Yard Aerating: When, Why, and How to Aerate the Lawn

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, we may get a small share of the sale from Amazon and ...

Read more

Person using a manual aerator to poke holes in the soil in their yard


Last Updated:


Lawn & Garden


As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, we may get a small share of the sale from Amazon and other similar affiliate programs.

Having a yard means having access to many benefits, such as bonfires, picnics, and a lot more, and due to these activities, as a yard owner, you should know all about the importance of proper lawn maintenance.

This is where yard aeration comes in. One of the most crucial elements of yard maintenance is often neglected, so what is aerating, and what does aerating your lawn do?

Yard or lawn aeration allows crucial components such as water and air to enter the soil through holes poked in the ground. This enters the root structure, leading to growth. 

I am sure you have a lot more queries about the subject. After all, you want to cater to your yard in the best way possible.

So, in this topic, I will highlight what aerating your lawn can do, along with a lot more insight. I would recommend thoroughly reading the article so you can have all the relevant information. 

Person using a manual aerator to poke holes in the soil in their yard

What Is Yard Aeration?

Generally, aeration is the circulation of air through substances or liquids. The purpose behind this is to enhance the quality and reduce contamination. Yard aeration is similar to this. 

Yard aeration is the procedure to poke holes in grass or into the surface of your yard or clearing away dirt “plugs.”

Due to the holes, as the moldy carbon dioxide escapes, air, water, fertilizer, and other crucial components can now permeate the soil, enabling the roots to grow stronger.

As a result, all this makes your yard healthier and more vibrant. 

What Is The Importance Of Yard Aeration?

If you are new to the concept, I understand your skepticism. But I assure you, yard aeration has many benefits for your lawn, mainly because aerating eliminates unnecessary accumulation and clutter.

I have mentioned the primary benefits of yard aeration in detail below. 

Helps With The Management Of Thatch Buildup

Thatch is an organic coating of dead grass on your lawn, developing between shoots, roots, and stems. Thatch accumulates when organic waste in your lawn decomposes faster than it can be decomposed.

This thick layer can deprive your grass of much-needed minerals and rain. Additionally, thatch can lead to pest infestation by storing bacteria and insects.

Left unattended, thatch can harm your lawn as it makes it hard for your yard to breathe. 

Yard aeration aids in the management of thatch buildup by transferring thatch-decomposing bacteria from the soil to the thatch coating’s surface. 

Yet, you should be aware that not all thatch is harmful. A thin coating of thatch in your yard can act as insulation against high temperatures and changes in soil humidity.

Thatch is only harmful when it is more than an inch. 

Reduction Of Soil Compaction

Soil compaction is the contraction of soil particles into a lower volume, thereby decreasing the available space for water and air.  

Hence, preventing water, fertilizer, air, etc., from entering the root zones of your yard can lead to clumps, dead spots, or thinning.

Removing cores in the aeration method can reduce soil density, hence reducing soil compaction.  

Less Puddling And Water Leakage

Too much water can destroy your turf. Moreover, it is a matter of health concern. Therefore, aeration may be the solution if your lawn has puddling issues and regular water leakage. 

Creates A Stronger Lawn

As mentioned, aeration promotes the development of roots and growth in general. The grass in your lawn will require overseeding in the cooler seasons.

This replaces the dry spots and strengthens the yard, which helps to displace weeds in the spring.  

Overseeding plus aeration improves the interaction between seed and soil. In addition, this generates a moist and enclosed setting ideal for your yard’s growth. 

Better Fertilizer Usage

Nitrogen is essential for the growth of your yard. The grass’s root zone mainly absorbs it. Fertilization of your yard aids in raising the amount of nitrogen it can absorb.  

This, in turn, leads to additional benefits, such as grass growing faster and becoming more resilient. Nitrogen is also crucial for creating chlorophyll, creating a greener and lusher lawn. 

Improves The Availability Of Nutrients

As stated above, aerating allows nutrients such as air and more to pass through the soil surface. Hence, nutrients are released to the turf as they seep into the root system.

This, in turn, improves the efficiency of fertilizers and continuous watering to ensure a healthy yard. 

