A beautiful, lush green lawn does wonders for your home’s curb appeal, but growing a flawless lawn isn’t always easy. The weather is out of your control, after all, so you’ll need to take steps to counteract the effects of extreme temperatures and damaging pests.

Beyond maintaining a regular watering schedule and staying ahead of insects and lawn diseases, you’ll need to keep your lawn aerated. Regular aeration keep grass healthy and disease-free, which means that your yard will likely be the envy of the neighborhood.

Whether you’re interested in trying your hand at aerating your own lawn or you’re gathering information before contacting a Best Pick lawn maintenance company, you’ve come to the right place.

Confused about the difference between core and spike aeration? Not sure what to do after aeration? We’ll answer those questions and more—keep reading!

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What Is Lawn Aeration?

lawn aeration machine

Aeration, a common part of spring lawn maintenance, is the process of exposing your soil to the air by removing plugs of soil from the turf.

The resulting hollows allow water and nutrients to move through the soil, increasing the quality and health of grass over time and resulting in stronger roots. Healthier roots can withstand the hotter temperatures and droughts that often accompany summer weather.

Benefits of Lawn Aeration

Aeration is particularly useful for lawns that undergo a lot of foot traffic; the more a lawn is used, the more compacted the soil becomes, which significantly reduces the spaces in the soil that would typically hold air.

Due to the decreased flow of air within the soil, compaction can negatively affect root growth. Roots need oxygen from the air to grow and absorb water and nutrients.

Aeration improves your lawn by:

  • Increasing oxygen, water, and nutrient movement through the soil
  • Creating stronger roots
  • Allowing better absorption of rainfall and irrigation
  • Developing a topsoil layer underneath the grass
  • Preventing fertilizer and pesticide runoff
  • Inhibiting thatch accumulation

Does My Lawn Need Aeration?

Aerating isn’t necessarily needed for every lawn. If you’re unsure about whether you need to aerate, remove a six-inch-deep section of your lawn. If the grass roots only extend one to two inches into the soil, it may be too compacted, and it could significantly benefit from aeration.

Additional signs of needing aeration are:

  • Your lawn regularly receives heavy use
  • The thatch on your lawn is greater than one-half inch
  • You have a dense, clay soil

If your lawn is not prone to soil compaction, then it will likely grow normally without the aid of aeration. Natural factors such as earthworm activity and winter freeze-thaw cycles often loosen compacted soil. Do not aerate your lawn during the first year your lawn is newly seeded or sodded.

When Should I Aerate My Lawn?

Most lawns should be aerated once or twice a year, depending on the soil, grass type, and amount of use. A lawn experiencing heavy traffic should be aerated twice a year, while a well-established lawn with little traffic can be aerated once a year.

If you have cool-season grass:

  • Aerate in the spring (April) before applying pesticides or in the fall (September) before overseeding.
  • Not sure if you have cool-season grass? If your lawn is made up of Kentucky bluegrass or fescue, you do.

If you have warm-season grass:

  • Aerate in the summer—late May through July—when the grass is growing.
  • You have warm-season grass if your lawn is made up of Bermuda or zoysia.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

professional landscaper using aeration machine

Aeration is hard work, and it gets exponentially more difficult the larger your yard is. Your best bet is to hire a Best Pick lawn maintenance company—they’ll make sure your lawn is aerated correctly, and they’ll take the necessary steps to ensure that your grass stays healthy year-round.

A lawn care professional will be able to best help your lawn by analyzing your soil type, grass health, and the best aeration time for your lawn. Lawn care professionals will also have a range of machines with different-sized tines and weights for the best amount of penetration for your soil.

But if you want to take a crack at aerating your lawn before calling in the pros, we’re here to help! First, there are two important decisions you’ll need to make:

Manual or automated

Manual aerators are tools that are powered by you—aerator attachments for shoes and handheld spike and core aerators are the most popular.

Automatic aerators are motor-driven machines—if you go this route, renting an aerator from a home improvement store is probably the best route to take. Unless aerating is old hat for you, ask for a demonstration of how the machine works before you take it home.

Core or spike

Core aeration is what you should aim for. This aeration method removes small cylinders of soil approximately three inches in depth. The holes that are left behind bring water and air into the soil, which encourages healthy grass growth.

Spike aeration creates small holes in the soil, but because the spikes don’t remove any soil, all you’re doing is further compacting the dirt—exactly what you’re trying to fix. Spike aerators are counterproductive, so take a pass on this method.

Once you’ve decided on the tool and method to use, it’s time to get started! Keep reading for essential tips.

What to Do Before Aerating Your Lawn

  • Mow your lawn before watering and aerating it.
  • Be sure to water your lawn thoroughly two days before aeration; the tines on the aeration machine penetrate loose soil better than dry soil. If the soil is too dry, the tines will have trouble effectively piercing the ground.
  • Avoid aerating immediately after an extended period of rainfall; soil that is too wet will stick to the inside of the tines instead of falling easily back into the lawn.
  • Mark sprinkler heads, cables, septic lines, and any other obstacle that may be in the way while aerating.
  • Plan to pass over your lawn in two or more directions; this ensures a more even, thorough coverage. Most sources agree that you should aim for 20 to 40 holes per square foot.

What to Do After Aerating Your Lawn

soil plugs removed with aertion

Lawn care after aeration is important, and luckily, it’s relatively straightforward.

  • Leave the soil plugs on the lawn to decompose and filter back into the holes left by the aeration machine. Your lawn mower will often break them up and help work them back into the soil within two to three weeks.
  • Apply fertilizer immediately after aerating your lawn to put nutrients into your grass roots. This allows the grass to better prepare for summer heat. Growing a thick, healthy lawn is useful in preventing weeds as well.
  • Reseed your lawn, especially in areas of the lawn where the grass is thin. The seeds mix with the soil plugs and have better access to non-compacted soil following aeration.

The Bottom Line

Aeration is an important part of keeping your lawn healthy and beautiful. Whether you do it yourself or hire a Best Pick lawn expert, don’t let this task fall to the wayside.

Remember that good things take time—and that includes your lawn. After your lawn is aerated, be patient. You probably won’t see instant results. While root growth and the overall health of your lawn begin to improve immediately following aeration, visual results are more visible after two or three aerations.

Stay on top of your lawn care with proper fertilization, irrigation, and pesticide practices, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a thick, green, and beautiful lawn.