Does my lawn need aeration

Aeration: Why, How & When to Aerate Your Lawn

If you’re convinced that your lawn is in need of aeration, here are some lawn care tips on how to do it:

  • Before you get started, make sure the soil is moist enough. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to aerate soil that is bone dry. Aerating the day after a rain shower or watering your lawn the day before is advised.
  • Most aeration machines cover only a small percentage of soil surface per pass, so make multiple passes over the most compacted areas. Save resources (and your energy) by leaving unaffected areas alone
  • The excavated soil plugs should be allowed to dry and then broken up to give your lawn a uniform, clean appearance. Break them up by running them over with a lawn mower or pounding them with the back of a rake. (Your lawn mower blade may need to be sharpened after breaking up the plugs.)
  • An aeration myth is that if you apply a pre-emergent herbicide on your lawn in the spring, aerating your lawn will destroy the herbicide “barrier.” This is not true — research shows that aeration will not affect crabgrass control or weed prevention.
  • After aerating, it’s important to continue basic lawn care practices such as proper fertilizing, mowing and watering.

Aeration is a beneficial practice toward achieving a beautiful lawn, but most people don’t realize it or understand the process. If your lawn is a candidate, make it an integral part of your lawn care regime. Your lawn will thank you for letting it breathe again.

Alan Kidd/

When it comes to the best time to aerate lawn, most people think it’s spring. The grass is blooming, and you want to make sure your soil is getting enough water and nutrients. Although spring is a fine time to aerate, the best time to aerate lawn is actually in the fall.

Yep, that’s right. The fall is a great time to get the lawn ready for the following spring and summer season for two reasons. The first reason fall is the best time to aerate lawn has to do with how often you are using your lawn. During the summer season, you’ll find your kids (or even yourselves) out on the lawn more and more. Frequently running and jumping on the soil will compact it, making it difficult to absorb air, water, and nutrients. Not aerating in the fall would keep the lawn compact, leaving the soil without any room to grow healthy grass the following spring.

The second reason has to do with weeds. The fall will help with killing off those weed seeds in the future. Once you aerate the lawn in the fall, you can apply weed killers so the open holes are protected from weeds. This will help with the number of weeds growing in the springtime.

Although aerating your lawn in the spring certainly isn’t wrong, it would have to take a close second compared to aerating in the fall. If you aerate in the spring, you could potentially kick up weed seeds, which can cause unnecessary weed grown around your lawn.

In general, knowing when to aerate lawn is important for your yard’s health and appearance. It will help to improve air-to-soil interaction, allowing water and fertilizer to penetrate the soil. It will reduce soil compaction and opens up space for grass to grow in the future. Along with aerating the soil, here’s a full list on how to achieve a healthy lawn.

Dispelling Common Fertilizer Misconceptions

Photo: Ryan

Many of us know the impactful benefits that come with aeration, such as stronger turfgrass roots, improved resiliency and an overall healthier lawn, but your customers might not. That means they also likely don’t know that fall is the most crucial time to aerate.

Walking on, playing on and mowing turfgrass are all causes of soil compaction and stressed turf. Compact soil prevents turf from establishing a healthy root system and keeps water and fertilizer from reaching the roots, but aeration can help relieve this problem and others.

According to Richard Hentschel, horticulture educator at the University of Illinois, core aeration has several more benefits for your customer’s turf soil profile, microbial activity and thatch management.

Hentschel says that when the soil beneath the turf is compacted, the roots don’t grow effectively because they stay near the surface and are more prone to being affected by drought. By aerating your customers’ turf, it allows it to relax and expand into the vacated core, which promotes deeper roots and provides better disease resistance.

It also increases your turf’s ability to remain green and actively growing during drought conditions and maintains thatch levels under one-half inch.

Although it is important to aerate in both the fall and spring, if your customers have cool season turf, the plants will be increasing their root zones in the fall to prepare for the winter months making it a great time to aerate. Aeration opens the root zone, which allows for new growth; so, if you are also overseeding or applying slow-release fertilizer, it will help your customer’s turf survive the winter weather and prepare it for new growth and green-up in the spring.

