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Lawn Aeration

What Is Lawn Aeration and How Is It Done?

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Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 06/07/2024

If your lawn looks brown or yellow, its soil feels dry and spongy, and your grass is puddling after it rains, you may need to aerate. Lawn aeration is the process of perforating your lawn with many holes to break up the soil and let it breathe, allowing water, air, and nutrients to seep in.

You can aerate on your own by renting equipment or can hire a lawn care company to take care of it for you. In this lawn aeration guide, we’ll break down how to aerate your lawn, mention how often this maintenance is needed, and list the top lawn care companies that provide aeration services.

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Lime Soil Amendment

To ensure the soil has access to nutrients, soil amendment services can help balance its pH.

Weed Control

Find a specialized lawn care plan to help control weeds

Lawn Fertilization

See a deeper green grass coloring and increased growth within 7 to 10 days


What Is Compacted Soil?

When your soil becomes compacted, it’s time to aerate. Dense and tightly packed, compacted soil inhibits root growth by cutting off access to nutrients. Soil compaction also encourages a lawn’s weed growth and makes them more vulnerable to drought. Here are some factors that might increase the likelihood of soil compaction:

  • High clay content: Clay soils are more likely to become compacted than sandy soils because they’re heavier.
  • New construction: If your lawn was established as part of a new home, its topsoil may be buried. Construction workers may have also stepped on and compacted the subsoil.
  • Foot traffic: Lawns that get a lot of foot traffic may become compacted.
  • Sod and soil layering: If you have a sod lawn, you may have soil layering—meaning the sod’s fine soil was placed on top of coarse soil when it was installed. These inconsistent layers can reduce drainage, causing compaction and making it difficult for root systems to grow.

When Should You Aerate Your Lawn?

How often you aerate depends on the conditions of your lawn. If you have sandy soil, you probably don’t need to aerate more than every two to three years. But if you have heavy clay soil, your lawn could benefit from aeration every year—or even twice a year, if it gets heavy foot traffic.

The time of year you aerate depends on your grass type. Lawn aeration is most effective during the growing season of your grass, allowing it to heal more quickly. You should aerate cool-season grasses like fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass in early fall or early spring. Warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass should be aerated in late spring or early summer at the latest.


Should You Dethatch Before Lawn Aeration?

Before you start the process of lawn aeration, you’ll need to dethatch. Thatch is a layer of decomposing organic matter that sits between the grass and soil. If it builds up to a layer that’s greater than 1/2 inch, it can block your grass roots from absorbing water, air, and nutrients—just like compaction.

Dethatching is an easy process. You can use a regular rake or dethatching rake to break up and remove the thatch layer. Once you’ve removed this barrier and have a smooth surface, you can start aerating.

Tools to use

If you decide to aerate the lawn yourself, you’ve got several options for tools, ranging from spiky shoes to sophisticated machinery. Your choices of aeration equipment include these:

Garden Fork

A savvy DIYer might kick things off with a simple garden fork, puncturing the soil in 3-4 inch intervals. This can be a time-consuming approach, but it’s budget-friendly. If you have a large lawn, this can get tiring quickly.

Aerator Shoes

Lawn aerator “shoes” have spikes on the bottom. You strap these spiky sandals to your regular shoes and walk around your lawn, poking holes as you go. Average aerator shoes range from $10 to $25.

Core Aerator

Also called plug aerators, core aerators cut little holes and remove “cores” or plugs of dirt from your soil through hollow tines. These plugs are usually about 2-3 inches deep, but it depends on the machine. The plugs should be removed about every 3 inches.

After removing the soil plugs from your soil, you can break them up with a rake or garden fork and leave them to decompose, adding nutrients back into the soil to promote grass growth.

Spike Aerator

Spike aerators simply puncture holes in the soil with solid tines—the same principle as aerating shoes. These aerators help a little, but they can be counterproductive. If the soil around these holes get pressed together too closely, you’re back to square one.

Slice Aerator

These are the least common. They slice right through the grass with their blades, giving grass access to water, air, and nutrients. It’s a similar theory to spike aerators, but it doesn’t risk further compaction.

If you don’t have the time to invest in lawn aeration or don’t want to spend money on renting or buying equipment you’ll rarely use, consider hiring TruGreen. This industry leader has been in the business since 1974 and has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

TruGreen Lawn Care Plans

TruGreen bundles its lawn aeration services into its three core annual packages to promote a healthy lawn throughout the growing season. You can find the plan breakdowns below:

PlansTruHealth℠ Lawn Care PlanTruComplete℠ Lawn Care PlanTruSignature℠ Lawn Care Plan
Lime soil amendment
Pre-emergent and targeted weed control
Tree and shrub services

In addition to the plans listed above, TruGreen also offers a TruNatural Lawn Care Plan for natural fertilizer, and the TruMaintenance℠ Plan, for fertilization and weeding. It also offers the following a la carte services:

  • Grub prevention and control
  • Fire ant control
  • Soil amendment and analysis

If you’d like a free quote from TruGreen, call 1-866-817-2287 or fill out this simple form.

How Can You Find Local Lawn Aeration Services?

Many homeowners prefer connecting with a locally based lawn aeration service. You may want to talk to someone who knows your area, the weather, and the best timing for the aeration process near your home. To be contacted by local professionals about your lawn, fill out this easy contact form or use the tool below.

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FAQ About Lawn Aeration

When should I aerate my lawn?

You should aerate your lawn when it’s at the height of its growing season, helping it to heal and recover more quickly. For cool-season grasses, that’s early spring or mid-fall. For warm-season grasses, try May or June. Areas with heavy wear and tear or clay soil should aerate each year.

Is aerating your lawn worth it?

Aerating your lawn every few years will benefit it, no matter what type of grass you have. For lawns dealing with heavy thatch, significant foot traffic, or clay soils, you may want to aerate your lawn every year.

What do you do after you aerate your lawn?

After aerating your lawn, you should take the following steps:

  1. Fertilize your lawn immediately for best results.
  2. Reseed your lawn, particularly in any thin or bare patches.
  3. Leave any soil plugs in the lawn to be worked back into the soil over time.

What are the benefits of aerating your lawn?

The benefits of aerating your lawn include these:

  • Better use and absorption of fertilizer
  • Better airflow between the soil and atmosphere
  • Breakdown of thatch buildup
  • Less compact soil
  • Less water runoff
  • Stronger roots for your turfgrass

What is the cost of aerating my lawn?

Lawn aeration costs roughly $17 per 1,000 square feet, depending on your location and service provider.

Our Rating Methodology

We back up our lawn recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review lawn care plans and packages, navigate the provider website and speak with customer service representatives, request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plan options, additional benefits and customizability, availability, trustworthiness, and customer service to arrive at a final score out of 100.

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