Aerating vs. Dethaching – Which is Better for Your Lawn?

Do you want your lawn to look flawless, but the grass isn’t green enough? There are a couple of excellent maintenance tricks that will improve the health of your yard.

If you have heard about aerating and dethatching, but not sure which one to try, keep reading. We will compare aerating vs. dethatching in detail so you could make the best decision for your lawn.


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Garden Fork in Grass

What is Aerating?

If you are invested in improving your lawn, aerating should be a part of your routine. It is the process of removing small parts of the soil by making holes in the ground.

Your lawn will get more air, water, and nutrients. The grass will be greener as a result of this.

Aerating is also recommended to heavily trafficked yards as the ground gets too compacted. When you aerate the lawn, the roots will have more space, and the grass will start thriving in no time.

Aerating could look similar to tilling, but it is not. Tilling loosens up the dirt, making it ready for seeding. Read our separate article on tillers vs aerators for a more detailed answer on the differences.

You might be wondering about how often you should aerate your lawn. The general rule is to do it once a year. However, you can aerate every two years if the grass is green, and you haven’t noticed any brown spots in your yard.

Aerators are not too bulky or complicated to use, and you could easily have one of the best lawn aerators in your tool collection because they don’t take up too much space. However, you have to be smart about making the right choice for your needs as there are different lawn aerators to choose from.

What is Dethatching?

You have probably noticed a layer of leaves, dead grass, fruits, and weeds on your lawn. The covering is fully organic and forms close to the ground, near the base of the plants. This layer is called thatch, and it could have an impact on your lawn.

Thatch could prevent the grass from absorbing the nutrients, water, and air. Dethatching removes that layer from the yard, helping the grass and other plants to thrive.

This process is done with a dethatcher, a machine that has metal blades. The blades pick up the thatch and sweep over the upper layer of the soil.

Dethatching could do wonders for your lawn, especially if you have been struggling to have a gorgeous yard. It is usually done in spring or fall. The process itself will introduce more nutrients to your lawn, helping it repair itself naturally.

While you could hire a professional to dethatch your lawn, there are smaller machines that can fit right into your garden shed. You could have your dethatcher if you want to do the job yourself.

Aerating vs. Dethatching: How to Choose

The first thing you need to do is determine will your lawn benefit more from dethatching or aerating.

If the ground is too compact, dethatching won’t help a lot. The compressed soil needs aerating.

Dethatching is necessary if your lawn has a thick layer of organic matter just beneath the grass. The easiest way to test this is to touch the ground and see if it is soft, as well as bouncy.

You could also measure the thatch by putting a ruler in it. The thatch should be removed if it is more than half an inch thick.

Secondly, remember you have to aerate the lawn regularly, while dethatching needs to be performed when the organic layer becomes a barrier that blocks the nutrients from getting into the soil.

If you are wondering about dethatching vs. aerating for overseeding, the former is more suitable if the thatch is thicker than half an inch. While both of these processes are recommended, dethatching exposes the soil, making more room for new roots. The blades of a dethatcher will act as a cultivator, helping seeds to get into the ground.

When it comes to dethatching vs. aerating before seeding, aerating is the way to go if the organic buildup is smaller than half an inch. You will not be risking any damage to your lawn, and the new seeds will thrive.


Frequently asked questions

Is dethatching better than aerating?

Both dethatching and aerating have the same goal –  to deliver more oxygen, water, and nutrients to the soil. However, you have to get different equipment for each of these processes.

When we compare dethatching vs. aerating, it is quite hard to decide which is better. Aerating includes making holes in the ground and is favored by the gardening enthusiasts.

Dethatching is undoubtedly riskier as it involves removing a layer of the soil. You could also unintentionally damage your lawn. So if you want to improve the health of your yard, these processes will deliver the results.

Can you dethatch after aerating?

It is better to dethatch your lawn before you aerate it.

Dethatching will clean up the surface of the yard, remove the organic buildup, and prepare the ground for aerating. Not to forget that the process of aeration will be easy without thatch in the way.

It could help you get a healthy and lush lawn, so make sure you first dethatch and then aerate and not the other way around.

When to dethatch your lawn?

The timing depends on the type of grass you have in your yard.

To put it as straight forward as possible, you should dethatch your lawn when the grass is growing, so it could benefit from the extra nutrients.

The grass needs to have enough time to repair itself. If you have cool-season grass, try dethatching in fall. Warm-season grass should be dethatched in late spring.

Remember that the soil shouldn’t be too dry or too wet when you dethatch.

When to aerate your lawn?

The perfect time to aerate your lawn is either in spring, early summer, or fall. The timing is almost the same as with dethatching. After all, the grass needs to take in the air, water, and the nutrients, as well as repair itself.

Cool-season grass will benefit from aerating in early spring and fall. The perfect time to aerate warm-season grass is in early summer.


Both aerating and dethatching are rewarding to your lawn, but these processes solve slightly different issues.

Aerating is great for compact ground and doesn’t expose too much soil. On the other hand, dethatching will remove an upper layer of the soil. Aerating and dethatching have a lot of things in common, such as getting more water and air to the root system.

Keep in mind that dethatching is more suitable for overseeding because the seeds get embedded in the ground easily. Aerating should be on your calendar every year if you want to keep your grass healthy, while dethatching may be performed when necessary.

Combine them with some good lawn mowing tips, and aerating and dethatching will help you have the most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood.

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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