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8 MIN 19 Nov
Last update: 30 Nov 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Lawn Aeration

What is lawn aeration? How do you do it, what is the best time and what do you need? All the answers you need are right here!

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Light and air are essential for the health and growth of your lawn. Therefore, aerating your turf is a smart move as it ensures that the grass gets enough oxygen. But what is the best way to go about it?

Table of contents:
Show all
  • Aerating your lawn: what is it?
  • The benefits of aerating your soil
  • When should I aerate my lawn?
  • How often should I aerate my lawn?
  • What is the best way to aerate a lawn?
  • How deep into the soil do I need to go for effective aeration?
  • Can I aerate a new lawn?
  • Is aerating the same as scarifying?
  • What do you do after you aerate your lawn?
  • What is the best way to aerate your lawn?
  • Are you ready to get aerating?

Aerating your lawn: what is it?

Aerating literally means putting air into the soil by removing small pieces from the soil. This creates air pockets through which air, light, water and nutrition find their way down. This promotes the development of roots and makes the turf stronger and more beautiful.

Aeration is necessary when the soil is compacted, caused by garden furniture, playground equipment, a walkway, or the weight of the lawnmower. Not the whole lawn suffers from this; some parts are used more intensively. As a result, rain can no longer be processed, plants do not absorb oxygen, light and nutrition, stop growing and eventually die. This is what you aim to prevent.

The benefits of aerating your soil

Aeration of the lawn illustration

Lawn aeration isn’t part of the daily gardening routine, but there are several solid reasons why this task deserves attention.

Aeration for oxygen

Grass roots need oxygen, and a healthy lawn thrives on sufficient oxygen. Therefore, aeration is crucial to prevent the grass from running out of oxygen, which would eventually lead to its death.

Aeration for sunlight

During photosynthesis, the plant produces sugars using light, water and carbon dioxide. In hot summer months, however, a build-up of carbon dioxide can occur, giving the grass a brown colour. Aeration prevents this build-up by providing the roots with the necessary air.

Aeration for irrigation

Another element a plant cannot do without: light. When the soil is compacted, it cannot absorb light. Aeration opens up the soil, allowing the lawn to absorb much-needed light for photosynthesis.

Aeration for water intake & drainage

A densely packed lawn cannot absorb and drain rainwater. In rainy regions, such as the lowlands, proper lawn drainage is vital. Aeration not only facilitates water absorption, but also ensures effective drainage.

Aeration ensures better absorption

Aerating opens up the soil, allowing it to absorb nutrients better. This is beneficial not only for the overall health of the lawn, but also for successful seeding. New seed is absorbed more efficiently in a recently aerated soil.

So, if you’re wondering, “is aerating your lawn worth it?” hopefully, we’ve convinced you that it’s an essential lawn care task for beautiful lawns!

When should I aerate my lawn?

calender board

The best time to aerate your lawn depends on the type of grass and weather. Don’t aerate during long dry spells or extreme heat to prevent the lawn from drying out. In winter, be cautious; aerate at least 4 weeks before expected frost to avoid it penetrating too deep into the soil.

Aerating in spring/summer

During spring and summer, grass that loves warmth grows quickly. Aerating in this period provides the grass with the space, oxygen, and water it needs for healthy growth.

Aerating in autumn

After a busy summer on the lawn, the soil is often compacted, with a top layer on the grass. Autumn is the best time to fix this, as the soil is already moister from rain, making it easier for aerating tools to penetrate.

Fertilising for healthy grass

Grass gets necessary nutrients from fertiliser when it needs them. two or three times a year is enough. The timing depends on the fertiliser type; ideally, fertilise early in spring, like in February or March.

TIP: Keep an eye on the weather forecast and aerate before rain. Then you don’t need to water!

How often should I aerate my lawn?

The frequency of aerating your lawn depends on how good your grass is and the type of soil in your garden.
If your soil is hard and compact clay, it’s a good idea to improve the entire lawn once a year. For sandy soil, you often don’t need to do the whole lawn; just working on small sections is usually enough.

Here’s the straightforward advice: keep an eye on your grass. If you see a layer forming on top, water isn’t draining well, or your grass doesn’t look great, it’s time to improve the lawn.

What is the best way to aerate a lawn?

To aerate your lawn effectively, the tool you pick depends on the size of the area you’re working on. Here’s a breakdown:

Spike roller

Lawn Aerator for the lawn with spikes - product image 1

A manual spike roller is great for creating holes in small areas, leaving minimal mess. While quick, you may need to repeat it more often. For compacted soil, a machine is more efficient.

Aeration sandals

Men wearing the MOOWY Lawn Aerator Shoes for aerating the lawn - product image 1

For small areas, consider aeration sandals. These are shoe soles with sizable spikes. Attach them to your shoes, and you can aerate simply by walking across the lawn.


Garden fork against the wall

Use a pitchfork for targeted aeration, especially in heavily trafficked areas. Stick it straight into the soil, gently moving it back and forth for deeper holes. Keep in mind, it’s a time-consuming task. If dealing with a large area, consider other options.

Stick the pitchfork as straight into the ground as possible and gently shake it back and forth. This will make the holes bigger and you can easily remove the pitchfork again.

Aeration machine

Lawn aeration machine

Ready for the big guns?
For larger lawns or highly compacted soil, go for an aerator. Resembling a lawnmower, it comes with a dense or hollow pen. The dense pen packs more power than a prick roller, while the hollow pen pulls plugs from the ground. On top of an aerator, you’ll find a large water tank. Fill it for added weight, allowing the pens to penetrate the ground more effectively.

TIP: Plan aeration with your neighbours and share the rental cost!

How deep into the soil do I need to go for effective aeration?

Aim for 10-15cm in depth for adequate aeration. If you’re using a spiked roller or aeration sandals, ensure that the entire spike sinks into the earth.

Can I aerate a new lawn?

By aerating, you stimulate the roots to grow deeper. A new lawn still needs to develop these roots. Therefore, wait at least until the second year before aerating your new lawn.

Is aerating the same as scarifying?

Short answer: no. But there are similarities.

Aerating with hollow tines can affect the immediate look of your lawn – it may look a little holey afterwards. But scarifying is the next level of lawn care tasks – your lawn looks like it’s been chewed up by an enthusiastic mole after scarification.

However, your lawn recovers quickly if you do it when the grass is growing well – in early spring or autumn.

For more details about scarifications, check out this article.

What do you do after you aerate your lawn?

After aerating the lawn, there are several things you can do, depending on the kind of tools you have used.

Clean up the mess

Hollow tine aeration leaves tubular dints of grass and soil on the lawn’s surface. Some people leave those to dissolve back into the earth, but they look a little unsightly for a while. So, remove any dints with a rake if you want to tidy up your lawn’s surface.

Top dress the soil

Aeration leaves little holes in the soil. Add some well-rotted compost or organic fertiliser, which drops down into the holes. It’s an excellent opportunity to refresh the earth.

If you aerate in the soil, top dress your grass with a high-potassium fertiliser, strengthening the turf and preparing your lawn for overwintering.

Sow bare spots

If you have bald spots around your lawn, post-aeration is a great time to overseed. Germination should be nice and prompt because the soil will receive the air, light, and nutrients it needs to promote faster growth.

What is the best way to aerate your lawn?

Follow our step-by-step guide to aerating your lawn for the best results:

Step #1: Mow your grass as short as possible. However, never cut more than a ⅓ of the grass blade’s length to avoid stressing the plants.
Step #2: Aerate your lawn vertically and horizontally.
Step #3: Clean your tools, removing any lodged-in turf. You’ll thank yourself next time you aerate!
Step #4: Tidy up any detritus.
Step #5: Fill the gaps with a fertiliser or well-rotted compost to help nourish the soil.

Are you ready to get aerating?

Aeration can turn your struggling lawn into a lush, vibrant carpet by ensuring essential nutrients reach the roots, promoting healthy growth and resilience. Choose the right time, use appropriate tools, and follow our guide on aeration steps. Your grass will thank you with thicker, greener, and more beautiful growth!

We love hearing from you. If you have any further questions about aerating (or anything else lawn-related), get in touch, and we’ll gladly help!

Louis Hooft
Founder & Lawn expert
Introducing Louis Hooft, the founder of MOOWY and your reliable expert. With a profound love for stunning lawns and extensive experience in garden maintenance, Louis is here to assist garden enthusiasts in achieving a greener and livelier outdoors than ever before. Count on Louis for invaluable tips, clever tricks, and top-notch products to make your garden flourish!
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