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Why and How You Need to Aerate Your Lawn

person manually aerating their lawn

Growing a healthy green lawn takes some work. Even with healthy soil and a good crop of grass, it takes effort to maintain the right balance of nutrients and keep the weeds away. Along with regularly watering, mowing and fertilizing their lawn, many people find that aerating their lawn is a crucial part of achieving an immaculate sea of green outside their window.

Many people have heard of aeration, but may not fully know what’s involved in the process, or how exactly it can benefit their lawn. After reading this blog you’ll know why aeration is important and how it can help your lawn look its best.

What is aeration and how does it benefit your lawn?

Remember, your lawn is more than just a decorative backdrop; it’s a living organism. Just like the trees surrounding your house, your family and yourself, your lawn needs to breathe. In order to absorb nutrients and water, your lawn needs a way to efficiently take in oxygen.

Of course, your lawn naturally “breathes,” but it can have a hard time doing this if it becomes compacted. This happens when there are too many solid particles such as dirt or other organic debris compacted under the grass. This prevents water, air, fertilizer and more from being able to be fully absorbed into the soil. Essentially, this starves the roots of the grass from the elements they need to grow and thrive.

Aeration is a way to loosen up the soil and mitigate soil compaction, allowing your soil to absorb the nutrients it needs. Aeration gives your lawn’s root system greater access to air, water and fertilizer. As the roots grow healthier, they grow deeper and more extensive.

When to aerate your lawn

What are the signs that you need to aerate your lawn? For starters, if you’ve never aerated your lawn in the past, chances are you have a few dead spots and it's high time for you to aerate. But more specifically, here are some signs to look for:

  • You have a thatch layer. Your lawn is in a continual cycle of death, decay and growth. Grass clippings, leaves or other organic matter decomposes and infuses the lawn with nutrients, which in turn brings on new life. A compacted lawn that prevents water and air from infiltrating the soil cannot sustain a healthy population of microbes that normally break down the organic matter. This cuts off a major source of nutrients and prevents organic material from decomposing. Over time, this organic matter can build up into what is called a thatched layer. This spongy layer of dead debris acts as a barrier and exacerbates problems associated with compaction.
  • Water runoff. If it seems like water is pooling in spots of your lawn where it didn’t before, or you have streams running into your sidewalk, it might be a sign that you have compacted soil that cannot quickly absorb water. This means your lawn is a prime candidate to be aerated.
  • Your lawn dries quickly. Does it seem like your lawn is drying faster than normal? This could mean that your lawn isn’t absorbing water like it should, and needs some aeration.
  • Dead spots. If your lawn has a lot of spots that look dried out and tired, it could be a symptom of a compacted area.
  • After seeding. You don’t always need to aerate to fix a problem in a lawn. It’s often helpful to aerate before and after adding seed to your lawn. This improves the seed-to-soil contact that is optimal for seed germination and growth.

Tools to aerate your lawn

The two tools that are most often used to aerate a lawn are a spike aerator and a plug aerator.

A spike aerator is the most basic tool. It works by simply poking holes into your lawn using a fork, or any tool with a spiked end like the Garden Weasel Garden Claw. Spike aerating is better than doing nothing, but it is not as effective as using a plug aerator.

A plug aerator goes a lot further. It removes a core — or a plug — of earth. For best results, these plugs should be about two to three inches deep, .5 to .75 inches in diameter, and spaced approximately two to three inches apart. Plug aeration tools like the Agri-Fab 48 Inch Plug Aerator can be hitched to a riding lawn mower and pulled across your lawn for fast, effective aeration.

For smaller areas, the Garden Weasel Core Aerator is a simple, inexpensive way to quickly core aerate.


If you think your lawn needs to be aerated, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t aerate a lawn that is bone dry. Wait a day after it rains or after you water it. This should make for the ideal conditions.
  • Once the soil plugs have been excavated and are sitting on your lawn like shriveled worms, let them dry up, then run over them with a lawn mower. This will break them apart so they fade back into the lawn.
  • Save yourself time and energy by only aerating the compacted parts of your lawn.

If your lawn has an old, tired look, if it feels oddly spongy, and if fertilizer and water just don’t seem to have any effect, it may be a candidate for aeration. By making lawn aeration a part of your lawn care regime, your grass can start to breathe again and show off that beautiful green coat you’ve been working so hard to achieve.

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