How to aerate lawn?

How to Use a Lawn Aerator

A lawn aerator is a gardening tool that is used to aerate the soil in your liawn. The machine usually has spikes attached to a drum that create holes in the soil so that nutrients and water can better reach the roots of your grass. Aeration of the soil in your line also allows for slight shifting or movement in the soil which allows earthworms to make the soil more fertile. Using the tool is not difficult, and the simple step-by-step guide will show you how to use an aerator for your lawn.

(Note – Regardless of the type of lawn aerator you own (i.e. manual, gas powered or electric), the following guidelines can be used to properly aerate your lawn.)

Step 1 – Determine Best Time to Aerate

Before you begin using your lawn aerator to aerate the soil in your yard, you should first determine the best time of the year to do so. Depending on the type of grass in your yard, you will want to either use the lawn aerator in summer or fall. Cool season grasses are best aerated in early fall, and warm season varieties are usually aerated in the summer. If you’re not sure about the type of grass that is in your yard, you should have someone from a local garden nursery center help you identify it. Take a few grass clippings and ask them what type of grass you have. Then you will know the best time to aerate your lawn.

Step 2 – Moisten the Grass

Lawn aeration is best performed when the grass is slightly damp or moist. Therefore, take a garden hose and spray nozzle that has a fine mist setting and water your lawn. Don’t water it too much, but apply enough water that the soil is soft and damp. This will allow for easier use of your lawn aerator.

Step 3 – Guide the Aerator Across Lawn

Begin pushing the lawn aerator across your lawn. Push the aerator in straight lines that slightly overlap each new row. You use a lawn aerator much in the same way you would a standard hand-pushed lawn mower. Push the machine slowly so that it has time to actually puncture the surface of the ground and create the aeration holes.

Step 4 – Cross Lawn Again at Right Angle

Once you have gone over the entire surface area of your lawn with the lawn aerator, go to the adjacent side of your yard and begin pushing the machine again. This time, you will be pushing the line area in a direction that crisscrosses the path you created the first time. This will create many more aeration holes in your lawn and also allow for better seeding and watering.

Step 5 – Seed Your Lawn

If you’re planning to seed your lawn, doing so immediately after aerating it is an excellent idea. In fact, if you seed your lawn right after you aerate it, you will notice that grass in those areas grows much faster and is much greener.

What is lawn aeration?

Many folks ask When to aerate a Lawn, or How to use a lawn aerator. Perhaps you’re wondering how much it cost to aerate your lawn, or you’re just looking for Lawn aeration tips. Today we’ll help you answer all of those questions. In a nutshell, Good lawn aeration simply involves the process of perforating your lawn with small holes. This action provides the necessary oxygen, water, and nutrients to permeate your lawn and move freely throughout the soil.

If your lawn has too many solid particles or compaction, the roots will not be able to grow deep, which prevents the lush thick lawn your after.

Photo of a Lawn after Using a Lawn Aerator

Once you learn How to Aerate a lawn and follow these steps, your grassroots will grow easier and deeper into the soil.

The end result is having your lawn looking more lush and green than what was previously possible without lawn aeration. So let’s figure out how to aerate a lawn DIY style.

What is a lawn aerator?

A lawn aerator is going to be a piece of equipment or a device that makes the process of aerating your lawn effective and more efficient, and a do it yourself lawn aerator job is one household chore you can easily tackle. These pieces of equipment can range greatly in size and appearance.

They can be manual rolling pins with spikes, they might be an electrical piece of equipment or they can even be shoes with spikes! They all serve the same function which is to loosen up the soil and dirt so that soil is not so compact and the roots of the grass can absorb more air, water, and nutrients. Read on to find out if spike aerators work!

Does my lawn need to be aerated?

This can depend on a lot of factors. The first one is how much activity does your lawn gets? Are you and other people such as family members, neighbors or friends constantly using the lawn? Do you have any pets or animals that enjoy the lawn?

