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One of the most overlooked tricks in lawn maintenance is lawn aeration. This task keeps your yard green and healthy while promoting growth. The two primary types of lawn aerators are plug aerators and spike aerators.
Plug aerators, also called core aerators, have hollow tines and remove plugs of soil from your lawn. Spike aerators have rollers with solid spikes that puncture holes in the ground.
Use this guide to learn when and how to aerate your lawn.
Gather Tools and Materials
Lawn maintenance is easier when you gather your tools and materials in advance. If you need a lawn aerator for this project, or a truck to transport it, contact your local Home Depot store for tool and truck rentals.
You will need:
- A lawn or garden aerator
- Garden gloves (recommended)
- A garden hose
- A lawn sprinkler
- Irrigation flags
- Grass seed (optional)
- Lawn fertilizer
Need help finding the best type of grass seed for your region? Read this Home Depot guide on Types of Grass Seeds.
What is Lawn Aeration and Why Should You Aerate?
Over time, grass and soil can become compressed and compacted. This creates thatch, which is a thin layer of dead and living grass roots, stems and shoots that forms between the soil and the grass in your lawn. Some of this organic matter, including the grass stems and roots, decays slowly, so thatch can build up.
As the thatch becomes thicker, it prevents air, water and fertilizer from reaching the roots of the grass. This causes your lawn to thin out and die.
Aeration is the practice of making holes in your lawn to loosen the soil underneath. This lets oxygen, water and important nutrients reach the roots, so your grass can become lush, green and healthy.
Aeration can also help improve a lawn growing in poor soil or heavy clay.
When to Aerate Your Lawn
Consider aerating your lawn if it is thin and brown and you have trouble growing grass. Aerating is also a good idea if your lawn is your grass is subject to heavy foot or vehicle traffic.
The best time to aerate is during the growing season. Most homeowners should aerate their lawns at least every other year, while golf courses or other places that get heavy use are typically aerated at least twice a year.
Irrigate the Lawn Before Aerating
Thoroughly water your lawn a day or two before you begin the aeration process. Apply at least one inch of water. You can also aerate after a good, soaking rain that provides at least an inch of water.
Mark the Lawn
After watering your grass, use irrigation flags to mark any areas in the lawn that might have hidden objects like tree stumps or irrigation heads. This will help you avoid running over them with the lawn aerator.
Aerate the Lawn
Whether you're using a core aerator or a spike aerator, go completely over the lawn in one direction and then go back over it in a perpendicular direction.
Spike aerators will punch holes in the lawn as you go, while core aerators will remove plugs of grass and soil. It's fine to leave the plugs on the lawn to decompose.
Tip: A steel spike aerator is ideal for small yards, while a core aerator is designed to handle bigger areas.
Fertilize the Lawn
Once you've finished aerating your lawn, apply grass seed, if needed, and fertilizer.
Follow the directions on your fertilizer product for how much and how often to feed your grass. Water the lawn after fertilizing to avoid burning it.
Got a small lawn? Consider an aerator rental to get your project done. Use once, then bring it back - no maintenance required and you won’t need to store it either.