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Aerating vs. Dethatching

Aerating and dethatching are both highly important lawn care projects that take place around late winter through late spring. They both serve to help key nutrients like fertilizer, water or oxygen reach your lawn’s root zone so that your grass can continue to grow and thrive. However, aeration results in the breakdown of compacted soil whereas dethatching removes layers of thatch, or dead grass and other debris, from the top of the soil. Although they are similar, each provides its own benefits and they’re both completed with a different set of tools.

What is lawn aeration?

Simply put, lawn aeration is punching holes a few inches deep into sod so that air, water and nutrients can get into the soil and reach your lawn’s roots. Lawns situated on a foundation of hard, compacted soil benefit from aeration because the process allows essential nutrients and hydration to seep in instead of being trapped on the surface.

The Benefits of Lawn Aeration

Aeration benefits are many:

  • Decreases soil compaction
  • Improves grass health
  • Lets nutrients penetrate deeper into the root zone
  • Reduces water runoff or standing water
  • Reduces thatch accumulation
  • Lets grass roots expand for stronger turf
  • Thickens lawns
How can I aerate my lawn?

Most lawn care companies offer aeration services if you want the job professionally done and are nervous about aerating a lawn yourself. With that being said, there are also a few DIY ways to go about lawn aeration as well. Renting a professional aerator is possible through RYAN’S website. You can locate a dealer near you and rent a lawn aerator for a few hours to a day. Learn more in Why Aeration is More Important and Less Daunting Thank You Think.

Amazon also offers a good lawn aeration tool that you can purchase as a part of your lawn care equipment collection if you are fairly certain that aeration needs to become an annual part of your lawn care routine.

Tips for Aerating a Lawn

Planning to aerate your lawn? Here are a few tips:

  • Aerate after a rain or watering event, otherwise even the most professional machinery won’t do an effective job.
  • If you are doing the job yourself, be sure to make multiple passes to ensure that the entirety of the lawn’s surface has been sufficiently covered.
  • Aeration is recommended annually or at least bi-annually to keep your lawn healthy.
  • Immediately following aeration, apply fertilizer for maximum benefits. We recommend our own Lawnifi line.
  • Aeration should take place during the grasses’ primary growing season. For cool season varieties, early spring/fall is the best time. For warm season grasses, later spring is best.
What is lawn dethatching?

Thatch is the layer of debris below the grass that accumulates over time. It consists of all kinds of natural matter that eventually forms a semi-solid mat. While a little thatch is fine for the health of grass, it can build up quickly. Too much thatch creates a barrier that keeps important hydration, nutrients and air from getting into the soil. The result is sod that ends up suffering, usually in more ways than one. Dethatching is the simple process of breaking up and removing the thatch build up. Dethatching benefits the soil and the grass and is a relatively simple task to do.

The Benefits of Lawn Dethatching

There are many benefits of dethatching:

  • Allows nutrients, water and air to reach your soil
  • Improves the health of your soil
  • Improves the quality of your lawn
  • Exposes your lawn to sunlight
  • Promotes root growth
  • Reduces water runoff or standing water
How can I dethatch my lawn?

There are several ways to dethatch a lawn. In most cases, all that is needed to dethatch a lawn is a dethatching rake that can be purchased at home improvement stores, hardware stores or on Amazon. These are usually heavy, short-tined rakes with curved blades that dig into your lawn and pull up thatch. There are also power rakes that work well with lawns that have thinner amounts of thatch and grass that can withstand heavier raking. Then there are verticutters that work best for really thick layers of thatch or on lawns that need renovating. They have vertical blades that slice down through the thatch and pull it to the surface.

Tips for Dethatching a Lawn
  • To dethatch your lawn, simply “rake” the grass vigorously enough so that you are breaking through the thatch layer.
  • The point of dethatching is to systematically break up the thatch, so your lawn will look a little beaten up if the job is done properly.
  • There is such thing as overdoing it! Be sure that you aren’t actually raking up the grass or roots in the process of dethatching.
  • Dethatching isn’t necessarily something that needs to be done often or annually—just as needed.
  • Wondering if your lawn needs a good dethatching? Take a look at your grass. Can you see the soil easily? If not, it’s time to dethatch.
  • If there were a dethatch “season”, it would be the end of winter; this is a good time for an annual assessment to determine whether dethatching is needed.
Dethatching vs. Aeration

Both dethatching and aerating are methods of helping the foundation of your lawn and the roots of the grass by allowing it to access the essential things it needs: air, water and nutrients. While aeration is a method of breaking up and treating the soil, dethatching is a method of breaking up and moving out thatch, a layer of natural debris that lays on top of the soil and beneath the grass. While both methods achieve similar end results, they treat different issues.

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