Bermuda grass is a popular turf chosen for dense, lush lawns. As an especially aggressively growing grass, it builds a layer of thatch relatively quickly. When thatch buildup isn’t kept under control, it leads to soil compaction and prevents free flow of air and moisture to the roots.
Annual aeration of your Bermuda grass will help prevent buildup and keep the lawn growing in thick.
Why Do You Need To Aerate Bermuda Grass?
Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass with a comparatively shallow root system. Most of its roots are located in the top 6 inches of soil. Bermuda grass reproduces by extending its roots, both above ground (stolons) and just below the surface (rhizomes).
This growth pattern gives Bermuda its desirable density, but it also results in a lot of roots in the turf that quickly build up into thatch over time. This thick cover compacts the topsoil and blocks water and air from reaching the grass’s roots. Aerating Bermuda grass breaks up this cover and leaves holes in the ground that irrigate the lawn and promote grass growth.
What Is Thatch?
Thatch is the top-level buildup of dead or dying roots and stems. When left unattended, they will decompose into the soil, but since we keep our lawns in such good growing conditions, the turnover of thatch outpaces the decomposition rate.
This buildup blocks water, air, and sunlight from reaching the topsoil and roots, with negative consequences for the grass.
What Does Aeration Do?
Aeration helps break up and remove thatch in Bermuda grass lawns, but it also does much more, contributing to soil health and the condition of your grass. Over time, the ground becomes more compact as it settles.
Water, thatch, and foot traffic contribute to packing down the surface level, making the ground less able to absorb water. Soil compaction also means roots have a more difficult time spreading, resulting in less dense lawn growth.
Aerating the lawn adds space in the soil that absorbs water, holds oxygen and allows roots to grow and fill in. Grass roots absorb nutrients from the soil via the water, requiring about an inch of water per week to do this, so it’s crucial that water is able to penetrate the soil evenly.
Even watering helps prevent yellowing patches from dryness or drowning. When aerating, a crisscross pattern can help you be sure the entire lawn is covered.
How To Aerate Your Yard
When you’re planting a whole new lawn, tilling the soil is the best way to aerate it. When you’re aerating an established lawn, there are specialized tools that won’t disturb it while opening up the soil:
- Walk-behind lawn aerator – These push-units look like reel lawnmowers, with a main cylinder that you roll across the yard.
- Fork aerator – These manual tools are best for spot-aerating and usually poke about 3 holes at a time.
- Hitch aerator – A hitch aerator can be attached to your riding lawn mower or small tractor to cover larger yards.
Should You Core Aerate Bermuda Grass?
Most aerators come in either spike or core options. Core aeration is a technique that pulls inches-long cores out of the ground and leaves behind the cores to break down back into the soil.
While spike aeration can be good to aerate some lawns, Bermuda grass benefits most from core aeration since it breaks up and removes parts of the dense turf that quickly builds up.
When Should I Dethatch My Bermuda?
Since Bermuda thatch is dense, raking might not be enough to break it up and collect it to uncover the ground. This is why core aeration is a great contribution to dethatching Bermuda grass, and it should be done in the early spring months when the grass is starting to grow.
Roots will extend to fill in the newly opened spaces before any weeds can establish themselves.
Can You Aerate Bermuda Grass In The Fall?
Bermuda grass shouldn’t be aerated in the fall because it will be entering dormancy, and any soil aeration at that time can encourage cool-season grasses or weeds to fill in. Aside from the unwanted growth, this can make springtime regrowth take longer than average. Root damage from aeration can hurt the grass when it’s dormant and unable to heal.
Is There A Bad Time To Aerate Your Lawn?
The best time to aerate your lawn will depend on your desired results. Fall is a bad time for Bermuda lawns to aerate unless you want a cool-season grass to take over. For southern climates in states like Georgia or Florida, where winter is still warm, some varieties of Bermuda are winter-hearty enough to last year-round.
If you don’t want the yard to grow over with other grass or weeds, leaving the Bermuda lawn alone in fall and winter will provide it with the best conditions to make it through to the spring.
How Often Should You Aerate Bermuda Grass?
Bermuda grass should be aerated at least once a year in the early spring but can be aerated up to three times throughout the spring and summer. This is done by golf courses to keep the greens in top shape. Aeration conditions the soil and encourages root growth for dense coverage.
You can model this professional maintenance schedule for your own lawn care calendar and get golf-course quality turf at home.
What To Do After Aerating Bermuda
Aerating the lawn has important benefits for the soil and the grass, and each time you do, it allows you to strengthen the lawn in other ways.
- Add fertilizer – Spreading fertilizer after aerating in the spring will give a boost to the lawn’s growth, penetrating into the topsoil thanks to the open holes across the ground.
- Overseed – When you aerate the lawn and expose the soil, it’s also a good time to sow new Bermuda seeds, or another warm-season grass, to fortify the existing property.
- Leave the soil cores – The cores, or plugs, pulled from the ground by the core aerator should be left in place. They’ll break up and return to the topsoil, so no dirt is lost.