When I was a kid I always dreamt of one day owning the perfect lawn.
Something that looked like a soccer pitch, golf green, or the center court at Wimbledon.
But it’s not an easy task – and having a lawn of this caliber takes a lot of work, patience, time, and dedication.
Even once you’ve learned how to level your yard, or managed to remove all the weeds in your lawn, and/or you’ve given it a great trim with the right lawnmower, there’s still plenty to be done before you can make your neighbors as green as you want your grass to be.
And one of the most important things you need to do – is to let it breathe.
But how often should you aerate your lawn? What tools do you need? What exactly is aeration, and how do you do it?
Read on to discover the who, what, why, where, and when of aerating your lawn, and take your garden game to the next level.
- How Frequently Should You Aerate Your Lawn? The Short Answer.
- What is Lawn Aeration?
- Spike Versus Core Aeration
- The Pros and Cons of Lawn Aeration
- How to Aerate Your Lawn
- Just How Often Should You Aerate Your Lawn?
- When to Aerate Your Lawn
- Tips and Tricks
- Do I really need to aerate my lawn?
- Do you need to aerate your lawn every year?
- Does aerating a lawn make a difference?
- Can you over aerate your lawn?
- How do you know if your lawn needs aeration?
- Should I aerate or dethatch first?
- What do you do after you aerate your lawn?
- Should I cut my grass before I aerate?
- Can you aerate your lawn after it rains?
How Frequently Should You Aerate Your Lawn? The Short Answer.
Answer – once every one to three years.
You might find that sports turf such as soccer fields and golf courses will do it more than once a year and that it often depends on the type of grass, the soil, and climate.
But for most residential gardens and green space – at least once every three years – before times of growth – is a good rule of thumb.
More – if you think it needs it.
There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
But if you’d like to learn some more tips and tricks for lawn aerating – don’t click away just yet and stay with us.
What is Lawn Aeration?
Simply put, lawn aeration is a technique whereby small holes or perforations are created all across the lawn so air, water, nutrients, and fertilizers can easily penetrate to the roots of the grass.
It can be done as easily as walking across the turf with a garden fork and sticking your lawn with holes – similar to poking a potato before you bake it. This is certainly the most cost-effective way to get the job done.
You can even purchase special shoes you can wear that will aerate your lawn as you walk across it – but I think they seem to be more of a gimmick than anything else.
These are both examples of spiked aeration.
However, if you’re serious about lawn aeration and you want to see the best results, then purchasing or hiring a lawn aerator is definitely the way forward.
This is a dedicated machine for perforating the lawn that uses a motorized wheel of pegs or “tines” to poke holes as you move across the surface – as if you’re cutting your grass with a lawnmower.
It will remove plugs of soil that you should leave to breakdown over the lawn.
This is called core aeration.
Manual tools that achieve the same result are also available – and while they’re much cheaper, they’re also less effective and more of physical effort to use.
Spike Versus Core Aeration
You can get manual or motorized tools and machines that will do each type of aeration – but which is the best?
Generally speaking, you’ll achieve the best results with core aeration, but that’s not to say that spiking your lawn doesn’t have its place.
It’s best to use a spike aerator when the soil isn’t particularly hard or compact, as this will do more harm than good.
It can be a useful technique for preparing the surface for further seeding, for a more temporary “fix,” or just for general maintenance – especially if you’re working on a budget.
Core aerators are much more effective for breaking up hard, compact earth as they’re actually lifting the soil out rather than pushing it down.
One disadvantage of a core aerator is that it will leave behind unsightly plugs of soil across the surface of your lawn that will look very similar to animal poop.
Experts advise you leave this in place to assist fertilization – but you can remove it if you want – it’s just more work for you.
The Pros and Cons of Lawn Aeration
What are the actual benefits of aerating a lawn? Why should you aerate your lawn in the first place? There are several important reasons.
First, it helps to ensure your lawn is more beautiful and much healthier than it otherwise might be.
