When should I aerate my lawn?

Aeration is an important part of maintaining a healthy lawn and allowing it to be porous enough for oxygen, water and nutrients to penetrate down to the root zone.

Aerating is also a vital tool following heavy rain. First wait until the lawn has started to dry-out to prevent compaction then either aerate manually or with a garden fork.

Summer, autumn, winter and spring are all times when aeration can occur to differing degrees.

Aeration also helps prevent the build-up of thatching and encourages the deep rooting of your lawn therefore producing a strong more vigorous grass.

Should I be aerating my lawn?

It is easy to assess whether your lawn needs aerating – the following points will help you make the decision:

Your lawn needs aerating if:

  • Following heavy rainfall.
  • It your lawn gets heavy use from children and pets running around the yard.
  • During prolonged dry conditions and drought.
  • It was established as part of a new home – as often the topsoil of new lawn is stripped or buried, and the grass established within the subsoil has been compacted by construction traffic.
  • It dries out very easily and has a spongy feel underfoot. This often is because your lawn has an extensive thatch problem. If the layer of thatch is greater than 1.5cm then aeration is recommended.
  • If your lawn was newly established, it may have soil layering which is when finer textured soil – which comes with the new lawn – is layered over the existing coarser soil. This laying can disrupt airflow and drainage to the newly developed roots.

When is the best time to aerate?

The best time for aeration is during the growing season, when the grass can heal and fill in any open areas after soil plugs are removed.

Soil plugs are 5cm chunks of turf that may be removed from you lawn when you aerate. This is not a problem!

Ideally, aerate the lawn with cool season grass in the early spring or autumn and those with warm season grass in the late spring.

When experiencing prolonged dry conditions and drought, aeration is recommended. This will improve the passage for water and nutrients to reach the lawns roots when watering is limited.

Cool season grasses include Ryegrass, Fescues, Bluegrass and Bentgrass while warm season grasses include Buffalos, Zoysias, Couch and Kikuyu.

At the end of winter soils often compact so the lawn will benefit from a good aeration.

Do this by energetically pushing a fork, or aerating shoes, as far as possible vertically into the soil or, if you’re really keen, hiring a mechanical aerator. 

If it’s been a dry winter, adding a wetting agent that attracts water to the soil and improves your lawn’s health is a good option. 

Aerating tools

Two main aerating tools exist – a spike aerator and a plug aerator.

Spike aerator tools: this method is quite simple as you use a tool, such a garden fork or spikey shoes, to poke holes into the ground.

Plug aerator machines: this method involves removing a core, or plug, of grass and soil from the lawn. Plug aerators can be hired from your local garden centre but be sure to follow the directions provided by the store.

When choosing an aerating tool or machine select one that removes soil plugs approximately 5cm deep and 2cm in diameter apart.

How do I aerate my yard?

After reading the points above and you are convinced you need to aerate your lawn then here are some tips on how to do it as well as follow-up lawn care:

Before you start aerating – either with a tool or machine – make sure your lawn’s soil is moist enough. It is advisable to aerate after rain or watering your lawn.

Be mindful of your lawn’s underground irrigation system if you have one.

Most aerating machines only cover a small part of the soil surface per pass, so ensure your passes are all over the compacted areas of your lawn. Save energy and resources by leaving uncompacted areas alone.

Make sure you allow the excavated soil plugs to be dried up and then broken on your lawn to give a clean and uniform appearance. The plugs can be broken up by simply pounding them with a rake or running over them with a mower. Be sure to sharpen your mower blades after breaking up the plugs.

After aerating be sure to continue basic lawn care maintenance such as fertilising, mowing and watering.

Remember – aeration is a beneficial practice toward achieving a beautiful lawn, but most people don’t realize or understand the process.

If your lawn is a candidate for aeration, make it an integral part of your lawn care regime. 

Your lawn will thank you for letting it breathe again. 


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