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Aeration benefits your lawn in several ways. First: it allows oxygen, water, and nutrients to penetrate further into the soil, encouraging deeper root growth. Second: it reduces soil compaction. The result can be a healthier and more vigorous lawn. A power aerator is the fastest and most efficient way to aerate your lawn. Slightly overlap each pass until the entire lawn has been aerated.
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Hollow tining lifts out small cores of grass and soil. This creates large air pockets in the lawn.
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For smaller areas, a similar effect can be achieved by using a garden fork. Step down firmly on the garden fork, and wiggle the handle back and forth to open up the soil and let in more air.
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After you finish aerating your lawn, any cores left lying on the grass can be taken care of easily. Drag a piece of chain-link fencing around your lawn behind a mower or by hand. The fencing will break up the cores into very small pieces. Another approach is to simply set the blade on your mower a little lower than normal, then mow over the cores. This 'topdressing' can help to reduce thatch layers.