Why Lawn Aeration Is Important (and How to Do It)

Well Manicured Lawn

Lawn aeration involves the removal of small soil plugs less than an inch in diameter. Typically these plugs go from one to six inches deep and are from two to six inches apart. Learn the why, when and how of proper lawn aeration and arm yourself with the knowledge you need for a beautiful, healthy lawn.

Why Lawn Aeration

Just as a water garden aerator adds oxygen to your pond or water feature; lawn aeration helps to add oxygen to your soil. Lawns that have been compacted through heavy use or poor drainage will benefit greatly from regular aeration, as will soil that has heavy clay content.

Compaction of the soil causes several problems:

  • It reduces the oxygen needed by grass roots in order to grow.
  • It makes it difficult for roots to absorb water and nutrients from the soil
  • It creates a physical barrier that stunts the healthy growth of grass roots.

Benefits of aerating your lawn include:

  • A welcomed increase in the microorganisms that help to decompose thatch build up.
  • Greatly increases the absorption of water, nutrients and oxygen by grass roots.
  • Improvement in the overall growth and development of the root system.
  • Prevention of run-off when applying lawn fertilizer or pesticides to your lawn.

When to Aerate

The best time to aerate depends on the type of grass and your soil type. Cool season grasses like fescue should be aerated from late summer to early fall. Warm season grasses like Bermuda should be aerated during the late part of spring to early summer.In addition, if you have clay soil, you will need lawn aeration twice a year. Typically this will be during the spring and during the fall. If your soil is sandy you will only need to aerate once a year, either during the springtime or in the fall.

Avoid lawn aeration if you are experiencing weed problems. While aeration does help your grass to grow, it will also assist the weeds in getting a stronger hold on your lawn. Furthermore, lawn aeration should not be performed on newly seeded or sodded lawns. Give these new lawns a year to get established before you begin a schedule of lawn aeration.

How to Aerate

About two days before you plan to aerate your lawn, water it thoroughly to allow for easier penetration. You will want your soil to be moist, but not sopping wet. If you have had a heavy rain, allow some time for it to be absorbed into the ground. Be sure to mark or move any lawn sprinklers so they are not run over while you are working.

When aerating, go over the lawn in at least two different directions to allow for good coverage. There is no need to remove the soil plugs; you can just leave them lying on the ground. In about two to four weeks they will have worked themselves back into your lawn's soil.

After you have thoroughly aerated your lawn, it is a perfect time to fertilize or add additional grass seed. You may also want to add a quarter of an inch of manure over your lawn to fertilize it. Just rake it along the surface of the ground. It will work itself into to holes and be absorbed.


Where to Find an Aerator

This will depend on how you choose to aerate your lawn. You can certainly hire a professional to do this job for you. Or you can rent an aerator and do it yourself.

Since this is a chore that needs to be done at least once a year, you may prefer to purchase your own lawn aerator so that it will always be ready when you are. Avoid the type that only employs spikes to dig into the soil. This can contribute to more compaction - just what you are trying to avoid! Here are some to consider:

  • Lewis Standard Tool's Sod Coring Aerator is great if you have a small yard and would like to do your lawn aeration manually. It retails for $24.99
  • Swisher Mower & Machine Company's 48 Inch Plugger Aerator will make your job easier if you have a larger yard and would like a tool that can attach to your riding lawn mower. This one retails for $179.
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Why Lawn Aeration Is Important (and How to Do It)