How to Aerate Your Lawn

How to Aerate Your Lawn

Did you read the title to this week’s blog and wonder what lawn aeration even is? Well, if you did or you haven’t aerated your lawn since a Bush was President of the United States, you’re probably not alone. Aeration is a time-consuming activity that many homeowners don’t realize the importance of until a problem creeps in. At Lawn Love, we take lawn aeration seriously. Here’s all you need to know about aerating your lawn!

What is Lawn Aeration?

Before we really start to dig down deep into your soil, it’s probably a good idea to define aeration. Aeration is simply the action of removing small plugs of soil from your lawn or perforating the soil with small holes that allow nutrients, water, and oxygen to penetrate deep into the roots of your grass. This aids your lawn by helping the grass to produce a deeper and stronger root system, helping it to withstand environmental stressors such as pests, drought, and disease.

There are several reasons why you may want to aerate your lawn. The main reason is that it helps to alleviate soil compaction. If your lawn sees a lot of foot traffic, then soil compaction may become a problem, robbing your lawn of the nutrients it needs. If you have an excessively thatch-y lawn, then aeration is important to your lawn’s health too.

Listen to Your Lawn

Do you hear that whisper on the breeze? It’s your lawn crying for help. One of the biggest questions homeowners have about lawn aeration is just how on earth to identify that you need to do it. You probably need to aerate your lawn if:

  • Your lawn was established with sod – You can’t avoid soil layering when you start your lawn with sod. The layering that is created when sod is laid down on coarser soil can disrupt the drainage of your soil. This can lead to poor root development and can be remedied with aeration.
  • Your lawn is used heavily – Does your lawn serve as the neighborhood racetrack for kids, pets, or other people? Your cranky, elderly neighbor may not be so far off base by yelling people to stay off their lawn because high traffic contributes to soil compaction.
  • Feels spongy and dries you quickly – A lawn with a spongy feel may have a thatch problem. Take a sample of your lawn with a shovel that goes about four inches down. If you have a layer of thatch greater than a half-inch, then it’s time to aerate.
  • New construction – Lawns that are a part of newly constructed homes often need aeration to help the lawn develop properly. The topsoil in the lawns of newly built homes is often stripped away and lawns are established on subsoil that has seen a lot of traffic, so it’s likely compacted.

The Time is Right

The best time to aerate your lawn is during the growing season for your grass. This is important because it allows your grass to fill in any open spaces left behind by aeration. If you have cool-season grasses growing, then early spring or fall is the ideal time. If you have warm-season grasses, then late spring will be the ideal time to strike.

What to Do

Aerating isn’t as difficult as many people think. You can rent a plug aerator from a hardware store if you have a large lawn or you can get a spike aerator to poke holes manually in your soil at regular intervals. For the best results plug removal is usually the preferred method, but if you have no other choice, then spike aeration will do. Just make sure if you rent a machine you always follow the directions for safety.

Once you’ve decided on a method, you should:

  • Water your soil – The soil needs to be moist in order to aerate correctly. Try aerating the day after a rain shower or the day after you give your lawn a good watering.
  • Make multiple passes – Even if you rent a machine for aeration, it’s still a good idea to make multiple passes, especially over areas that are very compacted. If you have areas of your lawn that aren’t compacted, then you don’t have to aerate them.
  • Feel free to apply herbicide – Many people think that applying a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn before aeration will cancel out any weed prevention or control measure, but that’s not true. Go about your normal lawn care routine.
  • Keep on keeping on – After you aerate, continue your normal lawn care practices, such as mowing, watering, and fertilizing.

Aeration is a very beneficial practice if you want a healthy, thriving lawn. Make sure if your lawn needs it that aeration is a part of your lawn care routine!

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.