Spring Lawn Aeration – Everything You Need to Know
January 18, 2022
The key to a luscious and healthy lawn is ensuring that the grass has access to all of the nutrients, air, and water it needs to thrive.
Aeration is the best way to do this, but it must be timed perfectly to get the results you’re after.
Should you aerate your lawn in Spring? Spring is considered the optimal time to aerate your lawn as this period is the growing season and when the grass will benefit most. This is true for both cool and warm-season types of grass, as they will react favorably to aeration during this time. Spring lawn aeration should be an annual job that you commit to for the health of your lawn, and it doesn’t have to be a tricky process.
This guide answers all of the questions you could have about aeration, including how to do it and why we do it, so you’ll be ready to get to work.
The process alleviates compacted soil which opens up a whole host of benefits, including more nutrients for the roots and less waterlogging.
If you’ve never aerated before and want to know if you should, these are some of the lawns that would benefit most from it:
If your lawn is new and was laid when your home was recently constructed it should be aerated. With these newer lawns, they’re often laid on subsoil that has been compacted due to the construction work that went on, and when you move in, they’re already compressed.
Homes with children and pets, or people who spend a lot of time playing or doing activities in their yard would be a good candidate for aeration. This regular movement can compact the soil easily.
Walking on your lawn feels spongy or you notice that even after rain, it dries out easily. These types of lawns usually have excessive thatch that needs to be removed and rectified along with aeration.
If you grew the grass from sod and there is soil layering present, which means the finer soil of the sod is put on top of the thicker soil underneath. In this case, the drainage of the soil will be inadequate and aeration can help to break it up.
Any regular lawn should be aerated at least once a year to prevent issues caused by soil compaction. Doing this pre-emptively will keep the soil loosened and able to absorb the nutrients and water it needs.
Should You Aerate Your Lawn in Spring?
Timing is everything when it comes to gardening, and the process of aeration is no different.
Spring is regarded as the best time to get this specific job done and if you’re planning your yearly gardening schedule, you should ensure that aeration is part of it.
The reason why spring is such a smart choice for aeration is that it’s during the natural growing season, so even if some damage is done it will bounce back.
In Spring, the open areas that are caused by creating holes or plugs will regenerate and you’ll ensure the grass is getting access to the nutrients it needs at this important time.
Another bonus is that no matter the type of grass you have, whether it’s a cool-season or warm-season, spring will still be the best time to do it.
If you have cool-season grass, aerate the lawn in early spring and if your home has warm-season grass, late spring is the best time.
There are other times when you might want to aerate your lawn, but it should be done on a case-by-case basis.
If your lawn has been exposed to longer dry conditions and even drought, you can open up the soil so that the roots get access to much-needed water.
Otherwise, the soil may have become compacted during winter and when the season is over, good aeration can help loosen it up again.
Popular Tools Used for Spring Aeration
All gardeners have their tools that they remain loyal to, and if you’re new to aeration you’ll want to decide which one you use to do it.
Before choosing a tool, you’ll want to assess the soil and how much land you’re working with, which will make it easier to find the right fit.
The two main camps of aeration tools are either spike aerators or plug aerators, each with unique pros and cons.
A spike aerator works with solid tines that poke holes into the ground and a plug aerator removes a plug of soil.
The plug aerator is the preferred method but can be more expensive, as using a spiked aerator can sometimes create further compression of the soil.
When choosing an aerating tool, you want to make sure it’s capable of going between two to three inches deep into the soil and between 0.5 and .075 inches in diameter.
At this level, you’ll be giving the roots access to nutrients and ensuring the holes are the right size to break up the soil.
The tines should be two to three inches apart as well, ensuring enough space in between them to work effectively.
The Steps for Lawn Aeration
As with any gardening job, preparation is the key to success with lawn aeration. Before you get started you’ll want to choose the right aeration tool and ensure you know how to use it properly.
Begin with this groundwork to prepare your lawn for aeration:
A few days before you plan on aerating the lawn, mow the grass on a setting that will leave it at half of its usual height. Water the lawn after mowing with a heavy soak.
On the day of aeration, rake or use a lawn sweeper to collect debris from the ground, including twigs and dead leaves.
