A lush, green lawn can be the pride of any garden, but achieving and maintaining it requires proper care. Aside from mowing, watering and weeding, one essential practice for a healthy lawn is aeration. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about lawn aeration, from what it is to how and when to do it, ensuring your lawn stays vibrant and beautiful.

What Is Lawn Aeration?

Lawn aeration involves perforating the soil below the lawn with small holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. This process helps alleviate soil compaction, ensuring that the roots grow deeply and produce a stronger, more vigorous lawn. Aeration enables carbon dioxide to escape allowing space for fresh oxygen to take its place. There are three main types of aeration:

  • Core Aeration: Involves removing small plugs of soil from the lawn, which creates space for roots to expand.
  • Spike Aeration: Uses a spike roller, manual aerator or a garden fork to puncture the soil.  A spike roller can sometimes be less effective as it may cause additional compaction around the holes, therefore it is best used for shallow aeration purposes only.
  • Liquid Aerators: A type of lawn conditioner that improves soil structure and breaks up compacted particles. They make a suitable alternative to physical aerators. Liquid aerators are ideal for difficult soil and weather conditions.

Aeration is crucial because over time, soil can become compacted, leading to a dense layer of thatch that restricts water, air, and nutrient movement to the roots​.

Aeration vs. Scarifying: What's The Difference?

While aeration focuses on relieving soil compaction, scarifying (or dethatching) involves removing the layer of thatch that builds up on the soil surface. Thatch is a mix of dead grass, roots, and debris that can prevent water, air, and nutrients from reaching the soil. Integrating both practices into your lawn care routine can significantly improve the health and appearance of your lawn:

  • Scarify in Early Spring: Before the growing season to remove thatch and debris.
  • Aerate in Spring or Autumn: To reduce soil compaction and improve root growth.

Using these techniques together will ensure that your lawn remains lush, green, and resilient throughout the year​.

When To Aerate Your Lawn

The ideal time to aerate your lawn is a day or two after a rain shower when the soil is still moist but not waterlogged. Most people find that spring or autumn are the best seasons for aeration, as these times typically offer more rainfall. Aerating when the soil is damp makes it easier to create holes without causing excessive disruption to the grass. However, it's important to avoid aerating after extremely heavy rain, as overly saturated soil can become compacted and hinder proper drainage.

By choosing the right time and conditions for aeration, you can ensure your lawn remains healthy and well-aerated, promoting better root growth and overall vitality.

Signs That Your Lawn Needs Aeration

It is advised to aerate your lawn once or twice a year in order to maintain a healthy look.  There are some signs to be aware of that indicate when your lawn needs to be aerated, these include:

  • Soil Compaction: If your lawn feels hard to touch and you find it difficult to insert garden tools such as trowels and forks, your soil is likely to be compacted.  
  • Poor Drainage: If water is pooling in certain areas or running off of your lawn, this is a sign that your lawn is not absorbing water efficiently and is probably compacted. 
  • Thatched Lawn: If your lawn looks brown after you mow it, this could be an indicator of excessive thatch build up.  Thatch is a layer formed from dead grass and roots that builds up between the soil and grass.  If the layer of thatch becomes over half an inch thick, it can prevent your lawn from effectively absorbing water and nutrients and hinder air circulation. 

How To Aerate Your Lawn

Now that you know what aeration is and when to do it, here’s a step-by-step guide to aerating your lawn:

  1. Preparation:
    • Water your lawn thoroughly a day or two before aeration to soften the soil or carry out aeration after rainfall.
    • Mark any sprinkler heads or shallow utility lines to avoid damaging them.
  2. Choose Your Aerator:
    • For small lawns, a manual aerator or a garden fork can be sufficient.
    • For larger lawns, consider renting a mechanical core aerator for efficiency.
  3. Aerate:
    • Move the aerator in a pattern that covers the entire lawn. 
    • For core aeration, aim for holes about 2-3 inches apart.
    • If you are using a fork or spike aerator, aim for holes about 5 inches deep and leave a 6 inch gap between sections.
    • Make multiple passes in areas with heavy compaction.
  4. Post-Aeration Care:
    • Leave the soil plugs on the lawn to decompose naturally and return nutrients to the soil.
    • Follow up with overseeding if you have thin grass coverage, as aeration creates an ideal environment for seed germination.
    • Apply a balanced fertiliser to provide essential nutrients.
    • Water the lawn deeply to help the grass recover and grow.

Aeration can be physically demanding, so take your time and don’t hesitate to ask for help or seek additional advice if needed.​ 

More On Post-Aeration Care

After aeration, proper lawn care is essential to maximise its benefits:

  • Overseeding: This involves spreading grass seed over the aerated lawn to fill in bare spots and thicken the turf. You can find a selection of grass seed available here.
  • Fertilising: Apply a fertiliser high in phosphorus or a lawn feed to promote root development.
  • Watering: Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged to help the new grass establish. We have an extensive range of garden watering solutions available here.
  • Mowing: Avoid mowing the lawn for at least a week after aeration to allow the grass to recover and start growing vigorously​.


Lawn aeration is a simple yet effective way to maintain a healthy, green lawn. By understanding when and how to aerate, and by following up with proper post-aeration care, you can ensure that your lawn thrives. Regular aeration, combined with scarifying, can make a world of difference in the appearance and health of your lawn. By following this guide, you'll be well on your way to achieving a vibrant and resilient lawn. If you are looking for more lawn care products or gardening tools to help you keep your lawn in great condition, you can find them all in our gardening shop.  Happy gardening!

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