The roots will grow deeper and gain strength, the soil becomes less compact, the grass will be thicker, and you’ll have a vibrantly green lawn as a result.
You’ll also improve irrigation and have better absorption for water and fertilizers, and pesticide run-off will be limited.
Finally, thatch and debris are less likely to accumulate on a well-aerated lawn.
And that’s reason enough for why should you aerate your lawn – but are there any downsides?
Well, providing you’re doing it correctly and in the right conditions (more on that in a moment), for the lawn itself – the answer is no.
The same can’t be said for you, however. Aerating a lawn can be tough, backbreaking work – even if you’re using a machine. Due to the nature of how they operate, they’re extremely heavy with added weights, and they can be a real challenge to maneuver and transport.
Aside from that, they’re not cheap – so hiring one is often a sensible way to go – considering how infrequently you’ll actually be using it.
Yes, the benefits of aerating your lawn are significant, but it’s going to take a fair bit of effort on your part to get the job done.
But there’s no reward without the work.
How to Aerate Your Lawn
There are many ways you can aerate your lawn and a variety of different tools you can use to assist you.
Before you get started, you should consider a number of factors:
- The size of the lawn.
- Soil/grass type and condition.
How you aerate your lawn and the tools you use to do it will generally depend on your answers to those questions.
However, using a motorized core aerator is regarded as the most effective way – so check out the simple-to-follow video below for how to do just that.
Just How Often Should You Aerate Your Lawn?
Experts recommend that you aerate your lawn at least once every three years. You don’t need to do it every year.
However, you should keep an eye on it and aerate when you think it requires it. This will depend on the type of soil your yard has.
If it’s loose, then you shouldn’t need to aerate that much at all. But firm, compact soil will need to be aerated regularly – so if your yard is experiencing more traffic, bear this in mind.
Still, whatever your soil type, you shouldn’t need to do it more than once a year – otherwise you risk damaging your lawn.
When to Aerate Your Lawn
Knowing when is the best time to aerate your lawn is vital to its success, as you’re effectively going to be introducing stress into your soil and grass and it should be allowed to recover.
Are you working with a cool season or warm season grass?
Cool season grasses include Kentucky bluegrass, tall and fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass.
For those grasses, the best times to aerate your lawn are in the spring and the fall – when temperatures and not as extreme as summer and winter, and you’re unlikely to experience any drought or heat damage.
Between March and April your garden will be thriving with new growth, and this is an ideal time to aerate your lawn.
For warm season grasses, such as Bermuda grass, buffalo grass, centipede grass, St. Augustine and zoysiagrass, feel free to aerate anytime between late spring and early fall.
Tips and Tricks
Water your lawn a day before you plan to aerate. If you’ve had rainfall, wait until it’s drained and the ground is damp but not soaked.
Be sure to mark out any obstacles or hazards in, on, or around your lawn – so you don’t damage them when you’re making each pass. This is especially important if you’re using a machine aerator as the weight of it alone will wreck anything it passes over.
With that in mind – keep pets and little ones indoors.
While it’s not necessary to cover the lawn as you would when you’re mowing – it’s still a good idea to have a system in place so you know where you’ve made a pass. Figure out your route and stick to it so you know that you’ve covered all the ground.
If you’re using a motorized core aerator, it will likely come with extra weights built into the machine. These can be removed – and it’s a very good idea to do so, thus making transportation much easier.
Do I really need to aerate my lawn?
No – it’s not essential. However, if you really want the best surface it’s highly advised.
If your lawn experiences heavy use (kids, pets, lawn games, back yard festivals, etc), then it’s a very good idea to help alleviate the resulting compactness from time to time.
Also, if you have poor irrigation or a lot of thatch – you need to get to work.
Do you need to aerate your lawn every year?
It depends on the quality of your lawn. Professionals advise that you don’t HAVE to do it every year, but it certainly doesn’t hurt – especially if it needs it.
You should be able to tell just by taking a look at your lawn if it needs any work done. Healthy, rich green grass shouldn’t need aerating.