If you have any irrigation system in place in the ground, make a note of where they are using flags or markers. This will ensure you don’t accidentally pierce something.
With your aerating tool, start at one corner of the lawn and go in straight lines across the yard until you’ve covered it all. After the first pass is done, head back the opposite way and do it again. If you’re using a plug aerator, once is usually enough.
Once the aeration is done, apply lawn fertilizer or top dress the lawn with compost. The recently made holes will make it easier to absorb. If you’ve used a plug aerator, you can leave the soil plugs on the ground as well.
Continue your regular watering schedule after aeration, as well as the usual maintenance you perform.
Can Aeration Damage Your Lawn?
For all of the good that it does, it’s important to note that too much aeration or improper methods can do damage to your lawn.
This is one gardening process that can be done too often, so you should only aerate once a year or when the soil obviously needs it, otherwise you’ll start to kill the roots.
Sometimes, aerating during wet weather can be harmful, so you should keep an eye on the changing weather patterns before committing to the job.
When the soil is opened up as it rains, the roots may become more at risk of developing fungal growth and being exposed to disease, so you have to be careful.
Although aeration may seem like it’s damaging the grass and soil, the opposite is usually true, as long as it’s done right and with correct timing.
Ensuring you have the right tool for the job, understanding how to perform it, and not overdoing it, aeration usually won’t do any harm to your grass.
Simple Tips for Efficient Aeration
There are a lot of gardening myths out there that need to be dispelled, and plenty to do with aeration. Before you start planning this job, check out some tips about making aeration easier and what to avoid doing.
You won’t be able to effectively aerate soil that is too dry, so try to time it for the day following a shower. If there’s no rain planned, water the lawn the day before you plan on aerating. However, take care not to do it when the grass is too wet otherwise it won’t be effective.
If you’re limited on time or only have a basic aerating tool, you can focus on areas that appear to need more help than others. No rule states you have to aerate the entire lawn and you may be wasting your time doing so if it doesn’t seem necessary.
Don’t be afraid to follow your usual herbicide and pesticide application, even when you plan on aerating. A common myth about this job is that the aeration process will break up the herbicide barrier and make it ineffective, but it’s not true.
Once you’ve aerated and the soil plugs are left on the lawn, you can run over them with a lawn mower to break them up. Leaving them there to disintegrate will return the soil and nutrients to the ground so there’s no need to remove them entirely.
Make a few passes with the aerator tool even if it seems you’ve covered it all. Doing so will ensure you’ve got consistently loose soil underneath, facilitating optimal grass growth.
Top dressing with compost is one of the most effective things you can do after aerating the lawn. Compost is rich with nutrients and biomes that get deep down into the soil once the plugs have been removed.
For larger lawns, it’s better to invest in a rolling aerator or tow behind machine. This is a process that can take a lot of effort if you’re doing it by hand and having a tool like this will cut hours off of the time it takes.
Aeration for an Easy Improvement
Aerating your lawn should be part of your annual lawn maintenance schedule and timing the job during spring will guarantee the best results.
By giving your grass access to the important air, nutrients, and water it needs with an easy day of aeration, you’ll see it thrive like never before.
Lawns require a lot of upkeep to look beautiful, but thankfully some tasks are easier than others to perform.
If you have questions about some of the other common lawn maintenance methods out there, check out these FAQs that might be able to answer them for you.
What Does Dethatching Do?
Dethatching is a method of removing a layer of dead grass from the lawn which enables the air and nutrients to reach the soil below, and it should be done as part of the aeration process.
Other benefits include preventing waterlogged roots and better drainage for the soil.
Is a Rake or Lawn Sweeper Better?
A rake is a good choice for smaller yards that don’t have a lot of debris, whereas a lawn sweeper can bag and collect large quantities of debris with less effort from the operator.
Depending on your lawn size and preferences, you’ll find one of these to be a better fit for what you need.
Does My Lawn Need Fertilizer?
Fertilizer should be applied twice a year to your lawn to keep it growing healthy and thick, but you must choose one that suits the type of grass you have.
The best time to apply lawn fertilizer is during fall so that it can be protected in winter, and again in spring so that the growth during summer is exponential.
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.