When Should You Aerate Your Lawn in the Spring?

When Should You Aerate Your Lawn in the Spring

The key to a luscious lawn is ensuring that the plants receive sufficient nutrients to grow. To achieve this, you have to engage in basic lawn care practices, including watering, mowing, weeding, aeration, etc.

Aeration is one of the vital aspects of lawn maintenance. The process, which is also known as core aeration, improves the growth of the roots and generates a robust, more luscious garden.

What is Aeration?

Aeration is the process of perforating the soil with tiny holes to enable water, air, and other plant nutrients to permeate into the plant roots. Compacted soils embody excess solid particles that prohibit the proper circulation of air, water, and nutrients within the earth.

Residue lawn thatch and other thick organic waste concealed under the lawn soil are some of the solid particles that hinder these essential elements from penetrating the soil. The primary purpose for aerating your lawn is to relieve soil compaction, for a healthier lawn.

Here is a video I made showing you exactly how to core aerate your lawn (or a portion of it) manually.

Why Aerate Your Lawn?

I have already mentioned one of the primary reasons why you should aerate your lawn. Aerating your lawn removes solid particles from the soil and allows soil nutrients to penetrate the root of your grass.

Other reasons why you aerate your lawn include;

  • If you use your lawn as a playfield for children and pets, there is a considerable possibility of the soil becoming compacted and solid materials pressed into the ground during the running around. Aeration is needed for such a lawn to grow healthier.
  • Does your lawn dry out and absolves water easily. This could be as a result of an accumulation of excessive thatch. Using a shovel, remove a portion of lawn about four inches deep. If the thatch layer is larger than one-half inch, aeration is advised.
  • Aeration is crucial if imported sod soil of finer texture lays over existing coarse soil. Imported sod inhibits water drainage as water is held on the surface of the imported sod. Aerating your lawn at this stage will break up the layering of imported soil to enable soil nutrients to penetrate to the plant roots.
  • Aeration is also recommended in new homes for newly constructed lawns. During construction traffic, the topsoil of the lawn areas could be stripped and buried.
  • Aerating also assists in preserving your lawn against a lot of common compaction problems, including drainage issues, bare patches, weeds, dryness, fungal disease, etc.
FYI – If you have a lawn and don’t know how to make it look it’s best then take a look here for my free “Don’t Know Where To Start” series.

When to Aerate Your Lawn in Spring

Aeration is best done during the growing season. At this stage, once solid particles are expelled, the grass can rejuvenate and replenish any porous area.

One of such growth season is spring. However, you have to be conscious of the type of grass on your lawn. The cool-season grass such as fescue and ryegrass is ideal for aeration in the early spring, while the warm season grass such as soft-leaf buffalo, Couch, Kikuyu, and Zoysia, is ideal for late spring.

Following a comprehensive lawn care plan for Spring like the one I made can help get the timing right an lots of things like aeration.

I’ve also tried aerating a cool season lawn in February in an attempt to get the lawn out of winter dormancy early. It worked, but it was a lot of work and took a few extra steps that I documented in this video:

It is also recommended that aeration is done during the same period you are fertilizing or executing any other prominent lawn care maintenance, including dethatching and top dressing. Aeration after rainfall is quite ideal as it will make this process much simpler.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

Before you aerate your lawn, you should know that there are aerating tools you need: a plug aerator or a spike aerator. With a spike aerator, you can pry holes into the earth with a solid tine, or fork. A plug aerator extracts a core or plug of grass and soil from the lawn.

For the best results, use a plug aerating tool which extracts plugs of soil. Poking holes is less effective and may result in more compaction in the areas around the holes.

You should also note that aerating is different than power raking. See this video for an explanation:

Again, for a smaller lawn, you can aerate manually using aerating sandals (sandals fitted with spikes that can penetrate the lawn as you walk in them), or a sturdy garden fork. Just stick in the garden fork into the soil and twist it back and forth to crack the soil profile. Aim for a spacing between the holes of around 8 – 10cm.

Once you have your preferred aerating tool, you execute the following steps to aerate your lawn:

  • First off, ensure that the soil on the lawn is damp. Parched earth is quite a difficult task. Before you aerate, wait for rainfall or water your lawn first to achieve a moist soil. Watering the lawn will enable the aerator to infiltrate the soil and unearth soil cores quickly.
  • Using an aerator, dig into the affected soil as you pass over it, and remove little tubes of dirt that can be up to 3-inches long. After a single pass, you’ll be left with a lawn full of small holes. These holes will allow water, air, and nutrients to reach deep into the ground to promote turf root growth. If you wish, you can leave out unaffected areas.

Some aeration machines can only extend to only a small portion of soil per pass, to reach all affected areas, create multiple passes over the compacted areas. Don’t take more than one pass across each section of your lawn because too many holes can damage your lawn.

  • After that, you allow the exhumed soil plugs to dry and break up to give your lawn a uniform, tidy look. Break soil plugs up by running them over with a lawnmower or pounding them with the back of a rake. The discarded soil plugs will subsequently decompose to release nutrients back into the earth.
  • Lawn maintenance doesn’t end with aeration, soon after aerating, there’s a need for you to overseed, fertilize, and water your lawn. Do not wait too long, or the holes will fill up again, and the soil will dry out.

To distribute seed and fertilizer evenly across your lawn immediately after aerating, you’ll want to overseed, fertilize, and water your lawn. If you wait too long, the holes will fill up, and the soil will dry out. To disperse seed and fertilizer evenly across your lawn, you’ll need a spreader.

If you’ve recently applied a post-emergent herbicide, do not hesitate to aerate as aeration does not affect herbicides. Just don’t apply a pre-emergent herbicide and then aerate as this will cause interference.

How Often Should You Aerate Your Lawn?

Distinct soil samples need regular aeration. Clay soil builds up compacted soil quickly and requires aeration at least once a year if not twice. Aeration of a sandy lawn may happen annually, or bi-annually. In harsh weather, aerating twice a year is recommended for healthier turf growth.

Regular aeration is required for lawns with a heavy amount of human, pet, or vehicle traffic. These cause compaction easily, and frequent aeration will ensure that the earth doesn’t get too thick. The soil breathes in nutrients and generates grass.

Aeration is an essential lawn maintenance practice. If you must cultivate a lawn, you must aerate your lawn. Aerating your lawn in spring is determined by the type of grass on your turf. The cool-season grass is ideal for aeration in the early spring, while the warm season grass is ideal for late spring. After every aeration, your lawn will thank you for letting it breathe again.

If you’d like to use liquid aeration on the lawn then I believe that will help a lawn perform better if you choose to physically aerate less frequently.