If your soil is compact like clay or overly dry your lawn could be a perfect candidate for aeration. If your grass is not growing as full and green as it did in the past, this could be a sign that it is in desperate need of aeration. Aeration is also great for building turf and keeping weeds from taking over.

What time of year is best to aerate the lawn?

The optimal time to aerate your lawn will be whatever time of year that most things are able to grow and rebuild. Aeration can damage the roots of the grass and the grass needs to be at the right time of year to be able to recover and grow back properly.

This can depend on your location but any time in the spring up until early fall should be optimal for aeration. Aerating in the winter for most places is not advised as it is hard for the grass to heal and recover in these weather conditions.

Most fruit and vegetables will not grow in the winter, likewise, it is harder for grass to combat these weather conditions and it is certainly not ideal for aerating. Also aerating cold hard dirt that possibly has ice, frost or snow is going to be a very excruciatingly hard process!

How can you tell if your lawnmower spark plug is bad? Read our article here on how to tell and where to replace them!

Preparing your lawn to aerate

So how do you aerate your lawn? Before you can aerate your lawn, you must do some simple preparations. Go out into your lawn and see how dry your soil is. Aerating “dry soil” can be a troublesome task and it is certainly not optimal if you wish to aerate your lawn properly.

It’s recommended to aerate your lawn the day after it rains or if you can’t wait for the rain, simply water your lawn the day before and let it all sink into the soil.

Mowing your lawn before aerating can really help the process. The grass will be shorter making it easier for you to work and manage it as you aerate. You are able to see more clearly which areas are in need of aeration more than other areas as you mow. Some patches will be less thick or less green.

The Before and After – Using a Lawn Aerator

What type of lawn aeration should I be doing?

There are three main different types of aeration. Plug aeration, spike aeration, and liquid aeration:

Plug aeration involves the process of making a fairly large hole around 1/2-3/4 inches in diameter and up to 6 inches deep. This will remove part of the soil from the roots and is known to improve the overall structure of your soil more than spike aeration.

Plug aeration

It is ideal if you’re aerating once a year. One of the downsides to this type of aeration is that if you are not using a high powered automatic plug aeration device it is quite a labor-intensive job.

This method increases the risk of damaging your grass and makes it very difficult for the grass to heal and grow back fully in the short term. However long term, this is the way to ensure your soil is properly aerated.

Spike Aeration

is the process of making a lot of smaller holes around 1-2 inches deep. The advantages of this method are that it is not as labor-intensive and whether you choose to manually do this or not you won’t put your body under much physical strain.

Because the holes are generally not as big or as deep as plug aeration, your grass will be less damaged and will be able to heal and recover quicker than plug aeration.

The disadvantage of this aeration is that it is more of a short term solution and your soil is likely to become compact again in as little as 2-3 months depending on how often the lawn and soil are used.

Liquid Aeration

There is also a third type of aeration that is relatively new called Liquid Aeration. This is only possible with a more expensive machine. Instead of making large holes like plug aeration or a lot of smaller holes like spike aeration, you make countless tiny holes throughout the soil. This method is also preferred if you don’t wish to overseed your lawn regularly.

What is Liquid aeration? This is the process of combining two 100% organic compounds to the lawn. The first product is a wetting agent from a South American plant extract that helps water penetrate hard clay soils. The second compound is considered a microbial-package used to eat the thatch layer.

This method has not been tested as much as the previously said methods but is meant to improve water retention and will allow the soil to hold onto water more effectively than before. Liquid aeration will add safe and biodegradable substances to your lawn and is completely safe to use around small children, pets and other animals.

Do you have birds eating your grass seed? Read our article on how to deter birds from eating your grass, and make it look it’s best!

How do I use a lawn aerator and which one should I choose?

This is going to greatly depend on what type of soil you may have as well as the size of your lawn and how often you would like to aerate. There are 3 main different types of lawn aerators: Hand or Manual Aerators, Lawn Aerator Shoes and Machine Aerators.

Hand Aerators

Hand aerators or manual aerators are aerators that you will work by manually pushing, poking or rolling a device that will have multiple sharp ends that will poke holes into the soil.

