Lawn Aerators, Sandals & Spikers
Aeration with solid spikes using equipment such as the garden fork, aerator sandals or shoes*, spiking lawn aerators* or powered machinery is generally done to a depth between 1 and 6 inches with the top two inches being the most important. There are also star like slitters that can be inserted as a cassette into turf machinery or towed behind ride-on mowers or lawn tractors.
On sports turf, spiking is done as often as possible; every other week being quite normal. This is because the effect is quite short lived due to the amount of use the turf gets and therefore frequency is the only way to achieve a well aerated soil and help control compaction. The benefits to the grass are considerable and the goalie appreciates landing on thick grass rather than hard soil!
For lawn care we need to be realistic. All the books say aerate your lawn! I say aerate your lawn! However, once a year with a fork spaced every six inches is a WASTE of time! Suggesting you stick the fork in ten times a year is just as daft! So what is to be done?
Though I have access to the Lawnsmith powered machinery I have spent the last twelve months assessing a plethora of handy manual lawn aerators. My lawn looks great even though this year (2009) has been very dry. I haven't had any need to water and I've had a little more exercise than normal but that can't be a bad thing! Anyway, here is the low down on aerating your lawn if your soil is sandy through to loam (not a heavy clay) with modest use. If you’re on heavy clay don’t bother spiking and use a hollow tine aerator instead.
It should go without saying that these tools, even though they are sharp, won't penetrate hard lawns, but then little will! In these cases you'll need to water first or wait for rain.
These strap on to your own foot wear and spike the lawn as you walk though I wouldn't recommend them on slopes. They take a little getting used to but after a few minutes you get into the rhythm. They are not hard work and offer a very dense spike pattern for thorough aeration and if safe, can be combined with other lawn care jobs.
TIP: Wear boots if possible and put the spikes on when you're on the lawn. They don't like stone and you'll get stuck to the shed floor if it's made of wood!
There are basically two types of rolling lawn aerator or spiker. The one featured opposite with fixed spikes and a similar one that is spring loaded. I found less jerking and bouncing with the fixed spikes and it was easier to get it to stick into the soil.
Basically you just push this up and down the lawn. Hard soil or boggy surfaces should be avoided but otherwise this will cope and is safe to use on slopes as well. It's also quite a fast operation so ideal for the larger lawn though the spikes are not as dense as for the sandals but you can repeat the operation as often as you like.
This is a medium sized and weighted roller with a few hundred ½” spikes sticking out of it. This is the S&M of lawn care! They can be the push ‘n pull variety with a handle or some fit as a cassette into turf machinery. These are used to ‘prick’ the surface of the lawn allowing air, rain and nutrients to penetrate a compacted or dry surface or to create an improved bed for overseeding the turf.
Sarel rollers are a several hundreds of pounds but are easy to use and highly beneficial. However, as they only open up the surface of the lawn it is lawn aeration in the loosest sense and does not replace spiking or coring.
Great if you've got the the lawn size that warrants it. Anything over about 500 square metres is going to be tough with manual aerators. Your choices whether buying or hiring are:
Star shaped slitters for towing behind ride on mowers
Solid drum like spikers that can also be towed
Spiking or slitting cassettes that fit in mowers and turf machinery
Powered aerators - expensive so best to hire