Aerating Your Lawn

If you have a back (or front) yard and you would like to cover it with lawn grass, you would realize that soil is an important aspect to the success of your lawn. Other than nutrients or organic matter, aeration of the soil is also important. Aeration benefits the lawn by allowing oxygen, water, and nutrients to penetrate further into the soil, encouraging root growth and reduces soil compaction. Soil compaction can lead to water clogging which is the leading problem to root rot. Aerating your lawn also reduces the amount of weed growth and help increase activity of friendly organisms such as earthworms.

Manual aerators are ideal when you can only devote a little at a time to work on your lawn. It also allows you to work on the corners and tight areas that is otherwise unreachable for large power aerators.

Manual aerators work by pushing the hollow cylinders or corers into the turf like you would a spade. Imagine it being like a corer you use on an apple to remove the core. The aerator cuts a plug/core that you extract and deposit on top of the lawn.

There are small power aerators available that work in a similar manner that you can rent from a hardware store. The image above shows a small aerator with rotating tillerlike corers that is pushed into the soil and extracts small plugs. You can attach these machines will to a station wagon, mini-van, or pickup truck as they only require about two people to transport them.

The other types of lawn soil aerators are the larger ones that require a truck and several people to transport them. They do however give better results. These work by vertically plunging corers into the soil and extract the plugs. Do not use aerators that do not remove plugs from the ground as they are pointless and do not aerate the lawn as they should.

When to Aerate Your Lawn

If you haven\’t aerated your lawn before, test the soil for its texture, nutrients, pH level and composition. Testing your soil will help you determine when your soil needs to be aerated.

Other way is to remove a square foot in size section of the lawn (at least six inches deep) and check the root growth on that sample. If the roots only reach within 1-2 inches of the sample, it is an indication that the soil is compacted and aeration will be required to loosen up the soil.

Warning: Do not aerate a lawn within its first year of being established.

Clay soil requires aeration at least twice a year in spring and fall. Sandy soil only requires annual aeration. You should apply some fertilizers to the lawn after aeration.

When and how often you aerate your lawn also depends on the type of grass you have planted. August to mid September is the best time to aerate cool season grasses as this is the period where they have fastest growth. June and July are the best times to aerate warm season grasses.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

  1. Before aerating your lawn, do soil tests as mentioned above, then make the necessary amendments to the soil according to the results of the test that you\’ve done. Once you finished amending the lawn, wait for about a month for any signs of improvement, then aerate manually or mechanically.

A manual aerator is basically a handle on a T-bar with four hollow pipes. You plunge the hollow pipes into the lawn to remove cores of soil which you then deposit on top of the lawn. This is suitable only if you have a small area to work on. If you have a large lawn, or not enough time and energy to devote for this labor, rent a mechanical core aerator.

Warning: Practice safety when using a power/mechanical equipment. Consult the store you rent the aerator from and know how to operate it efficiently. Do not attempt to fix the aerator if it breaks down. Call and get the store staff to have a look at it.

  1. You need to drench your lawn the day before you use the aerator on it the next.
  2. Move in parallel patterns on the lawn, back and forth across it so that you cover all areas (once). Leave the cores that are unplugged from the ground as they are where they fall.
  3. Once you\’ve completely run the aerator on the entire area, crush the soil cores.
  4. Mix the crushed soil with compost/peat moss to fill in the holes.
  5. Level the filled holes with the ground using a hand shovel or gloved hands.
  6. Fertilize your lawn once with a slow-release turf grass fertilizer.
  7. Water your lawn as per usual to schedule and do not mow the lawn for at least three weeks.

More Reading:

The Back Yard Gardener:

How to Aerate a Lawn:

How to Aerate a Lawn:

When to Aerate Your Lawn: