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Lawn Aeration

How to Aerate a Lawn with a Core Aerator

Lawn aeration improves growing conditions resulting in a healthy, vigorous lawn. It is the best way to cultivate and improve the soil without harming your lawn.

I highly recommend aerating at least once a year, besides mowing, watering and fertilizing, it is the best thing you can do for your lawn.

The best time for this chore is when your grass is actively growing.

This is in the fall or early spring for cool-season grasses, however fall is the preferred time to core aerate if you do only once.

Early summer is when warm season grasses start to grow and is the best time to aerate southern lawns.

What is Lawn Aeration?

Supplying the soil with air or exposing to the circulation of air. Healthy soils need to "breathe". The process of aerating a lawn is accomplished by removing small soil plugs (or cores) with a machine. Coring improves the soil (or cultivates the soil) without destroying your yard.

Lawn aeration with a core aerator

How Aerating Improves Lawns

  • Reduces soil compaction
  • Breaks down thatch
  • Helps air, water and nutrients get into the root zone
  • Increases/stimulates grass root growth
  • Opens up the soil so amendments can be added

Tip: aerating before overseeding will yield great results. The grass seeds find their way into the holes where they find very favorable conditions and germinate quickly. The seeds are protected, stay moist and make good contact with the soil. In a week, you will see grass seedlings growing in all the holes!

QUESTION: Why is coring - or removing plugs - better than spiking? The holes made by spikes close up quickly while the holes from coring a last long time.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

  • You can rent a lawn aerator at most equipment rental shops.
  • Water your lawn the night before to ensure good soil moisture. You will want the soil to be moist not wet!
lawn aeration marking sprinkler head

Mark Sprinkler Heads

  • Mark all irrigation heads, valve boxes (and anything else that you don't want to poke holes in) with flags.
Core Aerator

Core Aerator

  • Try to run the aerator over your lawn in at least three directions. Poke a lot of holes for best results.
Lawn aeration with core aerator

Pull lots of plugs to get the most benefit

  • Now's the perfect time to overseed and compost topdress.
  • The plugs will disappear in a couple weeks. Leave them on your lawn, the soil that you bring to the surface will help break down thatch.
Plugs left by core aerator

The cores will be gone in a couple weeks

  • If you aerate in the spring and you plan on using a preemergent crabgrass preventer -- aerate before you apply your preemergence or you will reduce its effectiveness. Remember, crabgrass preventer also works on grass seed - don't use it if you overseed!

Video: Benefits of Core Cultivation

More Essential Lawn Care Practices:

  • Best Lawn Fertilizer

    How to choose the best lawn fertilizer. What do the numbers on the bag mean? Are organic fertilizers more eco-friendly than chemical? Consider costs and nutrient needs. Are they pet safe?

  • Lawn Fertilizer Calculator

    Use this fertilizer calculator to determine the amount of a granular fertilizer product that is needed to spread on your lawn according to recommended rates.

  • Overseeding lawns to repair and maintain a thick, healthy lawn

    Benefits of overseeding lawns in the fall. Lawn repair after summer stress, keeps them healthy, thick and weed free. Helpful DIY lawn care tips and advice for planting and growing grass.

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