The first time I saw a lawn that had been aerated, I couldn’t help wondering how or why so many dogs had pooped on that particular yard.
Of course, what I had seen was the hundreds of plugs of soil that had been pulled from the ground. So why is aeration a good thing?
Aeration is a good way to reduce soil compaction. In compacted soil, the particles are too close together to allow water, air, nutrients, or roots to move through the soil. Here in the Bay Area, we have a lot of clay, which is prone to compaction.
Professional aeration removes hundreds of small plugs of soil and deposits them on the lawn surface. The plugs are generally 1/4-1/2” in diameter and 3-4” long. Ideally, a plug is taken every 6”, but this can be a bit much when doing the job by hand. Aeration machines are heavy, so the benefit is a mixed bag. Personally, I use my soil sampling tube, but that’s a very slow process. You should not use a screwdriver or aeration shoes as these simply poke a hole by compacting the surrounding soil even more. There are hand aerifiers that will make the job go much faster than my soil sampler but without the compaction of heavy machinery. Over time, these plugs break down into healthier soil. The holes also provide access for water and air to nearby roots.
When you aerate your soil, it is best done a few days after watering, so that the soil is easier to work. Spring is the best time to aerate your soil. Unless your soil is heavily compacted by foot traffic, summer is not a good time as the soil can dry out too much and damage root systems.
I hope this information inspires you to grow more of your own food. You can ask your garden questions on my Home page.