Your customers should be having their lawn aerated at least once a year, ideally between August and November, but heavily used turf, especially those growing on heavy clay or subsoils, may need aeration in the spring as well. Golf fairways, sports turf and municipalities may need aeration three to five times per year depending on the amount of use. Again, turf responds best when tine spacing is closer and penetration is deeper.

Another way to get your customers aerating is to encourage them to participate in National Aerate Your Lawn Day on September 15.

Remember, most turf will benefit from annual aeration. While your customer shouldn’t expect miracles, especially with poor soil, turfgrass that receives this care will be healthier, more vigorous, easier to maintain and have fewer pest problems.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Ryan Turf.

Lawn Plug Aeration: When To Plug Aerate A Lawn

Lawn plug aeration is a method of removing small cores of soil from the lawn to keep the lawn and grass healthy. Aeration relieves compaction in the soil, allows more oxygen to reach the roots of the grass, and improves the movement of water and nutrients through the soil. It can also prevent the buildup of thatch, or dead grass and roots, in your lawn. Most lawns can benefit from an occasional aeration.

Does My Lawn Need Plug Aeration?

Essentially, all lawns need aeration at some point. It’s a good management practice that helps maintain health and strength in grassy areas. Even if your lawn is currently healthy and lush, a regular process of aerating will help keep it that way.

The best way to aerate a lawn is to use a core aerating machine. This device

uses a hollow tube to actually pull plugs of soil out of the lawn. An implement with a solid spike that punches holes in the soil is not the right tool for this job. It will simply compact the soil even more.

,You can rent a core aerator from your local garden center or hardware store, or you can hire a landscaping service to do the job for you.

When to Plug Aerate a Lawn

The best time for plug aeration depends on several factors, including the type of grass and your climate. For cool-season lawns, fall is the best time for aeration. For warm-season yards, late spring to early summer is best. In general, aeration should be done when the grass is growing vigorously. Avoid aerating during a drought or during the dormant time of year.

Wait to aerate until the conditions are right. In soil that is too dry, the cores won’t be able to get deep enough into the ground. If the soil is too wet, they will get plugged up. The best time for aeration is when the soil is moist but not totally wet.

If your soil is more a clay type, is compacted, and sees a lot of foot traffic, aerating once a year is important. For other lawns, aeration every two to four years is usually adequate.

Once the job is done, just leave the soil plugs in place. They will quickly break down into the soil.

Yard and Garden: Properly Aerating Lawns

AMES, Iowa – Aeration is an important part of lawn care, but take care to aerate properly and at the correct time of the year. Here are some tips from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists on the proper way to aerate a yard. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or [email protected]

What are the benefits of aerating the lawn?

Aeration relieves soil compaction, improves water and nutrient movement in the soil, and prevents thatch accumulation. Aeration improves the growing conditions for the turfgrass plants and results in a healthier, more vigorous lawn.

When is the best time to aerate a lawn?

In Iowa, September and April are the best times to aerate Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season lawns. While the overall results are beneficial, core aeration causes some initial damage. Aerating in September or April allows the grass to quickly recover during the favorable growing conditions in spring and early fall.

What is the proper way to aerate a lawn?

Aerate lawns with a core aerator. Core aerators have hollow metal tubes or tines that remove plugs of soil. Avoid spike-type devices that simply punch holes (compacting the soil) in the ground. Core aerators are often available at rental agencies. If you prefer not to do it yourself, core aeration is a service provided by many lawn care companies.
Remove soil cores that are approximately three-fourths of an inch in diameter and three inches long. For best results, aerate lawns when the soil is moist. Avoid aeration when soils are dry or wet. The tubes or tines will not be able to penetrate deeply when the soil is dry and may get plugged with soil when the soil is wet. Lawns that are properly aerated should have 20 to 40 holes per square foot. Since most core aerators won’t remove the proper number of holes with a single pass, several passes are usually necessary.

How often should I aerate a lawn?

The frequency of aeration is largely determined by the soil type and the amount of use. Lawns growing in heavy, clay soils and those subject to heavy foot traffic should be aerated twice a year. Once a year should be sufficient for lawns that are established on well-drained soils and experience little traffic.

Why, When and How to Aerate Your Lawn

Core aerators pull small plugs of soil to the surface.

