Lawn Aeration 101: What is it and why you should do it

Aug 15, 2021 | Lawn Care

It’s the last month of “official” summer. If you’re like many Americans, you’ve probably spent a lot of time in your yard – lounging and playing on it, enjoying the summer sun, and keeping your yard in tip-top shape by mowing, watering and weeding.

This is why we have grass!

All this activity, though, can compact the soil and negatively affect the lushness of your grass. If you’ve noticed that your yard isn’t quite as soft and buoyant as it used to be, it may be time to aerate.

What does it mean to aerate your lawn?

When the soil is too compacted, that makes it difficult for air, water and nutrients to get down there. Your grass’ roots need all three things to stay healthy and strong. Compacted soil essentially smothers grass roots.

Aerating is the process of removing bits of it – called “soil plugs” or just “plugs” – so that air, water and nutrients can get down into the soil. It creates space and loosens the soil so that your grass can breathe.

Here’s how it works:

  • During the aeration, small plugs of turf, thatch, and soil are removed.
  • Immediately afterward, the lawn is dotted with these small plugs.
  • Seven to 10 days afterward, white actively growing roots fill the holes.
  • A few weeks later, your yard will be lush and growing again. *

*Don’t expect miracles from a single aeration! Especially if you have poor soil. It may take a while for the process to see results.

So, how do you know if your lawn needs a little air?

If you notice any of the following, you should probably aerate it:

  • There are puddles forming after it rains or after you water it. This means the water isn’t soaking in.
  • It fails the “screwdriver test” – i.e., It’s difficult to push a screwdriver into the soil.
  • There’s a 1/2 inch or more sized layer of matted grass and thatch.

What are the benefits of aeration?

There are many benefits to regular aeration, especially when coupled with proper lawn care. Yards that get regular aeration will be healthier, easier to maintain, more vigorous, and have fewer pest problems.

They’ll also feel softer and bouncier!

Let’s walk through the benefits one by one:

Healthier lawns
Aeration promotes root growth, which makes your grass stronger and better able to fight off disease. Weeds and pests will also have a harder time taking hold since they thrive in adverse environments.

Better thatch control
Thatch is the layer of organized matter that gathers around the base of your grass. Think dead plants, bugs, and other dry, clumped things. Too much thatch prevents the nutrients from seeping into the soil, so controlling it is key to a healthy lawn.

Improved soil
Good, rich soil is dark and loose, allowing all the air, water, and nutrients to work through it without being so loose that everything slides around. Aerating helps keep your soil rich by reducing its density and improving air and water flow.

Efficient water use
In the height of summer, it’s important that we use water sparingly. But if your soil is compacted, then all the water does is sit on the surface of your lawn – it’s a waste. Aeration allows the water to get down to the roots, so every drop is put to good use.

Better nutrient absorption
Same deal as with water. Nutrients travel through the soil with water. Aerating your lawn ensures that this happens.

New root growth;
All of the above combines to create the perfect environment for your grass’ roots to grow, strengthen, and multiple. This creates fuller, lusher grass.

When should you aerate?

The answer to this question depends on your lawn, really. The state of it, the type of grass you have, and even where you live will affect when in the growing season you should aerate and how often.

Let’s start with the latter – how often should you aerate:

Sandy, porous soil
This type of soil drains almost too well, so you only need to aerate once every other year unless you find the soil is compacted.

Healthy, rich soil
If you have a healthy, normal lawn, then you really only need to aerate once a year or once every other year.

Compacted soil
You’ll want to aerate twice a year until your lawn becomes healthy and normal.

Now, let’s talk about when you should aerate. The best time to aerate is when your grass is actively growing but not under any stress. Now, in Florida, the growing season might feel like it’s all year round. There is, however, a difference between active growing and hibernation/slow growth.

Active growing season usually starts at the end of March. It ends during the first frost. Grass then slows its growth, transitioning into hibernation for those Floridian areas that get colder weather.

So when should you aerate?

Mid to late April, and Late September, early October are the two best times of the year to aerate. Here’s how to pick between the two:

  • If you need to aerate twice in one year, do it once in April and once in October.
  • If you have warm-weather grass (St. Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia, Bahia), aerate in the spring.
  • If you have cold-weather grass (Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, Fescus), aerate in the fall.

Can you aerate yourself?

Yes! You can aerate your lawn yourself. There are a few ways to do that:

  • Manually, with a pitchfork, hand aerators, or aerator shoes. It’s a lot of work, especially if you have a large yard. Essentially, you walk around making holes with whichever tool you’ve chosen.
  • With a machine, like a spike aerator or plug aerator. This is a bit less work – taking about as much effort as it does to mow your lawn with a push mower. You can most likely find a place to rent the machine or buy one yourself.

Before you aerate! There are a few things you should do:

  • Label or tag your sprinkler heads, irrigation lines, and other items that are buried under your lawn
  • Water the day before, if there hasn’t been sufficient rain in the past 24 hours
  • Weed your lawn
  • Mow to 1” to 2” in height, as you won’t be able to mow for 1-2 weeks after aeration

When you’re done, leave the plugs and debris where it is. These will decompose back into your soil, feeding the next generation of grass. You can also seed, water, and fertilize immediately after you aerate – it’s probably the best time for that!

Should I get an expert to aerate my lawn?

Yes, you probably should. Especially if you have very compacted soil that requires a few aerations. Experts, like our team at Green 365, have all the tools available and the experience needed to ensure your yard is aerated properly the first time.

An expert will ensure your lawn survives.

Green 365, we know all the signs, tricks, tips, and tools to help your yard get the air, water, and nutrients it needs to grow strong and lush. Our team will come out and investigate. We’ll pinpoint where your soil is on the compact-loose scale and take the right steps to help it bounce back.

We’ll make sure your grass can breathe for another season!

Call Green 365 to help keep your grass lush and green all year long.

Our Green 365 Lawn and Pest Solutions, LLC experts can monitor your yard’s health and check for pests and disease. We will provide you with friendly, professional lawn care services and maintenance. Contact us today for a free quote.

We serve the following locations near our Spring Hill, FL, and Lutz, FL offices:

  • Brooksville, FL
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  • Port Richey FL
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  • Wesley Chapel FL
  • Hernando Beach, FL
  • Hudson FL
  • Odessa FL
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