Lawn Aeration Tips

Lawn Aeration Tips

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Lawn Aeration TipsYou probably already know that to maintain a beautiful looking lawn and keep it in prime condition throughout the season you have to stick to a regular lawn maintenance routine consisting of regular mowing, fertilising, scarifying and watering.

They are all very important but there’s also something else you should be doing that you might not have known about… AERATION.

Lawn aeration is punching holes into the soil/lawn to allow air, water and nutrients to get deep into the grass roots. Even though this may sound like you’re doing damage, it’s actually very beneficial for your lawn and can have some really great effects. It helps the roots grow longer and deeper which produce a strong and more vigorous lawn with higher density.

Below I’ll help you understand exactly why we aerate, when to carry it out and the tools you need to do the job properly. So if you have your lawn’s best interest at heart then you should keep on reading.

Why We Aerate

The main reason we aerate is to prevent and treat soil compaction: when the soil has too many solid particles stored within a certain volume or space. This causes lawn issues like: increase in the amount of thatch found on the lawn; poor drainage; poor root development and the prevention of air and nutrients reaching the soil.

Aeration also helps with the gaseous exchange in the soil, i.e. when the roots take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. If the soil is not able to breathe properly then this carbon dioxide will just build up which can restrict root growth and can completely cut off the intake of nutrients and water. This restriction in water access is most likely to result in brown or bare patches, not a very pretty sight that will encourage weeds to grow, and is made even worse during warm and dry temperatures.

By thoroughly aerating your lawn, especially in areas in need of repair, you can avoid all of these problems and accelerate growth of healthy grass roots. If you would like to learn more about the best type of lawn aerators click the link below –

Best Type of Lawn Aerators

When to Aerate

Lawn Aeration TipsYou want to carry out aeration when the soil is moist, not too wet or too dry, and just before you plan on fertilising and topdressing. When the soil is wet the sides of each hole can seal up quickly, rendering the whole activity pointless as no air, water or nutrients can reach the roots, and when it’s too dry the holes will just crack open.

The exact times of the year when you choose to aerate really depends on the type of soil you have and your situation. For example, Cool Season grasses are better aerated during the early spring or autumn and Warm Season grasses are better aerated during late spring. But that is mainly for lawns in the US that usually only need aerated once every year, for us in the UK it’s a little bit different. Because of the wetter weather we may actually have to do it on a more regular basis, which is pretty much whenever we notice a problem with our lawn e.g. water-logging.

From March to November

If you choose to aerate during these times it’s best using solid tines or spikes with either a fork, a rolling lawn aerator, powered aerators or lawn aerator sandals. Again make sure you aren’t aerating when the soil is very wet, or during frost, as you could not only get stuck especially if you are using the sandals, but it is damaging to your grass.

During the drier months and when you’re about to seed, fertilise or water, you can use a sarel roller for shallow spiking. Deep aeration is not as important at this time, but your soil still needs nutrients, air and water so this will still prove beneficial.

During Spring & Autumn

Here you can add chisel tinning to the spiking if you have the correct equipment, powered aerator or a ride on mower with an attachment for example. This kind of tine is most effective during times of seriously dry, hard and compacted soil as any other type would be difficult, or near impossible, to use.

If you want to make use of a slitter then spring or autumn are ideal (preferably late autumn, October or November), as the pruning effect of these tines works well for root development. Just watch out for when it gets colder & warmer as the slits can open quite badly during these times.

During Autumn

Powered Lawn AeratorsThis is the time when a hollow tine aerator can be used, out of all your tine options this is the most invasive and should only be done when the soil can fully recover, i.e. during autumn. Just make sure you try to carry this out during August to mid-October as the soil will be getting wetter and not dryer. Just watch out for freezing temperatures after hollow tinning as this can cause the lawn to heave up.

During the wet autumn and winter months (not freezing) it is still important to carry out a regular aeration to prevent surface problems and disease. This is when water is prevented from percolating, so it’ll remain on the surface restricting gaseous exchange and lead to moss or the build-up of fibrous growth.

If steps are not taken to relieve the compaction, less air, moisture and nutrients are available to the grasses, which creates ideal conditions for lawn diseases to thrive. You don’t need to use hollow tines to alleviate this, solid or chisel tines will do just fine.

How to Aerate Properly

Now this may slightly differ depending on the type of equipment you use, but on the whole it’s pretty much the same for everyone. The perimeter of your lawn should be done first, so you don’t aerate over your turning area. Then move onto the bulk of the lawn, going back and forward in straight lines and at right angles.

Most aeration machines cover a small percentage of soil surface, so if you’re using one then you’ll want to make multiple passes over the most compacted areas. You can also save your energy and resources by forgetting the unaffected healthy areas, especially if you have already aerated these areas earlier in the year. Alternatively to make the task easier with less effort, you can use a powered petrol or electric aerator. They will get the job done quickly and efficiently.

As I’ve said before you want the soil to be moist, not too wet or dry, when you aerate otherwise you won’t be able to create holes very effectively. Ideally you want the grass to be cut quite short so mow the lawn the day before and be sure to clear it of any debris.

Afterwards it’s best to fertilise, water, seed and even apply a topdressing to give the roots some much needed nutrients to help repair any damaged areas.

