If you have a lawn, aerating twice a year in the spring and autumn will help keep it healthy and looking lush. Aerating can be performed alongside de-thatching.
Every time we walk on the lawn we are helping to compress the soil, and over time lawns will suffer from compaction.
Aerating relieves compaction and also allows water and air back into the soil.
The two main ways of aerating a lawn differ only in the way the holes are produced.
This is where spikes either from a garden fork or a specially designed tool are pushed into the ground, and when the spikes are withdrawn a hole is left.
No soil is removed using this method, as the spikes compress the soil downwards and out to the sides of the hole.
Hollow Tine Aerators
A hollow tined aerator is similar in build to a garden fork but with hollow tines. The tines are basically metal pipes fixed to a crossbar which is used to press the tines into the ground with the foot.
When the tines are removed, they bring out a
‘core’ or ‘plug’ of earth with them. When the tines are pushed in again the previous cores that were in the tines are ejected out of the top.
Which Method Should I Use?
Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.
Some people prefer the hollow tine method as soil is extracted, whereas with the spiking method soil is compacted by the spike.
Hollow tines are slower and more arduous than spiking. The tines can become blocked and need clearing especially on clay soil.
A hand pushed spiker on wheels can be bought quite cheaply and they are a lot easier on the back. These are especially useful for large lawns.
With spiking there are no ‘cores’ or ‘plugs’ to pick up afterward.
What about aerating shoes with spikes?
Spiked shoes have become popular in recent years. You simply put them on the bottoms of your normal shoes with the aid of straps and aerate as you walk.
The main point of contention with these seems to be the size of the spikes. If you use a fork or spiker the holes
that are left are a lot larger and deeper than the holes left from the spiked shoes. It’s argued that the length of the spikes on the shoes will not go deep enough or be wide enough to be of any benefit.
When you have finished aerating a lawn, a mixture of sharp sand and top soil is brushed into the holes to aid drainage. This task would be a lot more difficult with smaller holes.
Maintenance of Garden Aerators
Hollow tines should have as much soil and debris removed from them as is possible. A rag pushed through with a piece of dowel or similar, will quickly get rid of most of it. Then a spray with WD40 will help prevent rust forming.
Wheeled spikers should be washed off and allowed to dry, then wiped over with an oily rag. Make sure all soil and debris is removed from areas around where the spindle goes into the wheel. Add a small drop of oil around these joints if possible this should penetrate into the end of the spindle. Spray any springs with WD40 or similar.
Tips for Aerating your Lawn
Cut the lawn before aerating.
Any plugs or cores when collected can be used for the compost heap.
If you have a large lawn or bad back electric or powered aerators can be hired.