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How to use a Lawn Aerator

Quick Guide On How To Aerate Your Own Lawn

What is lawn aeration?

Many folks ask When to aerate a Lawn, or How to use a lawn aerator. Perhaps you’re wondering how much it cost to aerate your lawn, or you’re just looking for Lawn aeration tips. Today we’ll help you answer all of those questions. In a nutshell, Good lawn aeration simply involves the process of perforating your lawn with small holes. This action provides the necessary oxygen, water, and nutrients to permeate your lawn and move freely throughout the soil.

If your lawn has too many solid particles or compaction, the roots will not be able to grow deep, which prevents the lush thick lawn your after.

How to use a lawn aerator | Best Home Gear
Photo of a Lawn after Using a Lawn Aerator

Once you learn How to Aerate a lawn and follow these steps, your grassroots will grow easier and deeper into the soil.

The end result is having your lawn looking more lush and green than what was previously possible without lawn aeration. So let’s figure out how to aerate a lawn DIY style.

What is a lawn aerator?

A lawn aerator is going to be a piece of equipment or a device that makes the process of aerating your lawn effective and more efficient, and a do it yourself lawn aerator job is one household chore you can easily tackle. These pieces of equipment can range greatly in size and appearance.

They can be manual rolling pins with spikes, they might be an electrical piece of equipment or they can even be shoes with spikes! They all serve the same function which is to loosen up the soil and dirt so that soil is not so compact and the roots of the grass can absorb more air, water, and nutrients. Read on to find out if spike aerators work!

Does my lawn need to be aerated?

This can depend on a lot of factors. The first one is how much activity does your lawn gets? Are you and other people such as family members, neighbors or friends constantly using the lawn? Do you have any pets or animals that enjoy the lawn?

If your soil is compact like clay or overly dry your lawn could be a perfect candidate for aeration. If your grass is not growing as full and green as it did in the past, this could be a sign that it is in desperate need of aeration. Aeration is also great for building turf and keeping weeds from taking over.

What time of year is best to aerate the lawn?

The optimal time to aerate your lawn will be whatever time of year that most things are able to grow and rebuild. Aeration can damage the roots of the grass and the grass needs to be at the right time of year to be able to recover and grow back properly.

This can depend on your location but any time in the spring up until early fall should be optimal for aeration. Aerating in the winter for most places is not advised as it is hard for the grass to heal and recover in these weather conditions.

Most fruit and vegetables will not grow in the winter, likewise, it is harder for grass to combat these weather conditions and it is certainly not ideal for aerating. Also aerating cold hard dirt that possibly has ice, frost or snow is going to be a very excruciatingly hard process!

How can you tell if your lawnmower spark plug is bad? Read our article here on how to tell and where to replace them!

Preparing your lawn to aerate

So how do you aerate your lawn?  Before you can aerate your lawn, you must do some simple preparations. Go out into your lawn and see how dry your soil is. Aerating “dry soil” can be a troublesome task and it is certainly not optimal if you wish to aerate your lawn properly.

It’s recommended to aerate your lawn the day after it rains or if you can’t wait for the rain, simply water your lawn the day before and let it all sink into the soil.

Mowing your lawn before aerating can really help the process. The grass will be shorter making it easier for you to work and manage it as you aerate. You are able to see more clearly which areas are in need of aeration more than other areas as you mow. Some patches will be less thick or less green.

How to Use a Lawn Aerator | Best Home Gear
The Before and After – Using a Lawn Aerator

What type of lawn aeration should I be doing?

 

There are three main different types of aeration. Plug aeration, spike aeration, and liquid aeration:

Plug aeration involves the process of making a fairly large hole around 1/2-3/4 inches in diameter and up to 6 inches deep. This will remove part of the soil from the roots and is known to improve the overall structure of your soil more than spike aeration.

Plug aeration

It is ideal if you’re aerating once a year. One of the downsides to this type of aeration is that if you are not using a high powered automatic plug aeration device it is quite a labor-intensive job.

This method increases the risk of damaging your grass and makes it very difficult for the grass to heal and grow back fully in the short term. However long term, this is the way to ensure your soil is properly aerated.

Spike Aeration

is the process of making a lot of smaller holes around 1-2 inches deep. The advantages of this method are that it is not as labor-intensive and whether you choose to manually do this or not you won’t put your body under much physical strain.

Because the holes are generally not as big or as deep as plug aeration, your grass will be less damaged and will be able to heal and recover quicker than plug aeration.

The disadvantage of this aeration is that it is more of a short term solution and your soil is likely to become compact again in as little as 2-3 months depending on how often the lawn and soil are used.

Liquid Aeration

There is also a third type of aeration that is relatively new called Liquid Aeration. This is only possible with a more expensive machine. Instead of making large holes like plug aeration or a lot of smaller holes like spike aeration, you make countless tiny holes throughout the soil.  This method is also preferred if you don’t wish to overseed your lawn regularly.

What is Liquid aeration?  This is the process of combining two 100% organic compounds to the lawn. The first product is a wetting agent from a South American plant extract that helps water penetrate hard clay soils. The second compound is considered a microbial-package used to eat the thatch layer.

