • Poke the aerator into the soil 6 inches (15 cm) apart across the entire lawn
  • As a rule of thumb, about 200 holes per square meter are sufficient
  • The soil that collects in the tub can be disposed of in the compost

Two spoons are the minimum for effective aeration. Each additional spike on the device increases the degree of aeration in the lawn, but at the same time requires significantly more effort.

Tip: The larger spoons with a diameter of approx. 24 mm are ideal for stinging annoying dandelion leaves out of the lawn at the same time.

On small lawns under 50 square meters, the effort of mechanical or manual aeration is not worth it. Nailed sandals, which are strapped under work shoes, are suitable for this application in order to aerate the lawn with every step during mowing.

The sand

After aeration, knowledgeable hobby gardeners spread a layer of sand on the lawn. Low-lime quartz sand with a grain size of 0/2 is well suited. The amount applied should be limited to half a bucket per square meter. Under no circumstances should the layer of sand simply lie on the lawn. Rather, after distribution, it is swept up with a broom or at least distributed with a rake.

If the grass cover is only sparse, sanding can be combined with reseeding. When mixed with the fine grains of sand, the lawn seeds are distributed wonderfully evenly and germinate quickly after the first rain.

Topdressing – the royal form of sanding

The lawn artists of English golf showed it. In order to create an optimally playable lawn with a perfect look at the same time, they have ingeniously expanded sanding. The aerator aerates the turf, while the sand improves permeability. There are also organic substances such as compost, peat, leaf soil or horse manure. Experts call this mixture top dressing because it improves the soil structure and at the same time effectively levels out unevenness. At the same time, the lawn receives plenty of nutrients, which prevents the formation of moss and weeds again, because the blades of grass put in the botanical turbo.

Scarify moss-covered lawns first

If the lawn proves to be heavily overgrown with moss and littered with weeds in spring, the area should first be scarified and only then aerated. It makes little sense to aerate a matted lawn, because in this case the holes only improve the oxygen supply in certain areas. After the first lawn cut in March or April, a scarifier is used first. Such a device can also be rented for little money. The purchase prices have also leveled off at a level that hobby gardeners can bear in recent years.

A scarifier is equipped with rotating blades that scratch the turf 1-3 mm deep at a distance of approx. 3 cm. They pluck all the moss and weeds out of the ground and throw them on the surface.

  • Optimal conditions prevail in dry weather and 15° to 20° Celsius
  • The lawn should not be too dry, but slightly moistened
  • Scarifying is done lengthways and crossways in two passes
  • The plucked moss and weeds are collected and disposed of in the compost

After this intensive preparation, the hour of the aerator comes in the manner described. A manual device is also available for scarifying small lawn areas. A specially designed rake pulls out moss and weeds with plenty of muscle power. In this case, it is important to note that you do not act deeper than 10 mm on the sod, otherwise the grass roots will be damaged.

Inexpensive aerators for the hobby garden

A professional aerator can quickly exhaust the budget for the hobby garden. For this reason, most DIY and garden centers offer the devices for rent. Since it has been proven to aerate the lawn several times a year, hobby gardeners are increasingly considering investing in a device. Somewhat hesitantly, but increasingly, there are affordable offers on the market for mechanically or manually operated aerators:

Einhell RG-SA 1433 electric fan scarifier

  • Combination device with interchangeable rollers
  • Working power 1400 watts
  • 3-way adjustable in height
  • Price: around 180 euros

Top-Garden aerator as a trailer for ride-on mowers

  • The hollow spikes carry the soil into the trailer
  • Working width 120 cm with 6 spikes
  • Height adjustable wheels
  • Price: around 170 euros

Pitchcare professional aerating fork with hollow spoons

  • Fork has 3 hollow, conical spikes
  • Working width 30 cm
  • Price: approx. 225 euros

Lawn woodpecker aerator with drip pan

  • Spoons with a length of 16 mm, 20 mm or 24 mm
  • Rubberized handle for a firm grip
  • Single set from 138 euros

Greenkey rolling lawn aerator

  • Solid spikes are on a roll
  • Working width 30 cm
  • Price: approx. 55 euros

Professional devices for lawns from 500 square meters

Spiked roller – lawn roller

  • For coupling to a ride-on mower
  • Semi-automatic aeration of the lawn
  • Price: from 1,200 euros

PROFI Bauma BA-RL40 Rasenlüfter

  • With tube and solid spikes
  • Working width 65 cm
  • Working depth 20 cm
  • Motor power 6.6 hp
  • Price: from 3,200 euros

Honda Goat Aerifizierer

  • 4-stroke petrol engine with 2.9 kW
  • Working width 45 cm
  • With hardened hollow tines
  • Up to 7 cm working depth
  • Price: from 3,900 euros

The lawn is put to the test all year round. Frost and snow bother it in winter, and drought, sunshine, weeds and high stress in summer. No wonder he needs a revitalization treatment from time to time. A very effective method of regenerating the lawn is through aeration and subsequent sanding. Holes up to 10 cm deep are drilled into the ground with spikes so that the turf is thoroughly aerated. This works mechanically, manually or with nailed sandals simply while walking. If you take the time to aerate and sand your lawn in spring and autumn, you will be rewarded with a lush, dense carpet.

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