How To Aerate Lawn By Hand

How To Aerate Lawn By Hand


December 27, 2021

Your lawn needs some TLC if it must remain healthy.

This means creating time for proper lawn care practices such as mowing, watering, and fertilizing.

But it doesn’t end there. To have a green, lush, and well-manicured lawn, you must add aeration to your lawn care routine. It’s an essential maintenance technique.

How to aerate a lawn by hand?

Aeration is crucial as it improves the supply of oxygen, water, and essential nutrients to your turfgrass. This article will show you how to aerate lawn by hand for the best results. It is best to go over the entire lawn two times if the soil is seriously compacted or you’ve never aerated your lawn before. During the second pass, make sure to go across the first. That means going perpendicular to the first pass.

We’ll also share a few important tips to keep in mind when aerating your lawn. Let’s get started.

What is Lawn Aeration?

Best Time To Aerate And Overseed Lawn

In simple terms, lawn aeration means making small holes in the soil so that adequate air, water, and nutrients can reach the roots of your grass.

The process involves perforating or puncturing the soil using manual tools or special machines. 

Regardless of whether you use machines or aerate by hand, the primary goal is to create breathability for your lawn and soil.

Plants need water and air as much as humans do. Of course, everyone knows this.

But what many people, including some homeowners, may not know is that lawns need to be aerated to provide the right amounts of water, air, and essential nutrients the grasses need to remain green and healthy.

Soil doesn’t stay loose forever. It becomes compacted over time.

And if you drive over your lawn frequently or have kids play on it every now and then, compaction can happen even quicker.

Compacted soil has a dense particle population that prevents nutrients and other essential elements from reaching the roots of grasses.

This starves the roots of important nutrients they need to grow and stay strong.

Thankfully, you can reduce soil compaction by aerating your lawn.

Can You Aerate Your Lawn By Hand?

How To Aerate Lawn By Hand

Yes, you can aerate your lawn by hand. And by that, we mean doing it manually instead of using advanced machines.

Manual tools are very affordable compared to machines. But there’s a catch!

Using manual aeration methods is not a practical approach if you have a big lawn. It is time-consuming and involves some serious back-breaking work!

Here’s the thing, though.

While you can use machines for this purpose, sometimes, rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty (literally), is the best way to connect with your lawn.

We’ll not get into whether or not plants can feel when we touch them. But manually aerating your lawn allows you to really appreciate every inch of your beautiful turf.

Plus, it’s a good way to get some exercise!

How To Aerate Lawn By Hand

There are a handful of tools that you can use to manually aerate your soil and boost healthy and beautiful growth. Not all of them need to be bought or rented, you can even make a DIY lawn aerator yourself.

Still, you have to know how to aerate lawn by hand so you can use the tools effectively.

Here is how to properly aerate your lawn.

Lawn habits

Lawn habits

Understanding your lawn habits is the first step to consider before aeration.

Lawn habits refer to how you use your lawn. Consider aerating every year if your kids play on your lawn all year long or you often drive over your lawn. This will prevent excessive soil compaction.

Also, if you have newly spread grass seed, you should hold off aerating for at least one year so the seeds germinate and develop a solid root system.

Choose your tool

Next, decide the type of manual aerator you want to use to get the job done.

Your options include spading forks, spike aerators, and core aerators.

These manual aerators come in a few different styles, such as spike shoes, push spike aerators, and rolling aerators.

Ultimately, the option you go for comes down to your specific needs and personal preference.

Determine the grass type

What kind of grass do you have on your lawn? This is a crucial factor to consider before aerating your lawn.

Itwill help you to figure out the right time to aerate your lawn. You have to know if your grass is cold-season or warm-season so you can properly schedule when to aerate your lawn.

Determine the soil type

The type of soil underneath your lawn plays a vital role in determining how long you will have to wait between aeration.

Sandy soil usually requires longer aeration intervals than clay. If you don’t know the type of soil you have, you might aerate too soon or too late.

Lawn preparation

Lawn preparation

Next, you want to prepare your lawn for aeration. Rake out debris, leaves, sticks, and mow the lawn to make the process easier.

