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In the same way you deep clean your house in the springtime, your lawn could use a little TLC after a long winter. One important method to spruce up your lawn is by aerating it.


What is lawn aeration?

Lawn aeration helps your lawn breathe by making small holes in the soil. This process allows air, water and nutrients to reach the roots of your grass more easily. This is important because grass needs all those things to stay healthy and grow. There are two main types of lawn aeration.


Spike aeration

This type of vigorous lawn aeration involves repeatedly piercing the soil with metal spikes; however, it can damage your grass roots if done too often.


Core aeration

Close up of a mechanical lawn aerator.

This type of aeration involves removing small plugs of soil from the lawn. It is more labour-intensive than spike aeration, but it’s less likely to damage your lawn.



Why do you need to aerate your lawn?


Aeration can alleviate soil compaction

Over time, compacted soil can form on your lawn. This makes it difficult for air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots of your grass. Aerating helps break up compacted soil so your grass can breathe and thrive.


Aeration can reduce thatch buildup

aeration of lawn to prevent thatch build up

Thatch is a layer of dead grass, clippings, and other organic matter that can form on top of your lawn. While a small amount of thatch is normal, too much can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the roots of your grass.


Aeration can improve drainage

If water cannot drain properly from your lawn, it can lead to a host of problems like mould, mildew, and even turf diseases. Aerating improves drainage by creating holes in the ground that allow water to seep down to the roots of your grass. This helps ensure that your lawn stays healthy and free from disease.


Aeration can encourage turf growth

Aeration encourages healthy growth by increasing the amount of oxygen that reaches the roots of your grass. This means thicker, lusher grass that will be the envy of all your neighbours.



When to aerate your lawn

The frequency with which you should aerate your lawn depends on a few factors, such as the type of grass, soil type, and the amount of traffic on your lawn. The answer also depends on your climate, but most lawn care experts recommend aerating in early spring or late autumn.

Aerating your lawn in autumn will help to improve drainage, increase oxygen levels in the soil, and reduce compaction. As a result, your lawn will be healthier and better able to withstand the stresses of winter.



How often should you aerate your lawn?

lawn aeration

As a general rule of thumb, most types of grass need to be aerated once per year. For example, the best time to aerate warm-season grasses like bermuda grass is during the spring and autumn. In contrast, cool-season grasses like fescue should be aerated in the late summer or early autumn.



Do you need to aerate your entire lawn?

Although it may seem counterintuitive, certain parts of your lawn shouldn’t be aerated. Aeration is an important part of lawn care, but if you do it too often or in the wrong places, you could do more harm than good.

You should avoid aerating any area that is wet or saturated with water. When the ground is too wet, the holes made by the aerator will collapse as soon as they’re made. This can compact the soil and make it difficult for air and water to penetrate the roots. It’s best to wait until the ground is dry before aerating.

You should also avoid aerating slopes or hillsides. When you aerate on a slope, the holes made by the machine can cause erosion. If the soil is loose enough, it can wash away with each rainstorm or irrigation cycle. If you have a slope in your yard, it’s best to either hand-aerate with a garden fork or wait until the ground is dry enough to use a power aerator.



Signs your lawn needs to be aerated


Thatch layer

A layer of thatch is a clear sign that your lawn isn’t getting the nutrients it needs because of poor air circulation and soil compaction.


Unusual grass colour

lawn with thinning and different colour of grass

If your grass is thinning out, has patches of brown or yellow, or seems excessively compacted, your lawn may need to be aerated.


Leftover rain puddles

If puddles form on your lawn after a rainstorm, that is a clear sign of poor drainage in your soil. This can lead to drowning grass roots and pooling water that attracts pests.



How to aerate the lawn like a pro

What you’ll need:



1. Choose the right tool 

There are two main types of aerators:


Spike Aerator

This is great for small patches of lawn, and it’s easy to use. However, they can damage delicate turf, so the spike aerator is not ideal for large lawns.


Plug Aerator

This is more versatile and perfect for larger lawns. Plug aerators work by removing small soil plugs, which help to improve drainage and fix soil compaction.



2. Prepare your lawn 

cleaning lawn of debris

Remove any debris from your yard, such as sticks, stones, or leaves. You’ll also want to mark any sprinkler heads or other underground tubing so that you don’t damage them while aerating.



3. Mow your lawn 

You’ll want to mow your lawn short before you aerate your lawn. This will help the aerator do its job better and make it easier for you to see where you’ve already aerated. Be sure to set the lawn mower blade on high, so you don’t scalp your grass.



4. Water your lawn 

watering the lawn with a sprinkler

Giving your lawn a good soaking before you start aerating will make the process easier and help the new holes made by the aerator heal quickly. Watering will also make it easier for seed and lawn food to reach the grass roots once you’ve added it.



5. Aerate your lawn

Use your aerating tool to punch holes in the ground at evenly spaced intervals. For best results, aerate both the front and back of your lawn multiple times to break compacted soils. Keep in mind that not all parts of your lawn need to be aerated – don’t aerate wet areas, slopes, or hillsides.



6. Check the pH level

Before you reseed, use a pH testing kit to see whether your soil is in the ideal pH range. Soil pH affects the availability of nutrients for plants, and most plants prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Besides affecting plant growth, soil pH also plays a role in aeration. Soil that is too acidic or too alkaline can cause compaction.



7. Reseed and water your lawn

Reseeding lawns using seeds

After aerating the lawn, apply soil additives to revitalise your lawn’s appearance. Either fertilise your lawn with an all-purpose fertiliser or reseed it with grass seed. It’s also important to top dress your lawn at this point so that it will have the nutrients needed to thrive.



Your lawn needs air, water and nutrients – just like you!

A healthy lawn needs just as much spring cleaning as the inside of your home after winter. It’s tempting to grab a sturdy garden fork and stab away at your lawn, but that requires proper technique and is time-consuming. 

Ultimately, we recommend using a machine because this is a major lawn care operation. You can rent an aerator from most home improvement stores, or you can hire a professional lawn care company to do it for you.

Either way, make sure to aerate your lawn at least once a year to keep it looking its best.


About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.


About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.