Loosens compacted soil, letting in air, water, and nutrients
Discourages disease, runoff, weeds, and pests
Leads to deeper roots, which makes your turf more resilient
Aeration schedule: every 2–3 years or at signs of distress
As lawn enthusiasts, we're all familiar with the benefits of proper mowing, watering, and fertilizing. Lawn aeration, however, remains a bit of a mystery to many homeowners, even though it is a highly beneficial treatment for grass and soil health.
After a season of barbeques, playdates, and backyard yoga, our grass deserves a spa treatment that encourages healthy roots, balanced soil, and lush green turf.
What Exactly Is Lawn Aeration?
It doesn't take much to throw off the delicate balance of your turf. After a long season of heavy rains, periods of drought, foot traffic, and countless passes with the lawnmower, your soil can become incredibly dense.
Compacted soil discourages the proper flow of everything your grass needs to grow big and strong: water, air, and nutrients. When these elements get thrown off, you end up with common lawn issues like disease, weeds, pests, pooling water, and, in time, dead grass.
Lawn aeration is the process of piercing through the top layer of soil or removing plugs of turf to expose roots and soil to the elements. Power and push aerators either send spikes into the earth or lift plugs of grass, thatch, and soil out of the ground. You can even pop on aeration shoes equipped with specialized spikes for smaller yards.
7 Benefits of Lawn Aeration
Sure, digging out small pieces of your lawn may not seem like the healthiest choice, but the process can improve soil health and give your lawn a fresh start. But how exactly does aeration pull this off? Let's look at the top seven benefits of aerating your lawn.
1. Regulates Thatch
Thatch is a naturally occurring layer of organic material that acts as a threshold between your grass and the soil. This layer includes a dense combination of dead grass, stems, sticks, and leaves. While microorganisms in your soil gobble up as much thatch as possible, too much buildup can close off the soil below to water, air, and nutrients.
If thatch grows higher than three-quarters of an inch, you may need to dethatch your lawn—a more extreme yet similar process to aeration.
Aeration can break up the early layer of thatch to ensure that it never overgrows large enough to require a major dethatching.
2. Loosens Compacted Soil
Compacted soil is the most common reason to aerate your lawn. Frequent lawn traffic, heavy decor or equipment, and even extreme weather like drought, rain, and snow, can lead to soil compaction.
On the most basic level, aeration allows the topsoil to mix with the nutrient-rich subsoil. An even balance of nutrients encourages roots to dig deeper and build up resilience.
3. Encourages Nutrients
In addition to the sun, air, water, and organic material, your turf gains nutrients from the layer of fertilizer you apply once or twice a year. You also likely apply weed control and pesticides to discourage invasive grasses or infestations.
None of these materials will reach the roots of your grass if the soil is too compacted to receive it. Aeration opens up a channel to the grass' roots for each of these treatments.
4. Prevents Water Buildup
Proper lawn drainage is a huge piece of the puzzle to keep your yard happy. If water doesn't absorb into the ground, it can pool on the surface and encourage lawn disease and attract pests. Surface water can even cause runoff, bringing your soil, and eventually your grass with it. If you walk on your lawn after rainfall and sink into stagnant, sponge-like puddles, aeration can help break up the soil enough to receive the water deep into its roots.
5. Lets Grass Breathe
It should come as no surprise that aeration welcomes in air as well—it's right in the name. Roots and the blades of grass above the soil rotate both oxygen and carbon dioxide. Without this exchange, you end up with thin, yellowing grass that eventually dies out. Aeration, in a sense, lets the grass breathe.
6. Deepens Grassroots
As we mentioned earlier, greater access to the soil also encourages roots to reach deeper into the earth. The lower they go, the more they encounter nutrients and water, meaning you can water and fertilize them less frequently. And of course, less irrigation is better for both the planet and your wallet.
7. Strengthens Turf
When the newly extended grassroots access more water and nutrients, they become naturally more resilient against drought, rain, and freezing temperatures in the dormancy period. Grass with deeper roots also stands strong against runoff, high winds, and even compaction from traffic. And as the grass thickens and grows, there is less room for weeds to take their place.
How to Get the Most Out of Lawn Aeration
We don't blame you if you're now an official superfan of aeration. But like all lawn care processes, it's important to do it correctly to access these benefits.
Here are some tips to know when and how to aerate properly in order to reap the benefits:
Aerate your lawn once every two to three years, depending on the health of your turf.
Perform aeration off schedule if you have issues with dying grass, disease, water buildup, or pests.
Wait for the high-growth season to aerate—this means early spring or fall for cool-season grasses or late spring and early summer for warm-season grasses.
Water your lawn the day before aerating or wait for a light rain. The lawn should be moist by not soaking.
Be sure to mark your sprinkler heads before using an aeration machine or shoes.
If you choose core aeration, let the plugs decompose naturally on your lawn.
Who to Call for Aeration Services
Aeration is either a doable DIY project or an easy job for your professional landscaper. A great landscaper should be able to analyze your lawn and determine if aeration is necessary at that time.
Professional aeration typically costs between $0.10 and $0.35 per square foot or a flat fee, depending on the size of your lawn. For example, a 10,000-square-foot patch of land will cost about $130 to aerate.
If you have a small lawn or a lawn with just a few problem areas, you can aerate it yourself by either renting an aeration machine for $40 to $90 a day—and typically a $150 deposit—or with handheld aeration tools. Shoe attachments and handheld aerators cost anywhere from $30 to $80 on average.
Above all, the benefits of aeration should be enough to get the process on your annual lawn checklist. And if you're working with a year-round local lawn care team, speak with them about how and when to incorporate this into your regimen.