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How to Aerate a Lawn

Date posted: 11 December 2014

Lawn aeration involves punching small holes into the lawn's surface. This releases stale carbon dioxide and allows fresh oxygen-rich air, water and nutrients to reach and nourish the grassroots. It can be achieved by using a manual lawn aerator with solid spikes, or by using a powered lawn aerator, which is far less labour intensive. aerator hire


The overall aim of aeration is to help the grassroots grow more deeply and to create a stronger, healthier lawn. One of the main reasons you may need to aerate your lawn is if the soil has become compacted. Compacted soil contains too many solid particles, preventing the optimum circulation of air, water and nutrients within the soil. Lawn thatch or other debris lying on top of the grass may also starve the grassroots of essential elements.

Your lawn is very likely to need aeration at least once a year if:

  • it is used heavily – for example if your children or pets often run and play on it.
  • it frequently dries out and has a spongy feel, which is potentially caused by excess thatch. To find out if this is the case, dig out a section of the lawn using a spade and see if the thatch is more than a half-inch deep. If it is, the lawn needs to be aerated.
  • it was established by sod, and there is, therefore, a soil layering problem (i.e. soil of a finer texture, which comes with the imported sod, is layered on top of the original coarser soil). This soil layering is bad for drainage because the water is more easily contained in the finer-textured soil, creating a compacted surface and preventing healthy root development. Aerating will break up the layers and mix the soil types to enable water to flow to the roots more successfully.

Aeration alleviates compaction and:

  • boosts root depth and encourages fresh root growth;
  • reduces the build-up of thatch underneath the surface;
  • improves nutrient uptake and the gaseous exchange between the soil and atmosphere;
  • boosts drainage and the infiltration rate of water into the soil; and
  • stimulates important microbes in the soil, which help to create a healthy lawn.

How to aerate your lawn?

Firstly, you need to buy, borrow or hire a lawn aerator. If you use a powered hollow tine lawn aerator it will actually remove small plugs of earth – achieving excellent results on compacted soil. There are also aerators available that are fitted with solid spikes instead of hollow tines, and these are usually adequate for general lawn maintenance (where there are no major compaction problems).

Before you start aerating, ensure the soil is moist. You can either do it the day after a rain shower, or the day after you have given it a watering.

The majority of lawn aerators will only cover a small percentage of soil surface on each pass, so it is worth covering any compacted areas several times to make sure there are plenty of holes punches in the surface. You may be able to save a bit of energy by avoiding aerating any of the healthy, uncompacted areas that do not need it.

The soil plugs that are removed can be left to dry on the surface. You can then break them up to even out the surface by running over the lawn with a mower or hitting them with the back of a garden rake (if your lawn is only small – otherwise this could take a long time!).
Once you have aerated your lawn you will then just need to continue with other everyday lawn care tasks such as regular mowing; fertilization or treatments when necessary; and occasional watering during dry spells.

When is the best time?

It is possible to aerate your lawn at any time of the year except during extremes - either during very cold spells when the ground is frozen, or when a period of dry weather or drought is forecast (when the ground will simply be too hard to aerate effectively).

If you are planning ahead, however, it is worth trying to aerate your lawn during the growing season. At this time of the year, the grass is better able to heal and grow over the open holes where the soil plugs were removed by the hollow tine aerator. The ideal conditions for lawn aeration would be when the soil is moist, and temperatures are cool – for example in the early spring or autumn.

Related Articles

What is a Lawn Aerator

When to Aerate My Lawn?

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