This can be something extremely simple like a pitchfork. Using a pitchfork you would go around the lawn and simply put it into the soil that needs aeration. Rinse and repeat this process, this could be quite a long and strenuous task depending on the size of your lawn. Even smaller lawns you could get exhausted by the end of it!

The other common tool for manual aeration is a Lawn aeration tool from “Yard Butler”. This is a turf plug core device that has a handle like a pitchfork that allows you to aerate a small section of lawn that needs some attention. You simply stand on the tool, like a shovel, and lift turf plugs out of the lawn, to provide much-needed oxygen, water, and nutrients to the soil.

This is a much faster and more effective method of aerating your lawn compared to using a pitchfork. The pitchfork method is quite slow and tedious.

Lawn Aerator Shoes

Lawn aerator shoes are exactly what they sound like, they are shoes that help aerate your lawn as you walk on top of it. They are able to do this by having sets of metal spikes on the bottoms that can range between 1-2 inches in length. The shoes will dig into the soil creating small holes allowing extra air, water, and nutrients to get to the roots of the grass.

Lawn aerator shoes are very desirable for those that own and wish to aerate a small lawn and not so ideal for those who have a large lawn.

Here’s a good tip or method of speeding up this aerating process. As you are mowing your lawn in preparation for the aeration, you can mow the lawn while wearing these shoes. This saves you your time and energy of having to do two separate trips of mowing and aerating. Be sure your lawn is moist before mowing and aerating!

Machine Aerators

The last type of aeration is machine aeration which is usually powered by some sort of engine. Machine aeration is going to make the aeration process really smooth and easy. Machines can be used for both spike and plug aeration.

Whichever type of lawn aeration you choose, you will have an easy time gliding over your lawn. It is advised to always aerate your lawn with moist soil but with a half-decent lawn aerator machine, you don’t need to be as concerned with having the soil fully moist.

The machines are easy to use and will involve you walking over the lawn in a straight line. Even with a machine, it is likely you will need to pass over some areas of the lawn more than once. This is similar to a lawnmower where you will sometimes need to do multiple passes over the grass to get it cut to the right level.

If you think your yard needs to be aerated further you should run the lawn aerator in the opposite path that you just walked. You do not need to remove or clean up the loose soil after aeration. Simply leave it and let it settle back into the soil.

If you have areas of the lawn that have gone patchy or even bald, reseeding the lawn after aeration is a perfect time. You should immediately seed your lawn after your aerate it and you should notice that the grass in these areas will grow greener and faster than it normally does! This is because your soil can now give your grass more access to fully utilize the water, air, and nutrients instead of being blocked and unable to reach the roots of the grass.


You will need to decide what type of aeration is right for your lawn and lifestyle as everyone’s lawn and lifestyle are different. What type of aerating device is right for you can depend on how much labor and time you would like to spend aerating your lawn and how much money you would like to spend on an aerating tool.

The size of your lawn will also be a huge factor in what type of aeration is practical. If you have a very large lawn, aeration by pitchfork is not practical at all and could take you more than a day to properly aerate it!

The time of year and weather conditions should also be taken into consideration. You wouldn’t want to aerate your lawn in a sub-optimal time of year and have your aeration process not so much benefit to your hard work outside!

If the weather is very hot outside you might aerate your lawn once and think, I’m never going to do that again! If you find aerating your lawn too labor-intensive you might also get discouraged from aerating the lawn again.

You should also decide and know if your lawn truly needs to be aerated or not. Chances are if you are reading about aeration there is a good chance your lawn is in desperate need of aeration! But if your grass is full, thick and green you can probably wait some time until you will need to aerate it.

Consistent mowing and watering of your lawn can be just as important as aerating and can make or break having your lawn look fresh, lush and green!

Additional Reading & References:

  • Proper Aeration of Turf Grass –
  • Improving Soil Conditions –
  • Check out why you should aerate your dry lawn here-
  • The Best Cordless Leaf Blower and String Trimmer Combo Kits –

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The Ultimate Guide to Lawn Aeration (2019)

When to carry out lawn Aeration

It is ideal to aerate the lawn at least once a year, you can do it nearly all year round except when very dry weather is expected or the ground is frozen, early in autumn, spring or late in summer are all good times.

