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How and When Should I Aerate My Lawn?

How and When Should I Aerate My Lawn?

If you’re a new home owner or a property manager that’s dealing with unhealthy grass, you may have heard someone suggest aeration. Aeration is a low-cost, completely natural way of reviving your grass roots for a healthy green lawn. 

So what does aerating your lawn do? How often should a lawn be aerated and when is the best time to aerate your lawn? Most importantly, what is aeration, and how should you do it?

We’ll explain the ins and outs of how to aerate your lawn, when to aerate your lawn, and why you should do it at all. For quick answers to all of your aeration questions and step-by-step directions for DIY lawn aeration, read on.

For help with other questions, check out our other articles and resources, or contact your local lawn care professionals today. 

Should I aerate my lawn?

The short answer is yes, you should almost certainly be aerating your lawn. Aeration is a natural way to combat compacted soil that can make it difficult for healthy grasses to establish resilient roots. It doesn’t matter what products or fertilizers you’re using if soil compaction stops them from reaching your grassroots. 

Aeration is the process of perforating the surface of your soil in order to break up heavily compacted dirt. Aeration holes stir up the nutrients in the soil and better exposes the grass roots to nutrients from both air and soil. You can aerate the soil with powered aerators for lawns, roll-behind aerator attachments from your lawn mower, and other aeration machines. 

If your lawn is dry, brown, brittle, or has discolored patches, aeration should be your first tactic to nurture it. If your lawn is lush, thick, and green this year, aeration can help it continue growing that way. In short, aeration benefits almost all lawns. If you already have aeration tools, it’s also free to do on your own. 

When is the best time to aerate your lawn?

Okay, we’ve established the benefits of aeration for almost every type of lawn. Next you’re probably wondering, “when should I aerate my lawn?”

The best time to aerate your lawn is before you plant grass seed, or after a season of heavily compacting traffic on your lawn. We recommend seeding in the fall, then potentially again in the spring. Fall is the best time to aerate but sometimes it can be required to do it in the Spring.  

Once or twice a year is often sufficient for reseeding and aerating. Your local lawn care company can handle that as part of your fall lawn care package, or you can purchase or rent aeration equipment to do it on your own. 

How do you aerate your lawn?

So now you know your lawn needs aeration, and Fall is an ideal time to do it. Your next question is probably, “how do I aerate my lawn?”

In terms of what you’ll need, you have options for your method of aeration. From powered aerators for lawns, to tow-behind aerator equipment, to aerating boots, there are plenty of options based on your needs. 

So which equipment is right for you? That depends mostly on the size of your lawn, but secondarily on the soil type and condition. For example, shoes to aerate lawns should only be used if you’re working within a small space that doesn’t allow the bulk of other equipment, or to break up a specific dense spot like heavy clay soil or the site of additional compaction in the lawn. Large lawns can do well with manual version aerator machines, and aeration machine rental is available at many home improvement and garden stores. The product descriptions on this page can also help you determine what type of aeration equipment is best for your lawn. 

Once you’re ready to aerate, consider whether you need to reseed. To find out more about what type of grass seed we recommend, click to read our recent article, Which Grass Seed Is Right For My Lawn? The grass type you choose should mostly come down to the sun/shade balance and climate zone of your yard. 

Grass seed? Check. Equipment? Check. 

Here are the step-by-step instructions for DIY lawn aeration: 

1. Mow your lawn to an appropriate length and remove excessive thatch by thoroughly raking. When seeding it is ok to mow on the shorter side.  However, to find out how high you should be cutting your grass blades at other times during the season, click here. (Hint: you’re probably cutting too low.)

2. Optional: Dig into your lawn with a soil probe and check the grass roots length. If the roots are less than 2 inches deep, you need to aerate. (Remember, most lawns will benefit from aeration, so if you want to skip the probe , it’s probably safe to.)

3. Water your entire lawn as usual. If you’re not sure you’re watering enough/properly, check out our guide here.

4. Mark off any hazards in the lawn, like sprinkler heads and other obstacles on the soil surface you might not see as you approach them.

5. Aerate the lawn and leave the plugs of soil to deteriorate on the grass surface. Soil plugs break down and provide nutrients for your grass. 

6. Fertilize and reseed. 

If you’re not sure whether your lawn needs fertilizer, you can have your soil health checked by your local lawn care professionals. Or, you can safely assume that your lawn would benefit from a fertilizer application once or twice per year. After reseeding, water your lawn as usual. See the link in step 3 to read more about that if you think you could benefit from expert guidance on watering. 

To learn more about aeration for a healthier lawn, call us.

Green Roots Organic is passionate about responsible lawn care, and we’re happy to answer your lawn care questions. For more about what a complete fall lawn care service would look like, or to find pricing for those services, take a look at our Fall Lawn Care Packages. Aeration and reseeding are included in even our most basic lawn care packages.