Just like a newborn baby, plants need a healthy, nurturing setting to grow up in if they are to become strong and resilient. When it comes to your lawn, for example, the biggest factor that plays a role in determining whether you have a lush landscape of vibrant greenery or a dead wasteland of brown-tipped grass and weeds is… the growing environment.
We often use the terms “dirt” and “soil” interchangeably, but the fact of the matter is that they mean two very different things. It’s important to make note of this before going over any other ideas about plant care – because if you’re trying to grow plants in the dirt, you may as well give up now.
Dirt Versus Soil
What’s the big deal about dirt versus soil? Well, soil is a vibrant ecosystem of microorganisms, decaying organic matter, earthworms, and other insects. In short, soil is a vital living environment. Earthworms and insects aerate the soil by tunneling underneath the surface, and fertilize it through their waste and when their bodies decompose.
Dirt, on the other hand, is dead soil. It contains no nutrients or microorganisms, and isn’t a very hospitable place to try to grow plant matter either. But fear not – even with a yard full of barren, dry dirt, all is not lost! Adding compost and organic fertilizers can help revitalize your dirt and return it to a more active state, allowing the return of beneficial microorganisms. Once these microorganisms come back, the vibrant ecosystem of the soil can start to regenerate and become a healthy growing environment once more.
One of the big differentiators between dirt and soil, as we already mentioned, is aeration. When dirt becomes tightly compacted, it can be challenging (if not impossible) for plants to flourish. Young plants simply don’t have the strength and resilience to push beneath the compacted dirt to take root. And worse yet, older plants with deeper roots don’t get the oxygen they need, which can strangle and kill them.
In many cases, the microorganisms and insects that live in your yard can take care of this problem, at least to some extent. But when push comes to shove, your healthy lawn might need a little extra nudge along the way. That’s when it’s time to consider having your lawn aerated.
The process of aeration involves creating tiny pockets of air using a piece of equipment called a “core aerator” – this tool basically removes small plugs of soil in a uniform way, which allows fertilizer and compost to be added, and creates a more open, less tightly compacted environment for those all-important microorganisms to thrive and contribute to your lawn’s ecosystem.