Assessing the moisture levels

Manual tools work better on soft soil. You’ll have a more difficult and even frustrating time trying to aerate bone-dry soil.

To make things a lot easier, consider watering your lawn a day before aeration.

You should also check your soil moisture in general.

Pay closer attention to sensitive areas

You want to concentrate more on areas of your lawn with more foot or vehicular traffic.

You will get better results if you go over these areas more than once.

Indicators That Your Lawn Need Aeration

How To Aerate Lawn By Hand

How do you know if your lawn needs aeration?

Even if you don’t plan to aerate every year, it is important for your lawn’s health to consider puncturing the soil if it falls into any of these categories.

  • The grass dries out too quickly or the lawn is spongy: This is usually due to excessive thatch. Consider aeration if the thatch is about 1 1/2-inches above the grass blades.
  • The lawn gets lots of heavy traffic regularly: Pets and kids always playing on your lawn can cause soil compaction. So consider aeration.

Tips for Proper Lawn Aeration

Tips for Proper Lawn Aeration
  • It is best to go over the entire lawn two times if the soil is seriously compacted or you’ve never aerated your lawn before. During the second pass, make sure to go across the first. That means going perpendicular to the first pass.
  • Ideally, you should water your lawn a day or two before the day you plan to aerate. But you can skip this if there is sufficient rainfall just before your planned aeration.
  • Make sure to continue basic lawn care practices after aerating. While aerating your lawn is a good thing, you still need to water, mow, and fertilize it.
  • Avoid aerating during drought. That’s because doing so will make the roots of grasses get too much sun exposure. This is not something that you want for your lawn. Instead of helping your grass grow, it will produce the opposite effect.
  • Septic systems, sprinkler lines, and similar systems are at risk of damage when you make holes in the soil.

For this reason, you should be mindful of underground and above-ground structures when you aerate.

If you opt to hire professionals to do the job for you, make sure to point out all the spots to avoid damages. These systems aren’t particularly cheap to repair.

Should You Consider Using Machines?

Should You Consider Using Machines?

Aerating machines can make things a lot easier. They offer a more practical solution for aerating bigger lawns.

But as you probably already know, specialized machines are a lot more expensive than manual tools.

If you’re like many homeowners, you already have a spading fork somewhere in your shed. That means you don’t have to spend extra money on buying additional tools.

Whether you aerate your lawn by hand or machine comes down to one or more of these factors:

  • Size of lawn: Manual tools are great for aerating small lawns or small patches of landscaping. Machines are a smarter choice if you have a considerably big lawn.
  • Budget: Think about the cost of buying a machine. Also, factor in the cost of regular maintenance.
    Would buying an aerating machine be more cost-effective? Manual tools may be cheaper but will they be efficient for want you want to do?
  • Personal preference: Do you enjoy manual labor? Manual tools might appeal more to you if you don’t mind getting all sweaty and having dirt all over you.

Here’s the thing.

Regardless of the type of tool or machine available, not all homeowners want to aerate their lawn themselves.

If that’s you, GreenIQ has you covered.

We ensure that your underground utility lines, septic lines, sprinkler heads and lines, as well as irrigation pipes, aren’t affected during the aeration process.

Besides aerating your lawn, our professionals offer lawn care advice to help you figure out the best times to aerate your lawn.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve seen how to aerate lawn by hand, there’s nothing stopping you from grabbing a spading fork or any other manual tool and puncturing your soil.

Just remember to follow the tips we’ve shared on the ideal time to aerate your lawn.

Need more guidance?

Check out our comprehensive guide on the Best Time To Aerate And Overseed Lawn.



Rebecca Vargas is an experienced gardener and landscaper and has been rendering professional services for many years. Her services cover both private homes and commercial properties. Leveraging that rich experience, Rebecca Vargas now dedicates a chunk of time to show just about anyone how to maintain their garden and yard, whether at home or workplace. GreenIQ is his way of reaching and teaching millions of homeowners across the globe about proper gardening and lawn care practices.