Prepares Your Lawn’s Grass For Winter Inactivity And A Vibrant Spring

Combining fall season aeration and fertilization ensures your cool-season grassland is in good condition before it goes inactive. Aerating before fertilizing enables nutrients to penetrate more thoroughly.  

Preparing for fertilizing and aerating in the fall provides a sufficient barrier to shield your cool-season lawn from drought conditions in the summer and adequate time before the winter chill takes over. 

After looking at all these reasons, it is clear that the primary goal of yard aeration is to produce air and breathing space for your yard and the soil beneath it. 

How To Aerate Your Yard?

To assist anyone new to this topic, in this section, I will mention how to aerate your yard in a detailed manner so that you have no confusion when you do the task yourself.

Before that, there are key tools that you must have by your side for the procedure.

They are manual ones. You can use any one of these two. 

  1. A spike lawn aerator is a gardening tool that uses a solid spike to help you create small holes in the ground. It is also not messy, bringing no soil to the land’s surface.
  2. A core aerator, also known as a plug aerator, is a lawn aerator that extracts a plug or core of soil and grass. It carries out the process using spikes made of empty cylinders. Dppe poked holes in a lawn are created than with the spike lawn aerator mentioned above.  


  • For the first piece of equipment, avoid using aerator spikes that you can attach to your shoes, as some people do. They do not go deep enough into the ground to have an impact. 
  • Wear work boots with a thick sole for the second one to shield your feet from repeatedly treading on a metal bar. Also, this equipment is more labor-intensive and provides less coverage. 

You can also go for the powered ones if you do not want to exert yourself, especially if your yard is on the bigger side. In that case, you can go for a power aerator.

This is an industrial lawn aerator that is suitable for larger yards. Keep in mind that these are quite expensive. I would also recommend using a coring device alongside this. 

If your yard is more vulnerable to thatching and soil compacting, use an aerating machine that automatically removes soil clogs instead of those that puncture the ground.

Removing these plugs has a higher chance of achieving ideal results as punctures can lead to additional pressure, thus leading to more compaction in neighboring areas of the holes. 

This takes place as it does not eliminate matter to create more space. Plus, use aerating machines that eliminate soil clogs approximately 2-3 inches thick, 2-3 inches away, and 0.5-0.7 inches in diameter. 

Tips Before Starting The Process

Before you begin using your aeration method, paying attention to these crucial instructions would be beneficial. After all, every single step is essential for your yard. 

  • Keep an eye out for any sprinkler lines, irrigation pipes, utility lines, or sewage lines to avoid damaging the lawn. Repairing these will not be cheap at all. 
  • During dry seasons or droughts, do not aerate your lawn. This will make your yard’s roots vulnerable to excessive light exposure, resulting in the reverse effect of what you are attempting to accomplish.  
  • Water the grass properly for 1-2 days before you aerate it to soften and moisten the soil. Likewise, if there is enough rain before you want to aerate, there is no more need for the watering part. 

Now, let us get to the actual part: how to aerate your yard. I have provided step-by-step instructions for your better understanding. Keep in mind this is a manual technique. 

  • Step 1: Before aerating your yard, mow the whole space. 
  • Step 2: Because most aeration tools only reach a tiny portion of the soil profile at every round, run over the compacted sections multiple times. It is alright if you leave untouched areas intact. 
  • Step 3: Aerate your whole yard again if the soil is lightly compacted. If you have never done this aeration thing before or your yard is extremely compacted, make sure you aerate it on two rounds. The second round should be parallel to the first one. 
  • Step 4: Leave the plugs of soil cleaned by the aerator on the grass to decompose. 
  • Step 5: After completing the previous steps, it is vital to water the yard thoroughly. 
  • Step 6: Spread out lawn food to enable the lawn to heal by providing the nutrients it requires. 
  • Step 7: Water the freshly aerated lawn every 2 days in the upcoming few weeks. Leaving it moist like this will guarantee that it germinates. 
  • Step 8: Following the completion of the aeration procedure, sprinkle topsoil over the aerated yard. It is better if it is filtered topsoil combined with compost. 
  • Step 9: Aeration creates favorable circumstances for overseeding. This enables new grass to grow and cover thinning patches common in mature turfs. 

