Adventures in Lawn Aeration
By: Meredith Portman
I tend to be the type of homeowner who’s willing to try just about anything. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to learn the location of the main power switch in my home and the water cut-off valve at the street. If my home improvement activities get too dire, I turn off one or the other and wait patiently for back-up to arrive.
I live in a 50-year-old house that I’ve owned for four years, with a yard that’s never seen much TLC. So I decided to aerate my lawn this spring as a prelude to its gradual rehabilitation. I rented an aerator from a local rental store for the bargain price of $60 for the weekend.
When my male colleagues laughed at this prospect, I made sure to ask the man at the rental place if a 130-pound woman could handle the machine. While he insisted it would be no problem, I suspect he chuckled when I drove away with it.
I should have suspected trouble when it took two men to load the bright blue machine in the back of my Honda Element. In fact, the BlueBird aerator weighs in at nearly 300 pounds – and that’s without the two 36 lb. removable weights that it comes with for extra traction.
Fortunately, a friend who found out about my weekend project cut two pieces of lumber to make a ramp to help get the machine in and out of my car.
What is Lawn Aeration
To the initiated, an aerator resembles a lawn mower only a little wider, squatter, and heavier. The undercarriage looks like a medieval torture device, with a spinning cylinder of rotating coring spikes, much like a round hair brush on steroids. The idea behind aerating your yard is to break up the compacted soil which in turn:
- Enhances the transfer of water, oxygen, and nutrients into the soil.
- Promotes microorganisms that help breakdown thatch.
- Reduces the runoff of fertilizer and pesticides.
- Encourages root system growth.
It would have been helpful if the rental center could have located the operator’s manual. Instead, I was given a short verbal course, with particular emphasis on how to stop the machine.
Once in my yard, the BlueBird behaved more like a Brahma bull than its feathery namesake. Pushing it wasn’t a problem, since it happily propelled itself around the yard with little assistance while I trotted along behind trying my best to keep up.
But when you actually had to turn the Bird is when things got tricky. Hairpin turns are not its specialty and the wide turning radius made for some unexpected detours and startled animals. And you better hope you don’t get it mired in a soft spot, because the next thing you know, the Bird is on its way to China.
Because the machine is so powerful, it only took about 15 minutes to aerate the entire yard. But my aerating activity made so much racket that my neighbor came out to see what was going on. That was his misfortune because he then got roped into helping me load the BlueBird back into my car.
That said, I’m sure a professional lawn service could have done a better job, but I wasn’t about to pay a couple of hundred dollars for what I could do for less than half that amount plus a bottle of Advil. And I did inform the man at the rental place that an aerator was better suited for someone more substantial, which I suspect he knew anyway.
But the good news is, a few weeks have passed, and I can already see the difference in my yard. At last my grass can breathe and is on its way down the road to recovery.