When Lawns Need Aeration

It may not seem your lawn could get compacted, but it happens easier than you may think. Vehicles or small equipment driven on lawns are more obvious offenders, but even outdoor entertaining or yard play by kids and pets can leave all or part of your lawn compacted. If you live where heavy clay soil is the norm, annual aeration is probably needed to keep your lawn from becoming thin and weak.

Dethatching and aerating are two different tasks, but they often go hand in hand. Thatch is the layer of decomposing organic matter that forms right at the lawn surface, between soil and grass. When thatch gets more than 1/2 inch thick, it works like compaction to prevent the flow of air, water and nutrients grasses need. Aggressive spreading grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass in northern lawns and Bermudagrass down south, form more thatch than many other grass types. Aeration helps penetrate and reduce thatch buildup or prep it for removal through dethatching.

If your grass often looks stressed and your soil is hard to the touch or rainwater puddles up where it used to be absorbed, you may have compaction problems. Confirm your suspicions with a simple “screwdriver test.” Take a regular screwdriver and stick it into your lawn’s soil by hand. It should slide in fairly easily. If you meet resistance, your soil is compacted, and aeration can help.

When to Aerate Your Lawn

As with most larger lawn projects, such as planting grass seed, it’s best to aerate during or right before the time your grasses reach their peak time for natural growth. Aeration is good for lawns, but it can stress grass if timed improperly. Never aerate dormant lawns.

For cool-season grasses common in northern lawns, early fall or early spring are the best times for aerating. For warm-season grasses common to southern lawns, the best time for aerating is late spring or very early summer. When aeration coincides with active growth, grasses recover quickly and fill in areas where aerator equipment exposes soil.

Aerating is easiest on you (or your equipment operator) and your lawn when your soil is moist from irrigation or rainfall the day before. Overly dry soil can be tough to aerate, so moisture eases the process. Never aerate overly wet lawns; wait a few days instead.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

By Lance Walheim, The National Gardening Association

Aerating is the process of punching small holes all over your lawn. The most effective type of aerating is with a gas-powered machine called a core aerator that pulls out small cores of grass and soil. Other aerators use short spikes to punch holes in the turf. Spiking is not nearly as effective as core aerating, but it’s better than nothing.

Aerating does exactly what it sounds like and more. Air is critical to healthy root growth, so it shouldn’t surprise you that aerating is a good thing. Aerating your lawn breaks through a thatch layer, enables the roots to breathe, and improves water and nutrient penetration. If that’s not enough, aerating helps break down thatch by providing a better habitat for the microorganisms that do those sorts of things. Aerating annually is one of the best things you can do for your lawn, thatch or no thatch.

Aerating is not nearly as traumatic as dethatching. You end up with some little cores of soil all over the lawn, but if those really bother you, you can rake them up. If you leave the cores alone, they break down into nothing in a few weeks anyway. So compared to dethatching, which can pulverize a lawn, aerating leaves the lawn in pretty good shape. Consequently, if you have a small thatch problem, aerating once a year probably solves the problem.

Signs that your lawn needs to be aerated include

  • Worn areas where people walk often

  • Water puddles after irrigating

  • Water runs off the lawn after only a few minutes of watering

  • Parts of the lawn that just can’t seem to keep moist

When you aerate, strive for an even 3- to 4-inch spacing between holes throughout the lawn. To do so, you must make two passes in different directions. Make sure that the soil is slightly moist — not too wet or too dry. Set the aerator to pull out cores about 3 inches long.

Years of walking on a lawn or driving heavy equipment on it during construction can compact soil, smashing the particles tightly together and forcing all the air out. You got it: No air, bad for roots. You can identify the compacted areas because that’s where the water always puddles up. Eventually, the grass declines and starts turning brown because the roots receive no air, and water can’t get to them either.

Compaction is particularly troublesome where soils are heavy clay. In fact, clay soil can have poor aeration and be slow to absorb water without your help. Walk all over clay soil, especially when soggy, and you really have problems.

So what’s the answer for compacted or clay soil? You got it. Aerate. Aerating provides air to the roots and improves water penetration. More air and water mean happier roots and a healthier lawn. If your area has clay soil, you may want to aerate at least once a year.