The earth should not be waterlogged, ideally the turf would have had a good watering and be slightly soft but still firm, this especially applies if you are doing core aerating. Do not aerate during a drought as then the holes can crack open. If the ground is frosty wait until later in the morning when the frost has gone before you start aerating.

What to do before aerating

  1. Mow your lawn very short, ideally the day before and perform dethatching / scarification.
  2. Mow your lawn again and collect your grass clippings to ensure the surface is free of debris.
  3. If the ground is too hard you will need to water it for around an hour first.
  4. If you have pop-up sprinklers, use some kind of markers to identify where they are situated so that you do not damage the sprinkler heads.

Aeration using a garden fork or aerator fork

Dig the fork into the soil at least 10cm, now move the fork back and forth to create some nice large holes, really disturbing the soil beneath the lawn. Breaking up the soil thoroughly to remove the effects of compaction. Repeat the process in rows at 10 cm or less apart.

Aeration using a mechanical aerator

  • Watch out for obstructions like rocks, tree roots and old paths.
  • Occasionally look behind the machine to make sure it is not lifting the turf as you go along.
  • You should use the aerator in a couple of different directions
  • Be careful not to turn the machine with the aerator spikes in the soil otherwise it will rip up the surface of the lawn.

After Aerating

  1. Leave the cores on the grass.
  • To keep the need for aeration to a minimum in the future, add plenty of worms to the lawn.
  • Allow the lawn to dry out and don’t water again until the earth is dusty and you can leave footprints on it, only when you are able to see your footprints left on your lawn should you then water deeply. You want the roots to search for the water underground.
  • When it is time to water you can fertilise and over-seed with new grass seed.
  • Then fertilize with a slow release organic fertiliser at least twice a year.

A common mistake is to cut your lawn too short, mow regularly at a higher mowing height. Your lawn should now be in amazing shape!

If you are starting a brand new lawn or garden bed then follow our guide on how to improve your soil quality

Do you aerate your lawn? I recently started looking into ways of making my lawn more lush and healthy and what I learned is that aerating your lawn if really good for it. Aeration helps to create openings in the turf and soil that allows water and air to penetrate the roots of your grass and makes them healthier. This in turn, turns your lawn into a lush, beautiful green blanket that would rival any golf course. So, when I found out how good aeration is for my lawn, I started looking into aerators.

Let me tell you, a lawn aerator is not cheap. Even the seemingly cheaper ones are pretty costly, so what did I do? I started looking for DIY lawn aerators. I found seven great DIY aerators that all work perfectly to make your lawn lush and beautiful. Whether you want something that is going to cover a lot of space at once or you just need something simple that will allow that air and water to get to the roots of your grass, there is a DIY lawn aerator that is perfect for your lawn. And if you haven’t yet, be sure that you get a look at these 12 near genius IKEA hacks for your lawn and garden.

Now, back to aerating those lawns. This is a really simple process and it can be so healthy for your lawn. And, when I say simple, I mean it. There are even a couple of DIY versions of lawn aerating shoes! You just slip them on your feet and walk around the yard to aerate it. How simple is that? If you really want a beautifully lush lawn this year, I highly recommend that you check out these DIY lawn aerators. And, be sure that you check out these 100 gardening hacks and pro tips that will definitely make you an expert.

Table of Contents

1. Repurposed Oil Drum Aerator

This DIY aerator is made from a five gallon oil drum and it’s pretty simple to put together. Once the spikes are in place, you add a handle and wheels and then just push the aerator through your yard to keep your soil and grass healthy. This one is so simple and can be really cheap if you have an old oil drum that you can use as the base.

