A Simple Guide to Aerating Your Lawn

·3 min read

When it comes to maintaining a thick and healthy lawn, a little aeration can go a long way. "Over time, compacted lawn soils and thatch layers can limit grass root growth and prevent air, water, and nutrients from getting to the roots," says Sadie Oldham of Instead, the Drew Barrymore-backed seasonal lawn care program that delivers natural fertilizer and grass seed straight to your front door. "Aeration creates small holes in your soil that allow water, air, and nutrients to make their way in and help the roots grow deeper and stronger."

While most lawn care experts recommend aerating your lawn at least once a year, Brent Gentling of Bring Your Own Tools says there is one simple way to determine whether it's necessary or not. "Take a screwdriver and penetrate the soil, and if it goes in smoothly with a small amount of resistance, then your lawn most likely does not need to be aerated," he explains. "However, if you try to penetrate the soil and it's extremely difficult with significant pressure then that means the soil is most likely very compacted and aeration is needed." Interested in learning more about how to aerate your lawn and why doing so might be important? From the most popular aeration methods to maintenance tips and more, Oldham and Gentling share their advice ahead.

manicured front lawn grass
manicured front lawn grass

Elijah-Lovkoff / Getty images

Related: The Natural Way to Keep Weeds Out of Your Lawn

Determine the proper time for aeration.

The best time to aerate your lawn is when your grass is in its optimum growing cycle, so it can refill any holes with fresh plant growth. "For northern lawns, this would be in the early spring and the fall," Oldham explains. "For southern lawns, this would be spring and early summer."

Consider spike aerators to penetrate your lawn.

Often designed as a rolling device that you can pull and roll around your lawn, spike aerators can poke holes into your grass without removing any soil, Oldham says. "Certain tools may have spike attachments that you can roll over the yard or repeatedly push around the yard," she explains. "There are even shoe attachments that have long spikes so you can spike while walking around the yard!"

Cut through a compacted lawn with a slice aerator.

Instead of poking spikes into your lawn, Gentling says you can use a slicing aerator to cut through the compacted soil and thatch. "My favorite version of a slicing aerator is actually a slicing seeder, which is a walk-behind system that cuts into the soil and pushes seeds into the slices," he explains. "You can add many different types of seed into the machine and you basically take care of seeding and aerating all at the same time."

When in doubt, try a core aerator.

Ask any lawn care expert and they will tell you the same: Core (or plug) aerators are the most effective method for aerating your lawn DIY-style. "Instead of pushing soil and thatch outward, it creates holes by removing cores of soil, and thatch to greatly reduce compaction issues," Oldham explains. "Core aeration can be done by hand or by using powered machines."

Add fertilizer (and seeds) to maximum your results.

Gentling says there's no better time to fertilize—and seed a patchy area of your lawn—than right after you've aerated it. "This can truly rejuvenate your lawn back to its original beauty," he explains. "Do yourself, your neighbors, and your lawn a favor and aerate."

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