What About the Plugs Left Behind By the Hollow Tine Aeration

If you decide to use a hollow tined aerator then you’ll notice these little plugs of soil left lying on the grass after aerating. Now there are a couple of ways you can deal with these:

  1. Leave them there to dry out and then go over them with a lawn mower, scarifying machine or rake to break them up. This redistributes the soil from the plugs back into the lawn meaning all nutrients are recycled. This also stimulates bacteria activity and thatch decay. You can use a lawn mower with a collection bag (to pick them up) or a mulching mower (for redistribution).
  2. Rake or sweep them up straight away using a rake or stiff brush and then smash them into pieces. You can then use them as a topdressing for the lawn or put them in your compost bin.

Now you will probably hear people telling you to just leave the plugs where they are, I don’t recommend this.

For one, this could add to the thatch on your lawn, which prevents air, water and nutrients from getting into the soil, and second, if you’re continually walking over them they’ll start to form little bumps.

Both of these aren’t great for the overall look and growth of your grass so it’s best to remove the plugs.

Types of Tines

Spike / Solid Tines

This is the most suitable and common type of aeration in the UK as it works best in dry, hard and severely compacted areas. Spike tines can be used at any time of the year, in particularly during the summer as they will punch shallow holes in your dry soil to allow water penetration. As no soil is removed from the ground, the holes will close up relatively quickly. After using a spike tine aerator several times an alternative tine is often more beneficial. Used regularly, this will avoid the recurrence of soil compaction.

Whether or not you should use this type of aerator really depends on the size of your lawn. For those with small gardens you could quite happily go round with a garden fork, but for those with a lawns around 500m² then you’re probably better using a rolling lawn aerator or lawn aeration shoes, as going round with a fork could take you a couple of days. To save yourself valuable time and effort you can either purchase or rent one. I think it is worth investing in your own aerator as this task should be part of your regular lawn maintenance schedule.

Of course there are tools for those somewhere in between, it really is just up to your preference, how much you want to work and how much you’re willing to pay.

Best Selling Lawn Shoes and Rolling Aerators

Last update on 2022-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2022-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Chisel / Slit Tines

This tends to be the first choice for general use, since there’s less compaction with the holes it produces. Their holes have a much larger wall area than that produced by the solid tine, and they allow for a greater intake of air and moisture. There’s also a certain amount of root pruning that takes place, encouraging new growth along the side and into the depth of the hole.

These tines are much more useful during times of heavy rainfall as their holes can cope better with the large volume of water. Also, if used before fertilising they can ensure that all of the nutrients can reach the lower depths of the soil, therefore improving their effectiveness and efficiency.

As with spike tine aeration, slit tine aeration also doesn’t produce any cores after the process.

It is worth noting that chisel tine aeration should be avoided when the forecast is for a long dry period as the slits will encourage the lawn to crack.

Best Selling Powered Lawn Aerators

Last update on 2022-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Hollow Tines

These hollow tine aerators remove plugs of soil and grass from the lawn usually about 5cm to 7cm long. As soil is actually removed from the ground, the holes will stay open for a longer period of time allowing air, fertiliser and water to reach the roots. As this is the most invasive and stressing form of tine, it is the most effective method and best used in times of severe soil compaction. Because of this it should not be used on a regular basis, once of twice throughout the year is enough (once in the beginning of spring and once in autumn for example). Otherwise you could be putting your lawn through too much stress.

Hollow tines are also used prior to overseeding and topdressing as it makes it easier for the seed and the topdressing to penetrate into the soil.

If you choose hollow tine aeration over the other methods, then you have to use them during the correct conditions. If it’s too dry and hard, then it’ll be unlikely for you to tine properly as the holes could crack. If it is too wet, you might not be able to remove the core and if hollow tines become completely filled and tightly packed with soil, it pretty much turns into a solid tine just with a bigger diameter.

In summary, as I said above, it is important to aerate in moist conditions.

Best Selling Hollow Tine Aerators

Last update on 2022-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I hope you found this article useful and now with your newly acquired knowledge you will be able to enjoy your lush, healthy and happy lawn.

Remember, aerating is very important for your lawn, but it should be part of your regular lawn maintenance schedule. This is something that changes depending on the seasons, so to help you out below I have included my articles covering them all.

Summer Lawn Care Schedule

Winter Lawn Care Maintenance

Autumn Lawn Care


4 thoughts on “Lawn Aeration Tips

  1. Mark,
    This is a great reminder for me to get the aeration done this spring. I have a pull behind tine aerator. It works well to use a couple of weeks before adding spring fertilizer. I use my aerator on the second or third mowing of the spring season, is this a good time or should I wait until later. I live in the Midwest of the US.

    1. Yeah seeing as you live in the US you will be totally fine aerating in the spring. It’s just us here in the UK that should consider doing it more often, because of the wet weather. Allow if you seem to be having a little more rain than usual then maybe try aerating again in the damaged areas using solid or chisel tines.

      Thanks for the comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and if you have any more questions then just let me know :-)

  2. Great information on lawn aeration. I had never really thought much about this, and in all the years I have owned a home and taken care of my yard, I have never aerated the lawn. I love a nice yard, and just purchased a new home in Florida. The yard is definitely not up to my standards. So should I start with the aerating to see if that helps? It looks dry and suffocated (for lack of a better description.)

    1. Contrats on the new home! I hope it’s all you’re looking for.

      No I wouldn’t aerate yet seeing as it’s looking dry, instead just wait until the lawn is moist again. You don’t want the holes to crack open so for now just focus on mowing, watering and fertilising.

      Thanks for the comment and if you have anymore questions then just let me know :-)

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