How to Aerate Your Lawn (and Why)

aerate your lawn

Everyone wants a luscious green beautiful lawn, and in order to achieve that you have to exercise some simple lawn care practices, such as properly mowing, fertilizing and watering.  You must also get nutrients into the soil underneath your grass.  This is where you want to aerate your lawn as it allows air and water to access the soil and grass in turn becoming a healthy lawn.

What is Lawn Aeration?

Aeration is when you puncture the ground with small holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to get to the grass roots.  This leads to the roots being able to grow deeper into the soil, which will produce a stronger, healthier lawn.

One of the other main things that aeration does is lessen soil compaction.  If your soil is too heavily compacted you can’t get proper air circulation, nutrients or water to the soil.  Soil that is combined with lots of clay (which is what most of the soil is here in western Pennsylvania) also needs to be aerated regularly.  This will increase the follow of air circulation, nutrients and water due to the clay blocking them from being able to reach the grass roots.

Common Reasons to Aerate Lawns

Some of top reasons that you should aerate your lawn include if your yard gets heavy use.  Are the neighborhood kids running around your yard like a playground?  If so, your lawn is probably getting compacted due to the impact of the kids.

Did you just build your home recently?  Typically, topsoil of a new yards take a heavy hit from the construction vehicles, so it gets quiet compacted.

Was your lawn put in by sod?  If so, there is a layer of soil that exists between what the sod came with and the existing soil that was already there.  This area disrupts drainage, which can lead to compaction and poorer root development.  Aerating will break up this layer, which will allow air and water to get to all levels of the soil.

When is the Best Time to Aerate?

The best time for aeration is during the growing season.  This way the grass has time to grow and any open plugs from the aerator can fill back up.  It’s best to aerate too in cooler seasons, so Spring or Fall are ideal.

Plug Aerator vs. Spike Aerator

There are two main types of aerators, a plug aerator or a spike aerator.  The plug aerators will actually poke a hole, and remove a plug of grass.  The spike will just poke little holes throughout the lawn.  Plug aerators, which we rent, should be used for the best results as the spike holes is less effective, because it’s not actually removing a small hole from the lawn itself.  The best types of plug aerators will remove a plug 2- 3 inches deep and 0.5 – 0.75 inches in diameter, and about 2 – 3 inches apart.

How to Aerate Your Yard

Prep your lawn.  You’ll want to make sure that your soil is wet enough.  Otherwise, if it’s too dry the aerator won’t be able to pull the plugs out.  Aerators also work best on freshly cut grass.  If you have sprinklers, turn them on for a couple hours beforehand.  Rake up any debris and make sure you mark your sprinkler heads so you don’t accidently hit one with the aerator.

Start in the corner of your lawn and make passes back and forth much like you would do with your mower.  Be sure to pick the tines up when turning otherwise you risk damaging the machine and breaking off the tines.  You’ll want to make more than one pass across your most heavily trafficked areas of your yard.

After you aerate your lawn, spread fertilizer over the newly plugged holes in the soil.  This will be absorbed quickly and will allow for the lawn to regenerate faster.  You’ll also want to continue with proper watering and mowing.

Aeration is a valuable part of your practice toward attaining a beautiful lawn, but most people don’t understand that or know the process of how to do it. If your lawn fits any of the descriptions above be sure to include aeration into a regular part of your lawn care routine.  You’ll see the results quickly, and your lawn will thank you for letting it breathe again.