The Ultimate DIY Guide to Aerating Your Lawn

You mow, trim, and edge your lawn regularly and you fertilize your grass and treat it for weeds. Maybe you’ve even installed your own sprinkler system to keep everything looking lush and green. If that sounds like you then there’s not much you haven’t already done to foster a healthy growing environment for your yard.

But there is one more thing that you can do to take your lawn to the next level; It’s time to give aeration a try.

What is aeration? You may have also heard it called “coring,” or “aerifying.” Those are real words by the way. We definitely didn’t just make them up. During this process, a core aerator removes small plugs of soil from the surface of your lawn or makes small holes in the soil. This loosens up compacted soil so that air, water, and nutrients can reach the roots of your lawn.

Here’s what you need to know about aerating your lawn, from the tools to use to the perfect time to water and aerate, and more.

The Optimal Time to Aerate

When should you aerate your lawn? If you’ve noticed that your turf is looking less-than-stellar, or it seems like water is having a hard time getting down into the soil, aerating is the way to go. Especially in clay soils (like our infamous Georgia red clay), it can be hard for water to penetrate the soil’s surface. Also, if your soil gets a lot of heavy foot traffic or vehicle traffic that can compact your soil, it can probably stand to be aerated. Although, if your soil is getting a lot of vehicle traffic, you might want to think about moving.

The best way to tell if it’s time to aerate is by using a shovel to dig out a square patch of grass about one foot across and six inches deep. If your lawn’s roots don’t extend further than two inches deep, your grass can benefit from aeration to get those roots going. Also, if your grass is thin and brown, aeration can help give you a green, thick carpet of turf.

An important note: If you have seeded or sodded your yard within the past year, you should hold off on aerating. The root system of your new grass is still growing and becoming established.  You don’t want to cut into this process with the piercing power of an aerator during this delicate time. Let your lawn develop a bit more, make some friends, start listening to music you don’t approve of, basically just grow up.  

So, what time of year is best to aerate your lawn? The best time is when your grass is in the peak of its growing season, which can help your grass recover faster. Early spring and fall are the perfect times to give your yard a little extra TLC. But don’t go chasing waterfalls, with high-traffic areas and clay soils, you’ll want to aerate your turf every year.

Steps to Take Before You Begin

There are a few things you can do before aerating your lawn to ensure that the process is successful and stress-free. How can you prepare your grass for aeration?

  • Water your lawn: 1-2 days before you aerate, water your lawn well—with at least an inch of water—to soften the soil and protect your grass
  • Flag sprinkler heads, stumps, and more: Before you begin, make sure you’ve identified any sprinklers, stumps, or power or cable lines that sit just below the grass.

It’s also a good idea to walk your yard and remove any twigs, stones, or other debris just like you would before you mow your lawn. Maybe sit down for a minute and have a little chat with it. We won’t judge you. Then you’ll have a fresh palette for aerating and a clear idea of what’s going on in your yard.

A Method to the Madness

If you’ve never used a lawn aerator before, they’re fairly easy to operate once you get the hang of it. As you aerate your lawn, you’ll run the aerator over the lawn in a pattern that avoids repeating areas. However, if you’ve never aerated your lawn, or it’s been a while, your soil may be extremely compacted. If this is the case, you can go over your entire yard twice.

As you pass over each section of your yard, the aerator will pull soil cores up out of the earth. While you can rake these up and compost them, you don’t have to. These soil plugs will break down over the course of a week or so, and they will feed nutrients back into the soil.

Once you’ve finished aerating your lawn, you can take the next steps.

After aerating your grass, you can spread fertilizer and even use this time as an opportunity to overseed your lawn. This should be done within 48 hours of aerating. If you plan on fertilizing and overseeding your lawn, be sure that your fertilizer doesn’t include a weed killer or a pre-emergent, or your seeds won’t germinate. 

The Tools You’ll Need

First and foremost, aerating your lawn is the perfect time to dethatch it as well. Not all lawns need dethatching, but if you do, you can make fast work of it by renting a lawn comber and dethatcher and using it before you aerate.

You can choose an aerator based on the size of your yard. If you have a riding tractor or mower you can rent this towable lawn aerator that collects soil plugs as it aerates. For other large yards, you may enjoy the ease of this stand-on aerator, which covers 30 inches of your yard at a time, without having to push an aerator.

If your lawn is small, you may find that this 28-inch lawn aerator or this 18-inch aerator will work just fine. While the 28-inch lawn aerator may not fit in vehicles smaller than a truck or trailer, the 18-inch model is more portable for easy transportation.

If you’re planning to fertilize or overseed following aeration, you can rent a broadcast spreader or a hand-type spreader to make this process a quick and easy one. 

At Northside Tool Rental, we have all the equipment you need to get your lawn in top shape for fall, and we have all the answers on how to use these tools properly for maximum impact. With 4 locations throughout the greater Atlanta area, we’re right in your backyard (figuratively that is, otherwise it would actually be really tough to do any sort of yard work). Northside Tool Rental is a convenient way to care for your lawn without investing in expensive tools that only get used once a year. Want to learn more? Contact us today!