How to aerate lawn

Your lawn can be a fun and exciting place.

Birthday parties, play time with the dog and various “friendly” sports with friends that may or may not show how unfit you are.

But this constant traffic, along with other things like rainfall or snowfall, adds weight onto the lawn and causes the soil to be compacted which causes the grass to be starved, dehydrated and turned brown.

And this is where aeration comes in.

What is aeration

Aeration is a method used to combat soil compaction. This is done a few ways which allows for water and valuable nutrients to reach grass roots. There are three (3) types of aeration to consider

Core aeration

This is the most popular form of aeration and for good reason, it works superb. Hollow tines are injected into the ground leaving behind a hole usually around 2 inches deep and small plugs or cores on the floor.

Spike aeration

Spike aeration is less stressful on lawns as it uses spiked tines to spread the ground instead of removing soil. This method shouldn’t be used on soil that is densely compacted.

Liquid aeration

This uses a solution that when applied to the lawn allows water to penetrate the soil. It’s a simple application with a complicated concept which I don’t have the qualifications to explain. Something about ammonium lauryl sulphate.

When to aerate

The short answer is to aerate your lawn during the growing months.

What are growing months you might ask?

These are the months that are within a goldilocks temperature, which is not too hot or not too cold. During these months everything is just right for the grass to grow.

The slightly longer answer is to take the type of grass you have or plan to plant into consideration by checking if it’s warm season grass or a cool season grass. Different types of grass can be more stressed depending on the temperature causing a slower growth rate.

Warm season grass (spring)

If it is a warm season grass like Bermuda grass, Centipede grass or St. Augustine grass, then spring is the best time to aerate and more specifically late spring into summer.

Cool season grass (Autumn/Fall)

It is best to aerate your Bluegrass, Fescue or ryegrass in early fall to get the best transition of the warm soil from summer and the cool temperatures as winter approaches.

It’s time to aerate

Aeration can be seen as three (3) main simple steps, the prep, the process and the finishing touches.

Before you aerate

Although aeration is a relatively simple do it yourself activity there are some things to consider that go beyond just poking holes in the ground. 

Evaluate your needs

Consider the type of aeration the task will require, core, spike or liquid aeration.

Mow low

Mow your lawn as low as you could. Here’s our post Lawn Mowing Tips & Tricks that will teach you all you need to know about mowing.

Wet the soil

Before beginning to aerate ensure the soil is moist not damp. A few minutes of watering or after slight to moderate rain should do the trick. This should be done a day or two in advance.


Once you have prepared the lawn, aeration is pretty straightforward. Whatever tool or equipment you have at your disposal to ensure you get as many holes as you can per surface area.

Making a couple passes over the lawn is a good idea. Try doing the second pass perpendicular to the first, so if you went north to south first then go east to west second. Doing it that way gives me a rhythm and makes the process feel a little less mundane.

After you aerate

Technically you are all set to go and everything that you do after is an added bonus. So for extra credit here’s what to do next

Leave or remove plugs?

plugs created from core aeration

For those who have used a core aerator there will be lots of plugs left on the surface after and the decision on what to do with them. Some people say leave them and I say remove them. There is a case to be made for either choice.

Leaving the plugs allows any nutrients that were dug up to find its way back into the soil to help nourish the lawn.

Now here’s the counter argument to that and why I think they should be removed.

Some grasses are very sensitive and leaving these plugs on the surface as the grass begins to grow will leave tiny yellow patches on your lawn. And also, any nutrients that might’ve been lost you could simply add back with some sort of lawn food.

The way I look at it,

If you just care about a healthy lawn, save the energy and leave the plugs.

If you want a healthy lawn and a green luscious look then pick them up.

Top dress

After removing plugs is the best time to top dress your lawn. Top dressing is the process of applying a thin layer of material over your lawn. This material is usually compost or sand

Some benefits of top dressing is to improve soil quality by adding nutrients to it, helps level out your lawn and helps germinate grass seeds just to name a few benefits.

Be careful top dressing because adding too much material over the lawn can end up suffocating it. A 1 inch of material should be good, with unlevelled parts of the lawn requiring a bit more.


This is adding new grass seed to your lawn to enrich it, giving it a thicker and more luscious look and feel. Doing this after top dressing will give you absolutely amazing results. Check out our article Quick & Easy Guide to Overseeding Your Lawn for more on overseeding.

Lets recap

Aeration is a key process in keeping or creating a strong healthy lawn. It’s a pretty easy task that can be accomplished by any beginner do it yourselfer. 

So follow the guide and be on your way to having the yard you want.