Lawn aeration is a little known, simple, but effective procedure that’s guaranteed to revive dying lawns and stimulate the growth of thick and healthy grass without spending a ton of your money and resources.

Aeration is a necessary lawn maintenance service that must be done on average, every couple of years to improve the quality of every lawn. Besides, aeration is highly beneficial to your lawn, because it helps to break down the soil, helping it breathe and absorb air, water, and important nutrients necessary for plant growth. Even the most beautifully manicured lawn needs to be aerated regularly to help maintain its lushness and quality.

That being said, some lawns require more aeration than others because of certain factors (which will be explained in this article) which determine the frequency of lawn aeration.

The frequency of lawn aeration will vary from case to case and there are a few ways to determine how often to aerate and if it needs it now. These signs are often noticeable, and listed below are the signs to watch out for:

1. Thinning grass
Soil compaction is one of many reasons why your lawn grass might be thinning. And it is a sign that the roots of your lawn grass are not growing deeper into the soil where they can absorb nutrients and water. Grass thinning can be reversed by aeration.

2. Puddles
If you notice puddles forming on your lawn after rain or watering, then it is an indication that your lawn needs aeration. Water puddles are evidence of compacted lawn soil, and they can become breeding areas for mosquitos.

3. Thatching
Thatching is an excessive layer of live and non-live organic tissue that’s settled between the top of your lawn grass and the soil. Thatch can be beneficial for lawn grass but can harbor pests and lawn disease if it accumulates to more than ½ inch. If your lawn feels kind of spongy bouncy underfoot and dries out often. You likely have a thatch problem. Aerating aids the decomposition of thatch.

4. Worn areas
Heavily trafficked lawns can become bare, and look worn out. If you notice this happening, do not panic. It’s simply normal wear and tear. Aerating and overseeding your lawn afterward will restore your lawn grass.

5. Inability to penetrate your lawn with a screwdriver
You can carry out a screwdriver test on your lawn to know if your lawn needs aeration. Get a screwdriver and stick it into the ground, if the object has difficulty penetrating, your lawn needs aeration.

How often should you aerate a lawn?

You know the significance of aerating of your lawn. But how often should you do it? Lawn professionals recommend that aeration should be performed on average, once every couple of years. Your lawn aeration schedule will depend on several factors. Such as the soil composition of your lawn, your grass type, and the rate of your lawn traffic. However, you must understand that the presence of one or more of these factors might require that your lawn be aerated more often than others.

Clay soil is thick, heavy and compacts easily. If your lawn is located in an area that has clay soil, then you should aerate annually. Furthermore,
If that particular lawn receives heavy foot and animal traffic all year long. Then you should aerate twice annually to sustain turf growth and improve overall lawn health. Sandy soils require less aeration, and lawns located in areas with losing sandy soils can be aerated either annually, or once every couple of years depending on foot traffic, to encourage lawn growth.

What is the best way to aerate a lawn?

Core aeration is by far, the most effective means of delivering air, water, and nutrients to the root zone of your lawn grass. Other than fertilization, no other lawn treatment technique has had more success in reviving and boosting the growth of lawn grass and reducing thatch proliferation, ensuring a healthier and more disease-resistant lawn.

During core aeration, tiny cylindrical plugs of soil roughly 1-3 inches long are removed from the lawn by hollow steel tines attached to a mechanical plug aerator. The displaced soil is dropped on the lawn where it is broken down by rainfall or mowing. Tiny cores (holes) are created in the soil by plug aeration allowing the soil to breathe and soften. This helps plant roots to expand and grow deeper into the ground.

Can I DIY aerate my lawn?

If you have greener thumbs than the average homeowner, then DIY aeration might not be such a bad idea, provided you have the expertise to do it properly. A key advantage of DIY aeration is that you have the freedom to choose which aeration technique is best suited for your lawn.

Spike aeration remains a favourite choice among DIY aerators because it is a cheap, and straightforward procedure. All it requires is for you to strap on a pair of $20 nail-studded sandals, march around your lawn and poke holes in the soil.

Core aeration is a more effective, but expensive aeration technique. You’ll have to buy or rent a mechanical plug aerator that pulls plugs of soil and organic material out the ground. However, this method delivers much better results, and it can bring your lawn back to life.

Before aerating, be sure to note or mark the location of your sprinkler heads, and avoid buried cables, and other utilities.