Oh, and one other place where aerating really helps is on sloping ground where water runs off quickly before it can soak in. Aerate, and more water can reach the roots.

Is aerating great or what?

Q. All of our neighbors aerate their lawns in the fall. Is this necessary? Our lawn is three years old and looks great.
Sandi, e-mail
A. Sandi, congratulations on having a nice-looking lawn because that’s not always the case after a hot, dry summer like we just experienced.
No, it’s not necessary to aerate your lawn every year, especially if your grass is healthy and thriving.
Aeration is good if you’ve got compacted, poor or clay-heavy soil that’s been impacted by heavy equipment or lots of foot traffic. It’s also good to aerate if you are renovating a yard or installing a new one.
Compaction, which can also be caused by ample rainfall or low spots that do not drain well, reduces air spaces in soil. Roots require oxygen to grow and absorb nutrients and water.
If you’re in doubt about aeration, Virginia Tech recommends you remove a square foot section of lawn at least 6 inches deep. If grass roots extend only into the first 1-2 inches, your soil may be compacted and could benefit from aeration.
Always do “core aeration,” which involves a machine that removes plugs of soil.
Aerations benefits your lawn in several ways, including:

  • Increases the activity of soil microorganisms that decompose thatch.
  • Improves water, nutrient and oxygen movement into the soil.
  • Improves rooting.
  • Enhances infiltration of rainfall or irrigation.
  • Helps prevent fertilizer and pesticide runoff from overly compacted areas.

Newly seeded or sodded lawns should not be aerated in the first year.
For more tips on aeration, visit Virginia Cooperative Extension online at:

Does Your Lawn Need Aeration?

Have you ever walked on a golf course or someone else’s lawn and seen perfect little holes in the ground with evenly spaced cylinders of dirt sitting on top? For those who have never aerated, it might look like the strongest insects on the planet have moved in and made swiss cheese of the lawn. In reality, it’s one of the most beneficial maintenance procedures you can provide for grass, especially when the soil isn’t perfect.

Aeration is the process of punching holes usually 2 to 3 inches deep and about half an inch in diameter throughout a lawn. These holes help break up the soil and allow air, water, and nutrients to filter effectively to the root zone of the grass. The procedure typically involves a specialized aeration machine although it may be done manually using any sharp tool with those dimensions.

Why aerate your lawn?

Aeration is especially valuable in those places with hard, compacted or heavy clay soil types. These kinds of soils often prevent the proper amount of nutrients, water and oxygen from getting down to the roots where they are needed most. Aeration helps break up those soils, penetrating down to a level where those beneficial plant growth supplements and H2O can work at increased efficiency. If you have a highly trafficked lawn thanks to kids or pets or see water standing for long periods of time in areas of your lawn, aeration is for you.

When do you aerate?

Aeration is beneficial to all turfgrass types and should be done during the lawn’s primary growing season. For cool season grasses like Bluegrass and Fescue, the best times are in the early spring and fall. For warm season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine, later in the spring is preferred. You want optimum conditions for growth to ensure that the grass will recover quickly.

How do I aerate my lawn?

For do-it-yourselfers, aeration equipment can be purchased or rented at most local hardware or lawn and garden stores. You can also buy aeration equipment from Amazon via the links below this article.

If you aren’t interested in putting in the sweat equity, annual aeration is usually offered as a service by lawn care companies.

Worth knowing:
  • Make certain the soil is moist enough before beginning the process. It is recommended to aerate the day after a rain or watering event. Punching holes in hard, dry soil is tough!
  • Be prepared to make multiple passes, especially over what appear to be the most compacted areas. Aeration machines cover only a small percentage of soil surface per pass.

Aeration isn’t just for lawns with soil problems. It is very common for the soil to get too compacted to optimize grass health. That is why aeration is an outstanding ‘healthcare’ technique for virtually any lawn.

The professionals that care for golf courses and sports fields aerate on a regular basis. It helps grass recover more rapidly from damage by allowing the essential components of oxygen, water, and nutrients to get right to the spot needed to provide for a healthier lawn. It is a great tool to promote your lawn’s health if done annually or at least every two years.

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