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When should you aerate your lawn?

Anyone who owns a home knows a great lawn doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a lot of planning and maintenance to get lush green grass that’s the envy of all your neighbors. Regular watering, mowing and fertilizing are important, but they won’t do anything for you if your soil doesn’t provide the right growing conditions. 

Over time, soil can become so compacted that it doesn’t let nutrients reach the roots, where they can do the most good. Lawn aeration is a simple process that solves this problem. To get the best results, though, it is important to do it at the proper time — otherwise, you may be doing more harm than good. 

The purpose of lawn aeration

In lawn aeration, you perforate your lawn with many small holes, breaking up heavily compacted soil so water, nutrients and oxygen can better reach the roots. This improves grass’s drought tolerance, so it can handle harsh weather better. It also improves drainage and encourages faster, better growth. The roots will grow deeper, letting them reach nutrients and water further down in the soil.  

How often to aerate your lawn

You’ll be happy to know you don’t need to aerate it frequently. How often depends on the type of soil you have and how much foot traffic it gets. If your soil has a high clay content or is highly trafficked, you should aerate it once a year. Most other lawns only need to be aerated every two to three years as long as they are growing well and look healthy. 

Signs that your lawn needs aeration

There are several signs that may indicate your lawn needs aeration. 

  • It begins to turn brown after just a few days of hot weather
  • Water puddles on the surface after rain
  • The grass isn’t growing or is growing slowly
  • There are lots of bald or worn spots
  • The grass is noticeably thinning
  • There is a heavy buildup of thatch

If you are still unsure if your lawn needs aeration after seeing some of these signs, there are two tests you can perform. Try sticking a shovel into the soil. If it is difficult to penetrate, it is too heavily compacted. You can also dig into a section of your lawn and inspect the roots. If they don’t extend at least 2 inches, your soil likely needs aeration.

The best time to aerate your lawn

Though aeration helps your lawn, it also stresses it. To ensure it recovers quickly from any damage, only aerate it during its peak growing season. This varies based on the type of grass you have and your location. In cool climates and for cold-season grasses, early spring and early fall are good times. For hotter climates and warm-season grasses, late spring and early summer are best.

Types of lawn aerators

Lawn aerators come in two types: spike and plug.

  • Spike aerators are less effective but tend to be more affordably priced. They make very small holes and don’t require any cleanup afterward.
  • Plug aerators remove small, cylindrical chunks of soil. They leave these strewn all over the lawn, so you’ll need to mow over them or manually remove them later, but this is much more effective.

Tips for aerating your lawn

Aerating a lawn isn’t difficult, but there are a few tips to follow that can help you get the most from it.

  • Moisture: Avoid aerating when it is overly dry. Instead, do it a day or two after it rains. If Mother Nature isn’t being accommodating, water the lawn thoroughly the day before you aerate. 
  • Obstacles: Before you start, flag sprinklers and any other obstacles in the grass to avoid accidentally damaging them.
  • Repeat: During aeration, make several passes over the most heavily compacted areas to ensure through perforation. 
  • New growth: When you have finished, fertilize your lawn and, if needed, spread grass seeds. Your soil will be the most receptive at this time.  

What you need to buy for aerating your lawn

Abco Tech Lawn Aerator Shoes

Abco Tech Lawn Aerator Shoes

If you have a small lawn, these affordably priced manual aerator shoes are a good choice. They strap securely into place via sturdy metal buckles, and each features 13 heavy-duty spikes that penetrate nearly 2 inches into the soil. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

For large yards, a tow-behind model like this can help you get the job done as quickly as possible and with the least effort. It’s equipped with 32 galvanized knives that penetrate soil easily and pull out plugs up to 3 inches in size. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Empire Orange Marking Flags

Empire Orange Marking Flags

These bright flags are easy to spot against green lawns and have strong spikes that rarely bend when you stick them in the ground. They come as a pack of 100, so you’ll have plenty, and they have a nice wallet-friendly price.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

Scotts 76565 Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader

Scotts 76565 Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader

Fertilizer needs to be applied evenly for the best results and a rolling drop spreader like this is the best way to do it. Its hopper can hold enough fertilizer or seeds to cover 10,000 square feet, and it spreads them in a 22-inch pattern to make short work of medium-sized yards.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot


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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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