To do so, distribute the topsoil to create a layer that is roughly half an inch thick. With your hands, make large sweeping motions to plant your seeds.

If you want to use a spreader, spread 50% of the seeds. Then, cover all the areas in need of reseeding and scatter in different directions. 

Step 10: Roll the lawn after the seeds have settled. 

If you want a demonstration to be clearer about the instructions, click here. 

When Should You Aerate Your Yard?

The best time for yard aeration is when the weather conditions are favorable for recovery. The best periods for this are growing seasons, which vary depending on the species of grass.  

Cool season grasslands grow best in the cooler months of fall and spring. Kentucky bluegrass, for example, can flourish in the fall or February or even the first few days of March before spring arrives.

Still, it is best to not aerate during early spring as you can create a breeding environment for weeds.  

Warm season grass grows best in the earlier summer season. Bermudagrass, for instance, can benefit from year aeration in early summer or even late spring. 

Yard aeration is best achieved during these periods since these weather conditions aid in controlling lawn thatch.

If your soil is more on the sandy side that does not compact easily or if your lawn is well-maintained and growing, the aeration process does not need to be annual. Aerating once every 2-3 years will do. 

If you aerate your yard too often, it can harm your lawn and the delicate balance between dormancy and growth.

If you have clay soil or a high-traffic lawn that compacts quickly and is damp and sticky, I recommend aerating once a year. 

In addition, yard aeration is also suggested twice each year if you reside within hostile climates and/or are prone to very dry and cold winters.

The worst time to aerate is dry, scorching climates which can severely dry up the grass and cause unnecessary stress to your yard. 

Signs For Yard Aerating

Of course, you do not need to stick to strict timelines or certain weather conditions if you can see that your lawn does not look healthy. Thus, below are some common indications that your yard requires aerating. 

  • Excess thatch is most likely present if your yard quickly dehydrates and feels soft. Aeration is necessary if the thatch is more than 0.5 inches thick. If the layer is around 0.75 inches or more, it is best to hire a professional.  
  • Aeration might be necessary if your yard is prone to significant traffic such as pets running around or children playing. This is because regular tractions cause soil compaction. 
  • The turf was present in the production of your yard. Thus, soil layering is there. This is when a light sheet of garden compost is put over the surface of the bed to grow seeds. This extra layer interferes with the drainage system, resulting in compact and weak roots. Aeration will remove these layers, enabling water to pass more rapidly through the roots and soil. 
  • If your yard was installed as part of a newly built house, generally the topsoil of recently established yards is covered or scraped and the grass planted on subsoil is clogged as a result of construction traffic. If your lawn is newly established, it might require frequent aeration because its root structure might not be that developed. 
  • Compacted areas of lawns are generally dry. Adding fertilizer to these sections is a fantastic technique to understand if something is amiss. In case of compaction, the grass will acquire a bluish hue as the soil will be unable to effectively absorb the fertilizer. 
  • Upon compaction, your lawn can be prone to diseases. Fusarium, which typically occurs in fall and winter, red thread in the summer, and rust in the autumn are the most frequent lawn infections. You can also consult a specialist in this case if you think you might not be equipped for this. 

Basically, if your lawn is not growing in the manner it should be, despite your regular care and proper maintenance, for instance, sufficient watering, yard aeration could be the remaining critical task. 

How Often Should I Aerate My Lawn if I Edge It Regularly?

When it comes to edging your lawn techniques, it’s important to consider aerating regularly as well. For optimal lawn health, aerating once or twice a year is recommended, especially if you edge your lawn regularly. Aeration helps improve soil compaction and allows better air and water flow to the roots.

Final Thoughts

A healthy yard is an essential part of your house. Some of the best memories are made here so you should always take the necessary measures to look after your yard.

After reading this article, you should now have a clear idea as to what aerating your lawn does. You should also be able to undertake this process on your own.

You just need to ensure that the timing is right.  

Yet, even in the unfavorable seasons, you must poke holes in soil from time to time as the yard will show signs telling you your lawn is in dire need of it. Make sure you keep an eye out for these signs.

Basically, have patience, follow all the guidelines above, and be consistent with your efforts. Comply with these and you will be good to go. Wishing you and your yard the best of health!