Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mechanical Aeration Versus Liquid Aeration Revisited

I think it is about time for an update on mechanical aeration versus the liquid aeration. Daron has indeed updated me on the results of his attempt at chemically (liquid) aerating his lawn. The results are not good. According to him (and me by observation), there is no difference in the lawn; no improvement and no worsening of the compaction of his soil. The lawn is still struggling, and what grasses Daron has growing in his lawn are not doing any better than they were before he used Liquid Aerify.

That being said, can I say for sure that mechanical aeration would have worked better? We shall see on his lawn this fall because Daron and Nancy purchased a mechanical aerator and have aerated their lawn on my advice. They then reseeded it and did not overseed this year.

I use mechanical aeration on my lawn and I can tell you that I still stand by this method of reducing compaction in lawns and improving the lawn's growing conditions. Why you ask? For me the plugs that are removed when the lawn is aerated add good top soil on top of the lawn AND the holes left behind by removing the plugs enables amendments to reach further into the soil. Additionally, my cool season fescue lawn requires re-seeding fairly frequently to stay looking good, the holes hold the seed in place in order for them to take hold and grow. Liquid aeration cannot do this. This is the big difference between liquid aerify and mechanical aeration. Can you see the removed plug above? No-this is NOT doggie doo! And the hole left by removing the plug? This is where the seeds and fertilizer will fall into and reach the roots of the grass much quicker than if they are just spread on the surface of the lawn with no plugs removed. Do not overseed and fertilize at the same time. Most fertilizers have additives that prevent germination of seed, this includes grass seed!

Liquid aerify, while it will not hurt the soil, cannot reach down far enough to allow other amendments and even itself to get to the deep roots of the lawn grasses. When I say deep, really most lawn grasses growing in clayey soil have roots that only reach about 2-3 inches deep. This is not deep at all, but without the removal of plugs, most amendments will work down to this area only after many years.

My suggestion to viewers is to save your money, mechanically aerate your lawn and apply a good top dressing of compost instead of liquid aerify. In life we know the easy way is not always going to work and most always never works. Go ahead and make the investment of an aerator (about $200) and you'll be set for at least 20 years, if not more if you take good care of your aerator.

Do any of you gardeners out there have experience with Liquid Aerify or a personal opinion of the effectiveness of it over mechanical aeration?

in the garden....


  1. Hi Tina, HA way to spice up this post with a little humor! It does look like doggie doin's.

    On our little piece of lawn, which I don't want to do anything to at all except mow, The Financier is gung ho to overseed each fall the bare spots. The drought has been mean to the lawn, tough toenails I say, but The F insists on dethatching with a killer rake thingey, spreading compost then overseeding. I must admit this works and the byproduct of the thatch is magic in the compost bin. The downside is that the newly planted grass seed needs to be watered until it germinates, but since the muhly is right next to it, that gets extra water too. Maybe that is why the muhly did so well this year. :-)

  2. We are trying to get ours compacted due to mostly being hillside and if we don't the rain washes the seed away.
    I've never heard of liguid aeration, seems the mechancial would be better.

  3. I need to sort out my lawn - there is hardy any grass just moss. We have had two wet winters and the ground (which is clay based) is so compacted. Ihave decided to put a path across it to reduce the footfall - once this is done I will address the compaction problem.

  4. Just the post I need to show hubby. We have discussed this for some time now. When I have a little more time Tina, I am going to email you a problem we are having that maybe indirectly related to aerating our yard.
    Thanks for so much good information!
    Have a great day!

  5. We have no "lawn" anywhere -- just rough meadow grass.

    We use mechanical aeration -- DEER HOOVES! :-)


  6. I should comment on lawns. My relationship with lawns is strictly adversarial;)

  7. Tina, Your wealth of gardening knowledge never ceases to amaze me! Our lawn is strictly Hubby's domain--I don't mess with his lawn care, and he doesn't mess with the garden:) I've never even heard of liquid aeration before, but I can't see how it could work as well as mechanical aeration.