Pros and cons of DIY aeration

Before making that final decision on whether to DIY, it is important to consider its pros and cons.
Below is a list of potential pros and cons of DIY aeration:

Pros of DIY aeration

  • You have total freedom to decide how often to aerate.
  • DIY helps you to uncover overlooked lawn neglect or maintenance issues.
  • You save more money by renting the equipment yourself.
  • You work on your lawn longer, and cover more ground with the aerating machine.

Cons of DIY aeration.

  • Aeration is a time consuming and tedious procedure. Lawn professionals are more prepared for this reality than homeowners.
  • Lack of aerating experience could result in costly mistakes.
  • Renting and using improper aerating equipment could damage your lawn.
  • The costs of renting a plug aerator and its associated expenses might be close to the amount you’d pay a professional to aerate your lawn.

Cost of hiring a professional for lawn aeration?

Hiring a professional to aerate your lawn is a good idea if you lack the expertise, or you don’t have time to DIY. Before hiring a professional, it is ideal to investigate the average aerating costs in your location. Also bear in mind the factors that could impact on the overall costs.

Is your lawn on a slope? What soil do you have? What is the size of your lawn? Having the answers to these critical questions and other related issues would give you a strong bargaining chip during negotiations.

Know that the national average cost of aerating a midsize yard (10,000 sq ft.) is $125/hr. For smaller yards, lawn professionals will not charge more than $50/hr. Average costs for aerating large commercial lawns, green spaces, and intricate landscapes is around $300/hr. Prices for similar services may be different in your locality.

Does Spike aeration work?

Spike aeration is a less invasive aeration method that involves punching holes in the soil with steel spikes or a handheld gardening tool.

This method is not as effective as core aeration, because unlike hollow metal tines on plug aerators. Spike aerators are designed to make holes, and they do not remove soil matter. However, spike aerators are handy and less obstructive than heavy, loud and unwieldy plug aerators.

Spike aeration works best under the following circumstances:

  • Spike aeration is more effective on soil that is not particularly compacted.
  • When loosening – not breaking up the soil.
  • When preparing the lawn for fertilization, and you want the nutrients to have improved access to the root zone.

Why is a plug aerator better?

A plug aerator is more invasive aeration equipment that is designed to open up the soil and create channels for vital nutrients to access the root zone. Plug aerators do a better job than other aerators.

Benefits of plug aerators include:

  1. Plug aerators have hollow metal tines that are highly efficient at loosening compacted soil.
  2. The hollow tines attached to plug aerators leave holes in the soil through which water and nutrients can access the root zone. This stimulates lawn grass to grow deeper roots, which encourages the growth of healthy lawns.
  3. The cylindrical soil plugs dropped on the lawn by plug aerators are great sources of nutrients when broken down by natural, or human activity.
  4. When the soil plugs are broken down, they release microorganisms which assist thatch decomposition.

Can you aerate too much?

It might not happen right away, but eventually, your lawn will need some form of aeration. After that milestone is passed, deciding how often to aerate will become an issue. Having an aerating timetable can help reduce your inclination to resolve all your lawn problems with aeration. Regardless of what you think is good for your lawn, aeration should be done annually. Unless shouldn’t aerate more than twice annually. Too frequent aeration leads to damaged lawn soil, and stressed grass.

Is overseeding after aeration worth it?

Overseeding after aeration is a worthwhile strategy if you’re aiming for the best outcome. For example; overseeding a compacted lawn yields barely noticeable results, because the grass seeds will struggle to take root in a soil that is deprived of water and nutrients.

When overseeding is done after plug aeration. The soil, having been loosened, easily absorbs vital air, water, and soil nutrients through the new cores and channels. Thus establishing a nurturing environment where seeds can grow deep and strong roots, that will support strong and healthy lawn grass.

Overseeding after aeration should be practised to encourage the growth of thick and strong lawn grass that is more disease resistant and can withstand pressure from the elements.

How long does lawn aeration take?

Aerating a medium-sized residential lawn generally takes a few hours to complete using a mechanical aerating machine. However, aerating large commercial properties will take a significantly longer period to complete, ranging from a few hours to an entire day.

Funso Ogunnowo
Author: Funso Ogunnowo - Funso is a freelance writer with over ten years of experience working as an accountant. His love for writing prompted his foray into the world of freelance writing, and he is active on freelance websites like Upwork, where he has completed several writing projects for different clients.