Tutorial: gardeninginfozone

2. Cheap And Easy DIY Concrete Aerator

This DIY lawn aerator is very cheap and easy to make. The spikes are made from nails, which are perfect for creating the aeration that your lawn needs to make it grow lush and healthy. This one is also a push aerator so you add a handle and then just push it throughout your lawn to help it to grow. It will only take you a couple of hours to put together and begin using it. I really love creative DIY concrete projects!

3. Quick And Simple DIY Lawn Aerator Shoes

Why spend hours pushing a lawn aerator when you can simply walk around your lawn and get the same result? These DIY lawn aerator shoes are honestly the easiest things you will ever see. You just need a couple of pretty thick boards and some nails as well as something to secure your aerators to your shoes. You could do a few of these in different sizes and have the entire family walking through the yard to aerate it.

Tutorial: kristendukephotography

4. DIY Plexiglass Lawn Aerator Sandals

Here is another quick and easy take on lawn aerator shoes. These little sandals are made from plexiglass and they are super easy to put together. They work just like you would imagine…you strap them to your feet and then walk your way to a beautiful lawn. Make a few pairs and let your family or friends help you to make your lawn healthy and lush. These are also really cheap to DIY.

Tutorial: curbly

5. DIY Repurposed Rake Lawn Aerator

You don’t need any fancy equipment to aerate your lawn. You can make a simple DIY lawn aerator out of an old garden rake and a 2X4. I do love good 2X4 DIY projects and this one is fabulous. You just use the rake to steady your aerator and give yourself a brace for pushing it into the ground. This one honestly will only take you an hour or so to make and it is really easy to use, too. What a great way to make use of old gardening tools!

Tutorial: practicalgardening

6. Upcycled Five Gallon Plastic Bucket Lawn Aerator

This homemade lawn aerator is made from an empty five gallon bucket and it is really simple to put together. This is a great upcycling project for those empty buckets. You just need the bucket, a few nails and something to use as a handle – an old handle from a push lawn mower would be perfect. You just assemble and then push the aerator around your lawn to give it that great lush look.

Tutorial: instructables

7. Reclaimed Wood Lawn Aerator

You can make this simple DIY lawn aerator with strips of reclaimed wood. You just have to find a base – PVC pipe filled with sand or concrete works well – and then add your strips of wood. The wood houses the nails that you use to aerate the lawn. You can add a handle from an old lawn mower or something similar to make pushing it through the yard simple. This one only takes a couple of hours to make and it works like a charm.

How To: Aerate Your Lawn


It’s not easy maintaining a lush carpet of green grass. We only see the blades on the lawn surface, but the health of any planted grass depends on factors at play underground. During the growing seasons—spring and fall, generally—experts recommend aeration as a means of ensuring that air, moisture, and nutrients are able to reach the roots. There are two ways to tackle the job: The best technique largely depends on the size of your property, but both are discussed in detail below.

Photo: .com

Plug Aeration
For homeowners with a generously sized lawn, the most suitable method of aerating is by means of a low-tech mechanical tool known as a plug aerator. Buy or rent one at your local home center (note that some models may need to be rigged up to your riding mower). As you push the aerator along (or tug it behind your mower), the tool rotates hollow steel spikes into the soil. Those spikes, in turn, pull cylinders of dirt from the soil, leaving small holes in the ground through which air, moisture, and nutrients can travel to the grass roots. Rather than raking and removing the soil plugs that the aerator leaves in its wake, leave them where they lie; eventually, foot traffic and rain will return those cores to the soil bed.

Spike Aeration
Because it’s more labor intensive, spike aeration is suggested only for homeowners with lawns of modest size—say, a half acre or less. The tool used is nothing more sophisticated than a modified pitchfork. In fact, if you’d rather not buy or rent a spike aerator from your local home center, you can actually use a pitchfork if you happen to have one in your garden shed. There’s one main difference between a spike aerator and its mechanized cousin: The former has solid (not hollow) spikes, so it does not create the soil cores that distinguish the latter’s operation.