  8. The mechanical method works pretty good. I've never tried the liquid stuff. I actually never heard of it till now! I don't worry a while lot about the lawn except for overseeding in the fall. I am planning on using corn gluten this spring as a weed suppressant and an organical fertilizer.

  9. Good Morning Everyone,
    Good advice Tina. I've never heard of liquid aeration. Mechanical, yes. It even makes more sense, if you have a tiny hole all will collect in it.
    Soil is sandy here so don't know if it needs aeration or not. I'm still learning. It does seem to radially absorb what you put on it. Just wish there was some magic to get rid of all the weeds. Seems to be a loosing battle.
    I hope everyone has a great day.

  10. Tina,

    ...and now for a word on alternative lawns! I just throw more clover seed on top of my lawn...which is hardly lawn! I am thinking about over seeding it with white yarrow to green it up! I love the soft feather green it creates and for me makes a nice alternative to traditional lawn. It's also drought tolerant....


  11. Good morning all! Quick morning on the blogs as not as many are posting right now. I like the shortened time! Can you tell I spend way too much time on them?? lol

    Frances, Your bit of lawn looked super great so I think the Financier is doing something very right. That compost is a good thing.

    Dawn, You might try some gentle levels with some ground covers. I seem to remember you wanted to start some. I bet ajuga would be perfect and maybe even some monkey grass in your out of the way spots.

    PG, I have heard that if you have moss then you may need to add lime to sweeten the soil. Maybe get a soil test? That would be my first move. Paths are good. We have one through ours-I have to be sure to not run it over with the aerator.

    Linda, Email me anytime and I'll see if I can help you out.

    Cameron, Lucky is the homeowner with no grass and just the meadow grasses. I have thought of doing that myself at times, but I am a bit of a traditionalist (believe it or not) I have to have some green manicured grass around the gardens. Sigh, more aeration I guess.

    Marnie, Aren't they pains?? Way more work than gardening anyday!

    Rose, Thanks! I read an awful lot of books, research and rely on lots of experience. The whole picture is important to me so the lawn has to fit in. Mr. Fix-it is not allowed to mess with the gardens or lawn. He will accidentally cut down flowers and claim ignorance. Ha! I am on to him now. Great your husband takes care of the lawn. Gives you much more time to garden-the fun stuff. But I have to admit, I'd rather mow the lawn than weed.

    Dave, I just got Gardens' Alive catalog yesterday and this year will be my first year trying the corn gluten. I had great luck applying weed preventer in May of last year, so this is when I'll do the corn gluten. I am excited about it but will only probably do the front yard. Have you ever used this before? I remember you posting on it.

    Lola, I would not think sandy soil would need aeration. But it would need compost in a bad way. Get a soil test then add amendments according to that. You must first make the grass strong before you can get rid of all the weeds. You might also try the corn gluten, an organic weed preventer. It takes a few years to get it to the right spot and then you have to keep up on it.

  12. Gail, Alternative lawns are super great. I also have researched them but for now am fighting it out for that soft cool grass I remember from Maine. Not sure if it is a good thing or not-we'll see down the road. I love clover for its softness and bee attracting abilities.

    Do you all know the initial post on Liquid Aerify was one that is Googled like weekly and gets so much attention? I am surprised so many of you have not heard of liquid aerify. A big gimmick according to my teacher at NSCC. It does not hurt-except your wallet!

  13. I am another of the many that have never heard of it but it just makes no sense to me at all that it would work as well. Most Maine lawns do not need much aeration anyway. Lots of clover in Maine and that is a big part of the soft, cool grass your remember. Also the fact that we do not have the drought or heat problems you have is another plus for our grass.

  14. Good morning all. We use the mechanical aeration technique. After aerating we overseed and water well. In a few days any bald spots give the appearance of hair plugs!
    ps-Having three dogs and aerating makes for a confusing couple days in the clean-up task.