But you might need to treat yourself to one of these amazing zero turn mowers if you’ve got a large plot of land to cover when your lawn inevitably needs a quality haircut.
Does aerating a lawn make a difference?
Yes. If you’re struggling to achieve a really thick, healthy, and thriving lawn – it just might be because it’s not getting enough air, water, and nutrients into the soil.
Aerating your lawn will make a world of difference – if you do it right and in the proper conditions – and follow it up with the correct procedure (more on that below).
Can you over aerate your lawn?
Yes, it’s possible that you do the practice too much and damage your lawn and the soil – you can have too much of a good thing.
If you’re over-using a spiked aerator, it’s possible you will compact the soil down tightly and totally defeat the purpose.
For over-using a core aerator, you could really tear up your lawn and actually have no top-soil left.
Just covering the ground once is enough – otherwise, you risk digging it all up and just having a total mess of turf in your back yard.
How do you know if your lawn needs aeration?
There are a couple of tried and tested methods you can use for understanding when you need to aerate your lawn.
First, check your lawn after any rainfall. Does the water drain away easily or are you left with any puddles? If you have any particularly damp or flooded areas – it’s time for aeration.
Try the “screwdriver test.” Stick a screwdriver or pencil randomly into your lawn. If it enters the soil with ease – you’re good to go. If you meet with any resistance – it’s time for aeration.
Check to see if you have any thatch on your lawn surface. As well as being unsightly, thatch build-up is a potential hive for weeds and unwanted garden visitors that could destroy your lawn grass.
If you have a lot of such debris on your lawn – you’ve guessed it – it’s time for aeration.
Which leads me nicely onto the next question.
Should I aerate or dethatch first?
Thatch is debris of dead and living matter that can congregate on your lawn preventing the grass from thriving.
Dethatching and aerating your lawn are important steps to take to ensure this doesn’t happen – the two go hand in hand.
Always dethatch first, as otherwise, you will run the risk of embedding this debris further into your lawn and making it much harder to remove.
What do you do after you aerate your lawn?
It’s important you capitalize on the conditions immediately after you have aerated your lawn – this is the moment seeding and fertilizing is key.
First, you’ll want to leave the clods of soil on the surface. You might be tempted to remove them, but you’ll only be removing good soil. Let them disintegrate and work their way back into the surface.
Add nutrients to your lawn by using a good fertilizer immediately after aeration. A good weed killer also is recommended if you don’t intend to practise overseeding.
However, now is a good time to do just that – as the soil will be more exposed and you have an excellent chance of quality germination. Remember that overseeding is best done in late September.
Finally, give your lawn a good amount of water after aeration – unless you have the weather to do it for you.
Should I cut my grass before I aerate?
Yes. It’s a very good idea to mow your lawn before you aerate as it will allow the aerator to get as close as possible to the lawn for the best results.
Try using one of these awesome budget lawnmowers if you don’t have a good one already.
You don’t have to take it down too low if you don’t want to – so scalping it isn’t necessary – but just make sure it’s a nice, close trim so the aerator can get to work.
At the same time, you might want to take a good commercial weed eater around any difficult to reach areas, just to finish off the trimming job and give your lawn the treatment it deserves.
Can you aerate your lawn after it rains?
You should be aerating your lawn when the soil is moist – and not when it’s wet. Aeration shouldn’t create mud.
This is very important, as if the soil is soaking then you’re going to have all kinds of problems with it clogging up the tines of the aerator.
Your soil plugs are going to be a muddy mess and it will potentially look like a quagmire.
So, after heavy rainfall, you should wait a day or two for it to dry out a little before getting to work.
And if your soil is bone dry, make sure you water it to the equivalent of around one to two centimeters of rainfall for prime aerating conditions.
I hope this article has taught you how often you should aerate your lawn, as well as plenty more tips, tricks, and advice for achieving the best results with this process.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything out – or if you have your own pearls of wisdom for turning an ordinary lawn into a luscious green carpet.
Best of luck, and happy aerating!