For best results with a spike aerator, take the time to prepare the lawn before getting down to business. That means raking and removing all the leaves and debris that might prove to be an impediment. Also, because dry earth is harder to grapple with than moist soil, you can make the going a little easier by watering the lawn beforehand. Make sure to give equal treatment to all sections of the grass. Choose a corner and start there. Go in a straight line across the grass, then turn and travel in the opposite direction, this time working to the side of your previous path. Continue back and forth in this manner until you have aerated the entire property.

Lawn aeration brings oxygen, water, and nutrients directly to grass roots, which helps make your lawn green and lush.

It’s a critical part of spring and fall lawn care and gives roots the vital boost they need.

Why Lawn Aeration Is Necessary

Lawn aeration pulls 2- to 8-inch soil “plugs” out of the ground, leaving holes that allow water, air, and nutrients to reach grass roots, and lets new seed germinate in a cool, moist environment. Hard clay soils need to be aerated more often than sandy soil. A soil test will tell you what type of soil you have.

John Dillon, who directs lawn care at New York City’s Central Park, says lawn aeration helps grass by:

  • Allowing oxygen to reach the root zone, which invigorates lawns
  • Relieving compaction by allowing established grass and seed to spread into plug holes
  • Controlling thatch buildup
  • Reducing water runoff

Tools to Aerate Lawns and How to Do It

How you aerate your lawn depends on whether you want to do it manually or with power tools.

You can aerate by hand with an aerator tool ($20), which looks like a pitchfork with two hollow tines. Step on the tool’s bridge and drive the hollow tines into the earth. It’s slow-going, but good for spot aerating small patches of lawn.

Or you can aerate by foot with shoe attachments that have tines on the bottom. The downside of those is that the holes often aren’t large or deep enough if the lawn really is impacted.

You also can buy an aeration attachment ($60) for your garden tiller, but the tool slices the lawn and doesn’t actually remove plugs.

Most lawn aeration is done with a self-propelled machine known as a core aerator. About the size of a large lawn mower, a core aerator has hollow tines or spoons that rotate on a drum, removing soil plugs as you guide it from behind. This tool is available at most garden or rental centers for $15 to $25 per hour. Plan two to four hours to aerate an average quarter-acre suburban lot.

When to Aerate Your Lawn

Lawn aeration should happen after the first frost has killed weeds, but before the ground has become too hard. It’s a good idea to spread grass seed after you aerate, so make sure you’re still able to water your lawn for two weeks after you aerate, which will help the seed to germinate.

Adria Bordas, a Fairfax County Virginia extension agent, says lawns with a lot of foot traffic should be aerated twice a year — March through April, and mid-August through October.

Related: Lawn Maintenance Tips from the Smithsonian’s Top Gardener

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How To Aerate Soil

Over time, especially in areas of heavy foot traffic, the soil beneath turf can become compacted. Handyman Magazine

Compacted soil reduces the movement of water, air and nutrients to the grass roots, leading to tired-looking turf and worn or dead patches.

The simple way to solve compaction is aeration. Once you have aerated your lawn, you may also want to evenly rake in coarse washed river sand bor fine top-dressing mix.

This fills the voids created by the aeration and ensures a longer-lasting effect. In small grassed areas, a garden fork and a bag of top-dressing mix or sand is all you need.

For a large lawn, hire a spiked lawn aerator. Simply fill it with water and push or drag it around the lawn.

If you plan to regularly aerate your lawn, you could think about investing in a purpose-designed aerating tool.

It’s also worth considering the reasons for compaction.

If it’s heavy use and wear-and-tear, then you may need to repeat this aeration process every spring.

But the problem may be your soil.

Clay soils are more prone to compaction and as the wear continues, the compaction worsens.

Gypsum is a naturally derived product that works to break up clay, so add some when you aerate the affected area.

An easy-to-apply hose-on product like Eco-flo Gypsum is fortified with seaweed for enhanced results.

It assists with breaking up clay as well as stimulating vital biological activity in the soil.

Advertisement 1 of 3 Step 1. Make holes Handyman Magazine

Make aeration holes in the lawn by using your foot to push a garden fork into the soil to 50mm deep every 100mm, rocking it back and forth slightly.

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