This method has not been tested as much as the previously said methods but is meant to improve water retention and will allow the soil to hold onto water more effectively than before. Liquid aeration will add safe and biodegradable substances to your lawn and is completely safe to use around small children, pets and other animals.

Do you have birds eating your grass seed? Read our article on how to deter birds from eating your grass, and make it look it’s best!

How do I use a lawn aerator and which one should I choose?

This is going to greatly depend on what type of soil you may have as well as the size of your lawn and how often you would like to aerate. There are 3 main different types of lawn aerators: Hand or Manual Aerators, Lawn Aerator Shoes and Machine Aerators.

Hand Aerators

Hand aerators or manual aerators are aerators that you will work by manually pushing, poking or rolling a device that will have multiple sharp ends that will poke holes into the soil.

This can be something extremely simple like a pitchfork. Using a pitchfork you would go around the lawn and simply put it into the soil that needs aeration. Rinse and repeat this process, this could be quite a long and strenuous task depending on the size of your lawn. Even smaller lawns you could get exhausted by the end of it!

The other common tool for manual aeration is a Lawn aeration tool from “Yard Butler”.  This is a turf plug core device that has a handle like a pitchfork that allows you to aerate a small section of lawn that needs some attention. You simply stand on the tool, like a shovel, and lift turf plugs out of the lawn, to provide much-needed oxygen, water, and nutrients to the soil.

This is a much faster and more effective method of aerating your lawn compared to using a pitchfork. The pitchfork method is quite slow and tedious.

Lawn Aerator Shoes

Lawn aerator shoes are exactly what they sound like, they are shoes that help aerate your lawn as you walk on top of it. They are able to do this by having sets of metal spikes on the bottoms that can range between 1-2 inches in length. The shoes will dig into the soil creating small holes allowing extra air, water, and nutrients to get to the roots of the grass.

Lawn aerator shoes are very desirable for those that own and wish to aerate a small lawn and not so ideal for those who have a large lawn.

Here’s a good tip or method of speeding up this aerating process. As you are mowing your lawn in preparation for the aeration, you can mow the lawn while wearing these shoes. This saves you your time and energy of having to do two separate trips of mowing and aerating. Be sure your lawn is moist before mowing and aerating!

Machine Aerators

The last type of aeration is machine aeration which is usually powered by some sort of engine. Machine aeration is going to make the aeration process really smooth and easy. Machines can be used for both spike and plug aeration.

Whichever type of lawn aeration you choose, you will have an easy time gliding over your lawn. It is advised to always aerate your lawn with moist soil but with a half-decent lawn aerator machine, you don’t need to be as concerned with having the soil fully moist.

The machines are easy to use and will involve you walking over the lawn in a straight line. Even with a machine, it is likely you will need to pass over some areas of the lawn more than once. This is similar to a lawnmower where you will sometimes need to do multiple passes over the grass to get it cut to the right level.

If you think your yard needs to be aerated further you should run the lawn aerator in the opposite path that you just walked. You do not need to remove or clean up the loose soil after aeration. Simply leave it and let it settle back into the soil.

If you have areas of the lawn that have gone patchy or even bald, reseeding the lawn after aeration is a perfect time. You should immediately seed your lawn after your aerate it and you should notice that the grass in these areas will grow greener and faster than it normally does! This is because your soil can now give your grass more access to fully utilize the water, air, and nutrients instead of being blocked and unable to reach the roots of the grass.

Conclusion

You will need to decide what type of aeration is right for your lawn and lifestyle as everyone’s lawn and lifestyle are different. What type of aerating device is right for you can depend on how much labor and time you would like to spend aerating your lawn and how much money you would like to spend on an aerating tool.

The size of your lawn will also be a huge factor in what type of aeration is practical. If you have a very large lawn, aeration by pitchfork is not practical at all and could take you more than a day to properly aerate it!

The time of year and weather conditions should also be taken into consideration. You wouldn’t want to aerate your lawn in a sub-optimal time of year and have your aeration process not so much benefit to your hard work outside!

If the weather is very hot outside you might aerate your lawn once and think, I’m never going to do that again! If you find aerating your lawn too labor-intensive you might also get discouraged from aerating the lawn again.

You should also decide and know if your lawn truly needs to be aerated or not. Chances are if you are reading about aeration there is a good chance your lawn is in desperate need of aeration! But if your grass is full, thick and green you can probably wait some time until you will need to aerate it.

Consistent mowing and watering of your lawn can be just as important as aerating and can make or break having your lawn look fresh, lush and green!

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Kevin

As a Homeowner, Builder, and Property Developer/Manager for 30+ years, I’ve worn a lot of “different hats”, and In that capacity, owned or used about every tool or piece of home equipment one can think of. Managing property in Michigan, Arizona, and Florida, also allows us to test many of the products we review firsthand, and in vastly different climates and conditions. Our goal at BestHomeGear.Com is to share the first-hand experience by providing exceptional Home & Garden Techniques, Product Reviews, and useful DIY Guides for our faithful readers - Homeowners like you. We trust you will find BestHomeGear.Com very informative - and extremely helpful.

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