Best Time to Aerate and Overseed a Lawn

Best Time to Aerate and Overseed a Lawn

People are always talking about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. But true lawn lovers know that it’s most important to make it as green as possible on your side. Developing a vibrant, healthy lawn with lots of lush, aromatic grass that makes your property stand out is a labor of love, for sure. And it’s worth every minute of effort you put into it.

However, there’s a lot more to achieving that beautiful blanket of green than just watering and mowing it. Grass needs proper nutrition for it to grow and maintain its opulence. Nutrients are as essential to a lawn’s health as they are to a body’s, and that’s why aerating and overseeding are vital to the well-being of your grass. But these crucial lawn maintenance tasks must be performed correctly, and that means doing them at the correct time. 


What does it mean to ‘aerate’ a lawn?

The process of aeration means to circulate air and liquid through your lawn. Aeration is an essential means of getting oxygen, water, and nutrients to the grass roots. It allows grass to stay healthy and to grow better. This process helps roots to produce strong, healthy grass. The core concept of aeration is poking holes throughout the turf so that rain or sprinkler water can get into it more effectively to better moisturize the soil. 

Do I have to aerate my lawn?

Mother Nature knows what she’s doing, so no, not all lawns need to be aerated. Or maybe it’s better to say that not all lawns need to be aerated all the time. We humans often create situations that can rob a lawn of its vital nutrients. It’s in these cases that aeration can become vital to a lawn’s health or even its mere survival. Consider aerating your grass if:

Your lawn is a hotbed of heavy use—for instance, you have pets or children who are often running and playing over it, as this can push grass and roots down, compacting the soil, and stunting grass from growing properly.

Your property exists in an arid climate that can dry out the soil, or your climate has been particularly dry recently (such as in a drought).

You live in a newly built home, new properties often install topsoil that’s stripped. Meaning it doesn’t contain the nutrients necessary to allow grass to grow and thrive.

How can I tell if my lawn needs to be aerated?

There are four common ways to determine if your grass needs aeration:

Your grass is thinner than usual, or you begin to see ‘bald spots’ throughout your lawn. Noone likes bald spots, but noticing them on your lawn isn’t as bad as seeing them in your hair, right? Bald patches on your lawn are indications of soil compaction. When this happens, the roots aren’t properly absorbing nutrients from your sprinklers or rain. 

Your grass is looking discolored. Grass that’s turning light brown or yellow in some spots is a significant indicator that your lawn’s not benefiting from any water that’s reaching it. Additionally, as mentioned above, if your property is in an arid climate, you may notice blotchy patches of dryness that are obvious indicators that water’s not getting its vital nutrients to your grass.

You notice water puddles settling on your lawn or runoff flowing on sloped sections. Whether it’s from your sprinkler or the rain above, your lawn should be absorbing water. After all, that’s how it soaks in vital nutrients. If you see puddles sitting on top of the soil, this means the soil isn’t packed as tightly as it should be, and aeration will help to correct this.

It’s growing season. Aerating your lawn at the beginning of the growing season is an effective means of getting proper nutrients to your grass that will help it grow and thrive. 

What is the best time to aerate a lawn?

The best time to aerate your lawn is before the grass reaching its apex of natural growth. The idea is to aerate in correlation with active growth of the grass. This will help it to recover more quickly. It will also help fill in those areas where the aerator equipment has exposed the soil underneath. To determine when to aerate, you must know whether your lawn has cool-season or warm-season grass. There are a whole host of things you can look for to determine whether your grass is cool-season or warm-season, but the simplest way to tell is:

Cool-season grass typically grows in the northern part of the United States. Cool-season grass tends to get greener quicker in the spring, and it stays greener longer into the fall. If your lawn contains cool-season grass, it’s best to perform aeration on it either early in the spring or early in the fall. 

Warm-season grass typically grows, you guessed it, in the southern parts of the United States. Warm-season grasses tend to take a longer time to get green in the spring, and they don’t stay as green as fall begins to set in. If your lawn contains warm-season grass, it’s best to perform aeration on it either late in spring or very early in the summer. 

What is the correct process for aerating a lawn?

Follow these quick steps for aerating your lawn:

Choose which aerating equipment to use: manual or power. Manual aerators are useful for smaller patches of heavy traffic areas or on smaller yards. You can even use a pitchfork to poke holes throughout the lawn to aerate it. Power aerators are fueled by gasoline, and these are well suited to larger yards.

