Aeration DIY: How To Prepare Your Lawn For Fall
Ever wonder why the grass on your favorite golf course is so green? Professional care aside, the secret to lush, green grass is aeration. However, aeration doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the role it plays in nourishing your lawn!
Ideally, your lawn should be professionally aerated in early spring or fall, during your grass’ growing season. (For cool-season grasses, like we have in the Carolinas, aerating in the fall is best. Warm-season grasses, on the other hand, should be aerated in late spring.)
However, while we know the value of professional lawn care, we also understand there are some things you’d rather do on your own! So, to help make sure your lawn stays healthy all year long, we created this DIY aeration guide. Below, you’ll learn what aeration is and how to do it, as well as the benefits of overseeding your lawn after aerating.
For those of you who don’t know, aeration is the simple process of plucking or poking small holes in the soil to allow air, water and nutrients to reach the roots. Aeration alleviates soil compaction, which creates a better growing environment for your grass. By poking or plucking holes into the grass, you allow the roots to grow deeply, producing a stronger, more resilient lawn.
The difference between a spike and plug aerator
We refer to aeration as ‘poking or plucking’ because depending on the tool you use, a spike aerator or a plug aerator, you perform one of those two actions. The difference, you might ask? A plug aerator removes a small plug of grass and soil from the lawn, leaving behind a small hole, whereas a spike aerator simply pokes holes into the ground using a tine or fork.
Pro Tip: ‘Poking’ holes can be less effective and potentially cause additional compaction in the areas around the holes. For the best results, use an aerating tool or machine that removes plugs of soil.
Lawns that need to be aerated
While we recommend that everyone aerate their lawn once a year, your lawn is a good candidate for aeration if:
While these types of lawns should be aerated, aeration is not strictly limited to dry lawns with high activity. Every lawn can benefit from aeration! If you find that your lawn needs to be aerated this fall, take a look at the steps below.
- It gets heavy use, such as frequent activity from children or pets.
- Your lawn dries out easily or feels spongy. This could be a sign of excess lawn thatch.
- It was established by sod and has soil layering. This occurs when finer soil is layered on top of the existing thicker soil. This prevents proper drainage and keeps water from reaching the grass roots.
- Your home is a new construction. Typically the lawns of newly constructed homes are stripped or buried, which may cause soil compaction.
6 Steps To Aerating Your Lawn
The best time for aeration is during the growing season when the grass can heal and fill in any open areas after soil plugs are removed. Here in Charlotte where cool season grasses grow, we recommend aerating in the early spring or fall.
Step 1: Mow The Grass
Before you get started, you should mow the lawn as short as possible and kill off any weeds. Also, be sure to mark any irrigation heads or invisible fences with flags to prevent damage.
Step 2: Water The Soil
You’ll want your soil to be moist. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to aerate dry soil! Consider watering your lawn the day before you plan to aerate, or waiting a day after a rain shower to start plucking.
Step 3: Select Your Tool
When you’re searching for your tools, look for one that removes soil plugs two to three inches deep and 0.5 to 0.75 inches wide for the best results. You can rent tools from your local lawn and garden shop or any home improvement store. Consider sharing the rental cost with your neighbors to get the most bang for your buck.
Step 4: Aerate Your Lawn
Most aeration machines only cover small patches of soil surface at a time, so you might have to make multiple passes over densely compact areas.
Step 5: Break Up Remaining Soil Plugs
For aesthetics, allow the soil plugs (that have been plucked out of the ground) to dry and break up to give your lawn a uniform, clean appearance. You can break them up by running them over with a lawn mower or pounding them with the back of a rake.
Step 6: Resume Regular Lawn Care
After aerating, continue basic lawn care practices such as proper fertilizing, mowing and watering.
An optional next step, which is best completed by a lawn care professional, is overseeding. Overseeding is the distribution and planting of grass seed to fill in bare areas of turf. Here at Killingsworth, we use a tri-blend of tall fescues to fill in stressed out areas of grass and improve the overall appearance of Charlotte-area lawns.
Summertime can be harsh on lawns, which is why aeration is so important. Similarly, overseeding allows new grass seed to grow and thicken up your lawn while choking out weeds. Introducing new grass types to your lawn through overseeding also helps protect your lawn against disease and insect damage.
Aeration and Overseeding: When DIY Isn’t Enough
While it’s possible to aerate and overseed your yard on your own, both you and your lawn stand to benefit from professional care.
At Killingsworth, we understand just how badly our lawns need to be aerated—especially here in the Carolinas. With summer temperatures frequently reaching the high 90s paired with increased lawn activity, your yard needs to breathe! Aeration allows your lawn to receive the nutrients it so desperately needs. That, accompanied with overseeding, prepares your lawn to grow and regain its health throughout the fall.
While we offer custom lawn care packages, our 12 month Premium Lawn Care Package covers all of the care your lawn needs throughout the year—including aeration and overseeding. Schedule a lawn service with us today!
Content was originally written on September 23, 2017. Content was refreshed on August 19, 2019.