Complete Lawn Aeration Guide: When, How, & Best Time to Aerate

By TruGreen April 17, 2019
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Complete Lawn Aeration Guide: When, How, & Best Time to Aerate

After a long winter of dormancy, your lawn is probably not looking as lush and green as you would like it, too. Even after you rake the thatch and new growth appears, it’s possible that your lawn could look brown, patchy, and just plain tired.

One method to help your grass grow more healthy and beautiful is aeration. Like any other plant, grass needs oxygen to grow. Over time, thanks to foot traffic, rain and snow, and natural settling, the soil around the roots of the grass can become compacted, limiting the amount of air reaching the roots and the ability for carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. The result? A less than healthy looking lawn.

I. What is Aeration?

Aeration is the process of removing small cores of soil from the lawn — essentially, poking holes in the dirt — to allow for better air flow around the roots of the plants. Lawn aeration also allows water and fertilizer to reach the roots of the grass more effectively, helping your lawn become stronger and healthier. Aeration is typically done using a core aerator, which pulls the cores from the soil as it goes. Depending on the size of your lawn, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours to completely aerate the area.

II. Why Aerate Your Lawn

Aeration is an important step to a healthy, green lawn. By removing some of the soil, you give the grass’ roots space to grow, creating stronger plants. It also helps remove thatch, which can prevent water and fertilizer from penetrating the soil and benefitting the plants. Not only will your grass be thicker and healthier, but you will use less water and reduce puddling on the lawn. Grass with healthy roots is also more tolerant to stress from heat and drought, meaning you’ll have to do less “repair” work on your lawn as the season progresses.

III. When to Aerate Your Lawn

Knowing when to aerate your lawn can make a difference in its effectiveness. The best time to aerate your lawn depends largely on the type of grass you have. If you have a cool weather variety of grass, such as Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, or perennial ryegrass, aeration can be done between March and May or in the fall. By waiting until the fall, you can add a late season fertilizer which will help your lawn green faster in the spring, and ensure stronger root growth.

For warmer season grasses, such as Bermuda grass, aeration is best done between April and July.  Don’t aerate these types of grasses while they are dormant, as weeds could take hold. You also shouldn’t aerate warmer season grasses until after the grass has turned green in the spring, and you have mowed the lawn at least once.

In most cases, you only need to aerate once per year. However, if you have heavy, clay-based soil, or a lot of traffic on your lawn, you may need to aerate in the spring and the fall to keep your lawn healthy. Also, if you have seeded or sodded your lawn within the last year, do not aerate; wait at least two years to ensure the roots have taken hold.

IV. How to Aerate Your Lawn

To determine whether your lawn needs to be aerated, dig up a small section of your grass and examine the roots. If there is less than two inches of root growth, your lawn could benefit from being aerated. If you know that you have clay-based soil, aeration is a necessity for a healthy lawn.

Aerating your lawn begins by preparing the area. Ideally, you should water the lawn at least a day or two before aeration; you should add at least one inch of water to the soil to make it easier for the aerator to penetrate the soil and pull out the cores. Do not try to aerate a muddy or especially wet area though, as that will just clog the machine.

Using a core aerator, move across the lawn in the same pattern that you would to mow the grass, taking care to cover the entire lawn. If you wish, you can rake and dispose of the cores that the aerator leaves behind, but they will typically break back down into the soil within a few days, especially with high traffic. Once you’ve completed the aeration, apply some compost, peat moss, or sand across the lawn to refill the holes. Fertilize the lawn, and add grass seed if necessary.

V. Tools For Lawn Aeration

The most common and effective tool for aeration is a core aerator, a machine with hollow tines that penetrate the soil and pull the “plugs” out. Depending on the machine, the tines can be up to about three-quarters of an inch wide and four inches deep. Some homeowners have used spikes — either via a device or spiked shoes — to poke holes in the lawn, but this method is not as effective. Rather than removing the cores from the soil, using spikes just compacts the soil down more.

VI. DIY or Hire Professionals to Aerate Your Lawn?

As with most lawn care tasks, it is possible to aerate your lawn yourself. However, before you set aside a weekend afternoon for the chore, consider the benefits of hiring a lawn care professional. When you consider the pros and cons of DIY aeration vs. those of hiring lawn care professionals, you might find that it’s worth investing in some expert help.

1) DIY Aeration Pros & Cons

The biggest benefit of aerating your lawn yourself is the cost. If you have the tools and materials you need, you can save money with a DIY approach. Other potential benefits include:

  • A sense of pride and accomplishment in taking care of your own yard.
  • A chance to spend time outdoors getting some fresh air and exercise.
  • The ability to control how often your grass is maintained.
  • Insight into other problems in your yard that might otherwise go unnoticed, such as damaged fencing or trees that need to be trimmed.

However, there are some cons to DIY lawn aeration. Among them:

  • The investment in materials. You will need to rent or purchase an aerator and other supplies, which could cost as much or more than hiring a professional.
  • Costly mistakes. It may seem like a simple task, but you have to know how to aerate your lawn. If you do it incorrectly, you could do more harm than good to your lawn.
  • Unnecessary aeration. The problems with your lawn may not actually be caused by soil that is too compacted. Without a professional consultation to correctly diagnose issues, you could waste time and money on an unnecessary task.
  • Spending your weekend on lawn care, instead of relaxing or spending time with your family.

2) Professional Aeration Pros & Cons

Investing in professional lawn aeration presents a number of advantages, beyond freeing up your time for other activities.

  • Professional lawn care companies have the right equipment, allowing the job to be done quickly and correctly. There’s no need to buy or rent an aerator.
  • Professionals have a better understanding of your lawn’s needs and will know the best time to aerate and overseed your lawn. Not only will they time the aeration correctly, they will apply the right balance of compost, fertilizer, and seed post-aeration to ensure the best grass possible.
  • More peace of mind. Many lawn care companies will offer a guarantee of results, and will keep working on your yard until you are satisfied. If you DIY, you may spend hundreds of dollars on supplies, only to be disappointed or frustrated by the results.
  • Professionals will properly prep the lawn for aeration to ensure the best results.

As always, there are some cons to hiring the pros — in this case, mainly cost. Again, though, by the time you acquire the right equipment, you may spend about the same amount of cash either way.

Aerating your lawn is an important step to enjoying green, healthy grass all season long. You can expect to see new growth in about a week, and over time, a much stronger and beautiful lawn.

Contact TruGreen today at 800-464-0171 if you don’t have the time to aerate your lawn or want the professionals to handle aerating your lawn the right way from the very start.

Need Help? Call 1-800-464-0171

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