When & How To Aerate Bermuda Grass

Bermuda is a warm-season grass, which means it starts to green up in the spring, flourishes during the summer, and goes dormant during the fall and winter. If you have a Bermuda grass lawn, it is essential to know the best time to aerate it to keep it healthy and beautiful.

The best time to aerate Bermuda grass is in late spring or early summer, specifically between April and July. If your lawn is clay-ridden, aerate it twice a year (once in the spring and once in the fall). Avoid aerating your yard during the dormant season, as you may harm the grass and even encourage a weed invasion.

Below is a detailed guide on why you should aerate your Bermuda grass lawn and the best time to do it.

Aerating bermuda grass with a folk close up

What is the best time to aerate Bermuda grass?

Like many other warm-season grasses such as Zoysia, St. Augustine, and Bahia, Bermuda grass exhibits its strongest growth period in the summer after exiting its dormancy period. For this reason, it is recommended to aerate in late spring or early summer to decompact the soil and allow the lawn to bounce back and flourish in the peak season.

Aerating during this period prevents weeds from growing, and the porous soil allows enough water, air, and nutrients to penetrate the soil and promote a healthier lawn.

However, the best time to aerate your lawn may vary depending on factors such as your location, grass type, and soil type, among others.

Here are some tips to guide you as you plan to aerate your Bermuda grass lawn.

  1. Aerate your lawn in April and July for optimal results.
  2. Wait for the grass to regrow and mow at least once before aerating.
  3. If your lawn has clay soil, like most areas in Texas, aerate it in the spring and fall (September/October) to allow it to breathe more easily.
  4. Perform fall aeration in October.

Reasons your Bermuda grass lawn needs aeration

Your lawn may need aeration if:

  1. It gets heavy foot traffic, which contributes to soil compaction.
  2. The thatch is taller than ½” (a half inch). Excessive thatch prevents the soil from getting enough air, water, and nutrients and causes it to dry up.
  3. You established your lawn through sodding. Sodding incorporates soil layering that can disrupt the soil’s drainage, leading to soil compaction.

Aeration loosens the soil and allows moisture and air to penetrate, promoting proper root growth and development.

How to aerate Bermuda grass

Lawn aeration is not a complex process, but it is best done by professionals if you are not confident in your lawn care skills. Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a professional, here is a simple guide to help you understand the process.

1. Prep your lawn

Mow the lawn before aeration to give the aerator better access to the soil. This also prevents damage to the equipment.

Clear your lawn and flag obstacles like sprinkler heads and cables to avoid damaging them.

If the ground is dry, slightly water it, but do not make it soaking wet. Moist soil makes the aeration process faster and easier. If it has rained in the days following the aeration, you may not need to water the lawn, depending on how moist it is.

2. Aerate your lawn

Rent lawn aerating equipment from your local supply or home improvement store. Aeration is done once or twice a year, depending on your grass and soil type. Therefore, it would be more economical to rent the equipment than to buy it.

It is recommended to use a plug aerator instead of a spike aerator. This is because a plug aerator pokes holes and removes soil plugs from the lawn, making it more effective at alleviating soil compaction.

Start aerating the lawn by poking holes into the soil. Make several passes to ensure you aerate the entire yard. To make your work easier, use a criss-cross pattern: an east-west pattern followed by a north-south pattern. The soil cores should be two to three inches deep.

3. Complete the aeration

After aeration, do not remove the soil plugs from the surface. The plugs will break down on their own and deposit beneficial nutrients into the soil. If your lawn has low spots, instead of buying topsoil, you can transport the plugs into that area to raise it.

Fertilize and water the lawn for at least two to three days a week to strengthen and add nourishment to the grassroots.

Overseeding your lawn will make it thicker, lusher, and healthier. Depending on your preference, you can overseed the lawn with Bermuda hybrids or other grass types of your choice.

How to test whether your lawn is ready for aeration

Here is a test you can perform to determine whether your Bermuda grass lawn needs aeration.

  1. First, check if your soil is moist, not wet.
  2. Push a screwdriver into the ground. If it easily sinks 2-4 inches, your lawn may not need aeration.
  3. You may need to aerate if you struggle to push the screwdriver into the soil.
  4. Test multiple areas, as soil compaction may not be even throughout your lawn.
  5. If your yard feels spongy, there may be thatch build-up. Consider dethatching the lawn before aerating it.

When should you avoid aerating Bermuda grass?

While aerating your lawn helps improve its long-term health, there are times when aeration may be more harmful than beneficial. Below are instances when you should avoid aerating your lawn.

  1. Your Bermuda lawn is dormant or brown. Aerating a dormant lawn creates opportunities for weed growth.
  2. The season is not right (e.g., peak summer or winter).
  3. You are experiencing drought conditions. Aerating during these conditions causes the soil to dry out, further harming the lawn.
  4. You have recently established your lawn. Experts recommend waiting for at least two years before aerating a newly installed lawn.
  5. You have applied pre-emergent herbicide in the last six weeks.

If you’re unsure when to aerate your Bermuda lawn, consult a dethatching expert near you.

Benefits of aerating Bermuda grass lawn

Aerating your Bermuda lawn benefits the grass in several ways. These include:

  1. Improves grass health. Aeration promotes deeper and more extensive root systems due to increased airflow, water, and nutrients. The turf grows healthier and denser.
  2. Reduces thatch. Lawn aeration helps reduce thatch problems as it opens up the soil and releases microbes that can decompose the layer of dead grass.
  3. Relieves soil compaction. When you aerate your lawn, the compacted soil loosens, allowing air and nutrients to enter more easily.
  4. Helps modify the soil’s pH. Core aeration, followed by sulfur or lime application deep into the soil’s profile, boosts the soil’s pH.
  5. Helps reduce erosion and surface runoff. If you always end up with water puddles after aerating your lawn, aerating it can improve drainage and maximize absorption.

Should I overseed my Bermuda grass lawn after aeration?

Absolutely. It is important to overseed your lawn, especially if it has thinning grass or patchy spots. Overseeding your yard after aeration increases the chances of the grass seeds penetrating the soil through the created holes. It is recommended to overseed your lawn immediately after aeration—within 48 hours at the very least.

Can I aerate my Bermuda grass lawn in the fall?

Since Bermuda is a warm-season grass, it is not advisable to aerate your lawn in the fall. Bermuda goes dormant from late fall through winter, so aerating during this period will not benefit your lawn at all. Instead, it will only harm it by encouraging weeds to grow.

Bermuda grass should be aerated in the spring when its vigorous growth is about to start. However, aerating in early spring is also not recommended because the grass has tender shoots, and aerating it at this time will stress it. With Bermuda grass, aerating in late spring or early summer is key to a healthier and lusher lawn.

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