Prepare your lawn for aeration. Clear off all debris and mow your yard. If you have sprinklers, be sure to turn them on just for a short time before aerating. Be sure also to remove all grass clippings if you’ve moved beforehand.

Check moisture levels. If your yard is dryer than usual, you may want to consider using the sprinklers a little more than you usually do for a few days before aerating. 

It’s time to aerate. If you’re using a machine you’ve never used before such as a gasoline-powered aerator, be sure to read the instruction manual beforehand and follow proper safety and processing instructions. Make multiple passes over the areas where the grass is most compacted, or dry. You’ll want to make between 25 and 40 holes per square foot of ground.


What does it mean to overseed a lawn?

Overseeding a lawn means to plant grass seed directly onto the existing grass. Overseeding is done to fill in bald patches, correct discolored portions, improve turf density, and create a more lush, healthy lawn with improvement in variety. Overseeding gets rid of that worn-out look that some lawns get over time, especially if they exist in arid climates or receive heavy foot traffic.

How can I tell if my lawn needs to be overseeded?

Overseeding will produce healthier grass that in turn will produce a thicker, more vibrant, and vividly green lawn. Not only that, overseeding helps your lawn combat ugly weeds and insects that can cause infestations to damage it. No, you don’t have to do it, but if you want a beautiful, lush lawn, you should. It’s pretty simple to be able to tell if your lawn could use some overseeding. Consider overseeding your grass if:

  • Your lawn has brownish or yellowish blotchy patches.
  • You have not overseeded in at least five years.
  • Your grass looks damaged.
  • Your grass is thinning in spots.
  • Your lawn looks old and tired.

What is the best time to overseed a lawn?

The best time to overseed can depend on the type of grass you have: warm-season or cool-season. As mentioned above in the aeration section, warm-season grass typically grows in the southern regions of the United States, while cool-season grows in the northern regions.

For warm-season grass, the best time to overseed a lawn is late in the spring, as this is the time when warm-season grasses grow most actively.

For cool-season grasses, the best time to overseed a lawn is late in the summer or early in the fall, as this is the time when there’s more moisture in the soil and also when cool autumn air will encourage growth. This is because these are the seasons when cool-season grass grows most robustly. If you didn’t catch it in late summer or early fall, wait until spring.

What is the correct process for overseeding a lawn?

Follow these quick steps for overseeding your lawn:

1) Prepare your lawn for overseeding. Remove all debris and mow your yard. Be sure to remove all clippings beforehand. You may want to rake the soil to remove debris and to loosen and expose soil.

2) If you’re going to aerate, you’ll want to do this beforehand. Typically, overseeding 48 hours following aerating is a best practice, as this will give the seed the best chance of getting into the soil. Aerating will also help to correct problems in your lawn such as thinning.

3) Select your seed. Lawn maintenance or big-box-type home repair stores are a good place to start if you don’t know what type of seed to select. Which seed will work best will depend on factors such as dryness of the climate, how much sun or shade you have in various areas of your lawn, and patterns of most traffic throughout.

4) Spread the seed. Always read seeding instructions beforehand. You may want to use a lawn spreader as this will help to spread the seed evenly over the lawn. You can even spread seeds by hand; this is typically done on smaller yards or on lawns where seeding is only needed in blotchy patches. Never spread seed on a windy day as this will blow the seeds around in areas you don’t want it.

5) Now you can fertilize if you so choose. Be sure to check with local ordinances concerning which fertilizers are safe. A lawn maintenance expert or big-box home repair store can also help to determine this.

6) Always keep your lawn adequately watered. Don’t rely solely on the rain to deliver the proper amounts of water to your lawn. The grass gets its nutrients from water; if there’s not enough rain in your area, or the rain hasn’t been coming lately, your grass will suffer.

No matter which side of the fence you’re on, the grass can always be greener. Your lawn is alive, and it needs constant care. No matter how much work you put into developing a luxurious lawn, blanketed in vibrant, healthy greenery, growing that lawn to its fullest potential will take continuous effort on your part. There’s a right time to plant and a right time to reap. There’s also a right time to aerate and overseed. Utilize the above tips, and you’ll soon notice your lawn eliciting envy from neighbors. And if you find the work is just a bit too time-consuming or ambitious for your level of skill, remember that you can always call in the experts at Lawn Love. Our expertise and years of experience will help you take the guesswork out of achieving the vibrant and robust lawn your property deserves. 

Sara Butler

Sara Butler has written scores of articles for Lawn Love -- everything from how to revive your dead lawn to how to start to lawn care tools every homeowner should have.