  15. We have natural aerators. MOLES! Hills, Tunnels and Holes all over the place....

  16. Mom, The grass in Maine is so lovely! I think it may get enough aeration with the frosts and so on. Great soil up there too:) I miss it but have transplanted a bit of the soft green grass down here to remind me of Maine.

    Janet, Don't you love those hair plugs? It assures you the grass is growing and that the seed will stay put! Yup, be careful on mixing up the dog doo and plugs:) Did you register with Blotanical yet? I have been looking for you.

    Skeeter, Aren't they frustrating? I can deal with the moles but not the voles. Urgh!

  17. tee hee on the doggie doings! I had my lawn aerated (mechanically) this fall instead of in spring (like normal) and it's been so confusing this winter when I'm doing my weekly clean up chores! I won't be repeating that again. For the record, I agree with you.

  18. Hi Tina, this is all new to me... most interesting...hm... I don't air my lawn at all. Oops/ Tyra

  19. Dear Tina,
    Husband doe sthe lawn. We have lots of clover , my favorite. He does aerate every few years. We have plenty of spring and fall rains so usually he will do some over seeding if he needs to. I love the composit he makes for the gardens.
    Looking forward to spring blooms and your gardens.

  20. I'm saying bye-bye to my little remaining turf. It's too thirsty for our Zone 9 summers. I remember those little plugs though, from back in the day I had a nice front yard. They worked.

  21. I pretty much completely ignore the west side of my garden home where there is grass. A guy named Alfonzo mows it. It seems to be green except for a few months time. I concentrate all my time on the east side where I garden. If it were up to me, I'd probably take all the grass out!

  22. Kathleen, Thanks! Those 'plugs' are sure easy to confuse:)

    Tyra, Ha! Cute on airing the lawn-very cute☺!

    Sherry, Thank so much. Great your husband does such a good job on the lawn. Makes for nice robins to come visit I think.

    WS, Lawns seem to be going away for sure. Not enough water. I will be one of the last holdouts-I can see it now-$1000 water bill and they can't stop me! No, not really, I am trying to downsize too.

    Brenda, Why don't you take out the lawn and garden on the west side? Seems like it might get the most sun and you could grow some really colorful things. Drought tolerant of course. Then again, I too like east side gardening, easier on a body when the sun is blocked.

  23. The bright side of this dreary time of year seems to be the humor that blossoms on garden blogs - I've been laughing all evening at everyone's posts. I remember seeing aerated grass and wondering - for years afterword - how so much goose poop ended up on those lawns. I was relieved when I finally learned about aerating. I haven't aerated my lawn yet - the original landscapers laid down a layer of sand over the clay/rocky soil and then sod. Is there a good way to spread compost over a large lawn? Regards, VW

  24. Hi VW, So much goose poop huh? Now that is a VERY good one! I like your picture too. Too spread compost, hmmmm, the best way would be absolutely sure to have it sifted and the particles of uniform texture (think bought compost and not homemade) then probably a drop spreader might work if the compost is real dry, if not you might have to hand spread it with a shovel then spread it with a rake. Hope it is not such a large area but it is worth it. Hard work though. An alternative is to cut the lawn very regularly (I cut mine twice a week) and just leave the grass clippings to add organic material to the grass. Can you stand one other way? Milorganite is reputed to be a good organic additive to large areas, it is actually composted sewage but really supposed to be good. It might be best to go this way too. Have a great day!

  25. We have used mechanical aeration on our lawn in the past. It works pretty effectively. Like Frances I don't spend too much time worrying about the grass. ;)

  26. I believe that mechanical aeration will always be the best way to help your lawns root system grow stronger and thicker.

  27. Check out an excellent description of the workings of liquid aerators in "Jimmy's Global Harvest Part 2 - Australia" a 2009 BBC Scotland documentary