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Did you know that autumn is aeration season?  If you are unfamiliar with this fundamental lawn care procedure, this article will help you understand the basics and the benefits of aeration.

What is aeration?

Ever walked across a yard that had little plugs of dirt all over it? No, those were not unsightly you-know-what’s.  It’s much more likely the yard had just been aerated.  Aeration is the process of perforating the lawn and pulling out 1 to 3 inch plugs of soil, leaving a hollow space below.

Why aerate?

Aeration has many benefits. First, it allows your yard to breathe!  The little holes allow air, water, and nutrients to percolate deep down, strengthening the roots of your lawn.  Aeration breaks up compacted soil and helps remove excess thatch, preventing the growth of weeds and fungi.  Aeration also optimizes the performance of other good lawn care practices, such as fertilizing and overseeding.

What are some signs it’s time to aerate?

  • When it rains, water sits on top of your lawn and doesn’t easily soak in.
  • Your lawn gets a lot of foot traffic and the soil is continually compacted down.
  • The lawn has a springy feel when you walk across it. 
  • You struggle, maybe even jumping up and down, to dig a shovel into the soil. 
  • You dig out a wedge of lawn and notice the thatch is more than half an inch thick. 

What time of year should I aerate, and how often?

Although you can aerate in the spring, many experts say that early fall is the ideal time of year.  However, you will want to make sure you aerate about four weeks before the first frost and before you blow out your sprinkler system.

How often you will need to aerate depends on your lawn’s unique needs.  If you have very compact soil and excess thatch you will likely need to aerate more frequently, on an annual basis.  If neither of these are concerns, you may not have to aerate for a few years.

How do I aerate my yard?

If you plan to aerate without hiring professionals, there are typically two types of aeration tools you can choose from: a spike aerator or a plug aerator.  The difference between these is that a spike aerator will drill holes into the ground using a tine or a fork while a plug aerator will actually pull out plugs of land.

In general, plug aeration is the recommended method of the two; spike aerators can actually lead to further compaction in areas around the holes.  You can rent one of these machines from most any home and garden store for about $70.00.  Consider going in with some neighbors to split the cost.

Some additional tips:

  • Water your lawn the day before aerating to make sure the soil is moist enough.
  •  Be sure to mark your sprinkler heads prior to aerating to prevent damage to the sprinkler system
  •  Focus extra effort on highly compacted soil areas.
  •  After aerating, allow the plugs to dry and then break them up with a lawn mower or pound them with a rake. 
  •  Finally, take advantage of the prime opportunity to fertilize after you aerate.
  • Continue good lawn care practices like watering and mowing following aeration.

The benefits of aeration, when done correctly, are well worth the effort.


However, if any of this sounds overly complicated or overwhelming, consider hiring professionals to aerate your lawn.  It’s easy to get in over your head with aeration if you have never done it before.  It can also be quite time consuming! Expect to spend about four hours per one acre of lawn.

The professionals at Detailed Landscaping are happy to assess your lawn to determine if aeration is necessary. If so, we can step in and take care of this service for you.  Nothing makes us more satisfied than helping you to have a healthy, happy, well-oxygenated lawn.  So get your lawn breathing again–give us a call and we’ll handle every “detail” for you.