The Importance of Soil Aeration for Your Garden and How-to

person using a machine to aerate the lawn

If you have a garden at home, or at least a lawn that you have to take care of, then you’ve probably heard of soil aeration before. This technique involves a perforation of the soil made in order to allow water, air, nutrients, and so on to reach the roots of the plants more easily. This helps the roots grow and develop, making your plants thrive. There are many benefits that come with soil aeration, and we’re going to discuss all of them in today’s guide. Plus, we’re going to teach you how to aerate the soil in your garden or backyard in just a few easy steps.

Soil Aeration: Why Is It Important?

1. It Helps Your Plants Grow

The most important benefit of soil aeration is that it helps your plants develop. How, you ask? By providing them with a large supply of oxygen and removing CO2 which can be damaging to them. If your plants don’t have enough oxygen, the will stop growing properly. Moreover, the accumulation of CO2 will interfere with the roots of the plants and further hinder their growth.

You can typically notice a lack of oxygen in the soil when you look at the plants’ roots. If the roots have an abnormal shape, this means that the soil is poorly aerated and too compact for your plants to develop properly. Undeveloped roots cause a chain reaction. They fail to absorb the required nutrients and moisture from the soil, thus determining the plants to stop growing.

2. It Helps the Microorganism Population

Your soil contains a lot of microorganisms. These microorganisms need plenty of oxygen in order to increase their metabolism and breathe properly. Your plants wouldn’t thrive if it weren’t for all the microbial activities happening in the soil. For instance, nitrification, decomposition of organic matter, or Sulphur oxidation all depend on the amount of oxygen in the soil. If you don’t want to slow down the microbial activities in your garden or backyard and make your plants grow slower and less healthy than usual, you have to pay a lot of attention to soil aeration.

3. It Prevents the Development of Toxins

If your soil lacks oxygen, that means that CO2 can develop freely and affect the health of your plants. CO2 is not the only toxin that can develop in a soil that is not aerated properly. Other such toxic elements include H2S gas and ferrous oxide. All these substances are extremely damaging both to your soil and to your plants. The best way to prevent them from developing is to aerate the soil and provide it with plenty of oxygen.

4. It Promotes Nutrient Absorption

As we’ve already mentioned, soil aeration also helps the roots of your plants reach nutrients more easily. This is because a well aerated soil accelerates the growth of the roots. In turn, the roots have more chances of capturing nutrients from the soil than they would have had if it weren’t for soil aeration. Similarly, the plants absorb water faster as well, which can only be great news for their growth and development.

5. It Prevents Diseases

Any type of plant can be exposed to diseases if not properly taken care of and grown under the right conditions. When soil aeration is missing, diseases are more likely to spread and affect the health of your plants. So if you want to keep your plants away from any type of disease, a great first step is to aerate the soil properly.

6. It Keeps the Soil Fertilized Longer

When the soil is too compact, there’s always the danger or fertilizer or pesticide runoff. Especially if you’re growing plants that need a lot of fertilizer in order to develop, you don’t want to increase the number of times you have to fertilize them even more due to poor soil aeration. As long as the soil is properly aerated, the benefits of any kind of fertilizer or pesticide that you add to it will be preserved much longer.

someone holding soil and fertilizer in their hands

How to Aerate the Soil

Step 1: Decide When and How Often You Want to Do This

The first step in the process of soil aeration is deciding the best time to do it. When it comes to lawn aeration, it all depends on the type of grass that you have. Still, most types of grass benefit from soil aeration just before their most active growth period. You can also aerate the soil during this period, provided that the lawn has time to recover from the process.

The frequency of this process also depends on the type of soil you have in your garden or backyard. Clay soil tends to become compact rather fast, which means that you’ll have to engage in soil aeration once a year. If you have sandy soil, you should know that it only requires soil aeration every two years. Moreover, if the area of soil that you want to aerate is walked over on a regular basis, this might contribute to the soil getting compact. What this means is that you’ll have to aerate it more often.

Step 2: Choose the Type of Aerator You Want to Use

There are two types of aerators that you can use in your garden or backyard. The first one is a power one which is gasoline-driven. This is a good option if you have a large area that needs aeration. The aerator uses either spikes that form holes in the soil, or a system that pulls the soil up in order to allow nutrients and water to reach the roots of the plants easier. You can either buy a power yard aerator for yourself or rent one whenever you need it.

The other aerator option that you have is a manual one, which is naturally better for smaller gardens or backyards. In terms of manual aerators, there are also two types that you can try. The first one is a spike-type one which inserts holes into the soil by simply rolling over pieces of land, thus not requiring soil extraction. The second one is a coring-style aerator which removes cores of soil with the help of a cylinder.

soil aerator machine in action

Step 3: Prepare the Soil for Aeration

Soil aeration requires some conditions to work properly. For instance, if you want to aerate your lawn, you should do that while it’s mowed and clear of any debris. The lawn should be mowed because this allows easier access to the soil. If you want to aerate your garden, also make sure that no sticks, leaves, or plant matter will get in the way of you doing that. The best way to clean the area that you want to aerate is by using a rake.

In preparation of soil aeration, you should also check if the ground is moist enough. No matter the kind of soil aeration machine that you’re going to use, you will get better results if the ground is soft. If it hasn’t rained in a while and you really have to aerate the soil in your garden, you’ll have to water it and wait for a couple of days for the moisture to infiltrate properly.

Also, before you start aerating, make sure you know which areas of soil require more aeration. For instance, as we’ve mentioned above, if you typically walk over some areas more than others, you’ll have to go over them more than once and make sure that you aerate them properly.

Step 4: Aerate Your Soil

If you’ve gone through all of the steps that we’ve detailed up until now, this means that you’re ready to start aerating your soil. Start from whichever corner of the yard or garden that you desire and move to the other side and back until you cover the entire area. Make sure that the rows are even so that you don’t miss any areas or aerate others more than necessary.

In areas that require more than one aeration cycle, we advise you to go through the second one in the opposite direction. This will maximize the benefits of the aeration process. Moreover, you shouldn’t gather the earth cores that are left behind. That’s because they’ll turn into compost soon enough and help your soil by providing it with even more nutrients.

Step 5: Fertilize the Soil

A very important step that you shouldn’t forget about whenever you aerate your soil is fertilizing it immediately after. The soil will require some help to recover after aeration. This is why providing it with fertilizer is the best thing you can do. Plus, the holes that you just made in the ground will ensure that the soil absorbs the fertilizer quickly.

Summing It All Up

No matter if you simply have a lawn in your backyard or an entire garden where you like to plant flowers, vegetables, and herbs, soil aeration is always an important part of gardening. Luckily, you don’t need many tools to complete this task. Moreover, the benefits that soil aeration provides your plants with are definitely worth the effort.

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Bonnie Enos
Bonnie Enos
I spend my time in my garden trying to create the greatest outdoor space possible. My garden is my happy place and where you will always find me on a nice day. I take my experience and share it here for you to read!