Lawn aeration is usually done by using a specialized aeration machine, which digs cores out of the lawn to leave numerous holes in the grass soil. If you are not familiar with lawn care, this may sound like it is actually hurting the lawn as opposed to helping. However, aeration is a healthy activity that helps produce a lush, green lawn. In fact, lawn experts commonly indicate that aeration is one of the top tasks you can do for your lawn each year.
Why is Lawn Aeration Good?
The holes that are placed into a lawn through aeration allow things like water, oxygen, fertilizer, and nutrients to penetrate down to the grass roots. Aeration is especially beneficial when the lawn soil is compacted from heavy use (i.e. routine sports played on it) or from the environment. When aeration causes the soil to loosen up, the roots are able to establish deeper, which in turn helps produce a thicker lawn.
When is the Best Time to Aerate Your Lawn?
The best time to aerate cool-season grasses is in the autumn when you start thinking about fall clean up. This is the season that grass root growth is at its greatest. Michigan State University states that the grass roots that originate in the fall outlive the roots that originate in the spring. Keeping this in mind, you want the fall roots to have an ideal environment for growth by decreasing soil compaction through aeration.
The best time to aerate warm-season grasses is in very late spring to early summer. This prepares the grass for the elevated temperatures and potential minimal rain/drought conditions that are ahead.
Best Ways to Aerate
The easiest way to aerate a lawn is to hire it out. A lawn care professional will likely use a core aerator that will pull about 3 inch plugs out of your lawn. Your lawn will be littered with these plugs when the aeration is completed. It is Okay to leave these in your lawn. They will disintegrate relatively quickly.
HomeAdviser.com indicates that the national average cost to aerate a lawn using a lawn professional is $123 with a typical range being between $74-191. If you visit their website, you can type in your zip code to get a ballpark cost for your area.
You can rent a self-propelled core aerator from one of the large home improvement stores. The current rental cost in my area is around $65 for 4 hours and about $90-$100 for a day. Many areas have equipment rental places where you might be able to get a better deal on your aerator rental.
If the aerator rental price is too high for you, you may consider going in on a rental with a neighbor. You should be able to aerate at least two average-size lawns within a four hour window.
If you have a small yard, you can use a manual aeration tool. I have a Yard Butler manual aerator (pictured below), which I used last year for a small problem area in my lawn. You simply hold onto the handles and press the tool into the grass while applying pressure with your foot on the foot bar. It pulls out 2 plugs that the manufacturer indicates are 1/2 inches wide by 3.5 inches in length. You keep driving the tool into the ground every six inches or so until you aerate your whole yard.
While this is a good tool for a small yard, you should consider a less time consuming option for a medium to large yard. If you do buy this manual aerator, be aware that it works best in wet grass. The tines that pull the plugs tend to get clogged in dry grass.
Lastly, if you have a riding lawn mower, you may want to consider investing in a tow behind plug aerator. This is a nice tool to have in the garage to aerate at your convenience without having to put too much labor into the task.
Note that there are many other aerator tools for purchase out there such as aerator shoes and pitch forks. However, the above options will provide you with the best results for your lawn.