Scratch Thatch: Lawn Maintenance Tips for Fall

Written by Heidi Hudnall of Runyon Equipment Rental
Updated November 12, 2014
Fall leaves sit at the edge of a lawn.
Fall is the best time to aerate your lawn.
Photo courtesy of JoEllen Meyers Sharp

In the fall, proper lawn aeration can go a long way toward dealing with thatch and improving the health of your grass by promoting drainage and new growth.

You have a beautiful, healthy lawn and you work hard to keep it that way — mowing, watering and fertilizing as part of a regular lawn maintenance schedule. But lately, you notice that your lawn looks a little lackluster. It was established back when your home was new, and it’s been a good number of years since then.

Perhaps the homebuilder used sod, and now the soil is layered, which disrupts natural water drainage and leads to poor root development. Plus, your kids and pets are running around on it all the time, compacting the soil underneath the grass roots, and now it dries out quickly or feels sort of spongy. This indicates your lawn may have too much thatch, inhibiting the proper health of your grass.

Aerating your lawn can help to keep it beautiful. The best time for aeration is during the growing season in early fall, so grass can heal or fill in any open areas before it goes dormant in winter.

Aeration accomplishes several important things:

Perforates the soil with small holes, helping to alleviate soil compaction.Helps air and water to penetrate lawn thatch or built-up organic debris so the roots don’t starve.Breaks up soil layering, allowing water to reach the roots.Allows vital nutrients to reach the soil beneath the grass.Helps the roots grow deeply, producing a stronger, more vigorous lawn.Can help the lawn breathe more easily when you aerate and fertilize at the same time.

Types of aerating tools:

Spike aerator: pokes holes through the grass, thatch and roots and into the ground with a solid tine, or fork. This method is the least effective for dealing with soil compaction.Aerator/plugger: removes a patch (called a plug) of grass and soil from the lawn. This method can achieve fantastic results on lawns with soil compaction.Slice seeder: cuts vertically through existing grass and thatch, into the soil, dropping seed in the rows cut behind. Slice seeding makes direct contact with the soil for the seed to germinate quickly.  To learn more, read our blog post, Improve Your Existing Turf with Slice Seeding.

Tips for aerating your yard:

Aerate when the soil is moist, such as after a rain shower or a deep watering of the lawn.Run the aerator over the most compacted areas of your lawn several times, to make sure the compacted soil is completely treated.Dry excavated soil plugs and break them up, giving your lawn a uniform appearance.Research shows that aeration will not affect crabgrass control or weed prevention measures.After aerating, make sure to continue basic lawn care practices such as mowing, watering and proper fertilizing.

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About this Experts Contributor: Heidi Hudnall is the Digital Marketing Manager at Runyon Equipment Rental, which provides equipment rental in Indianapolis. You can follow this contributor on Twitter @runyonrental and Google+.

As of November 12, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.