How to Aerate Lawn by Hand? Step-by-Step Guide for a Lush Yard

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Whether you are a landscape professional or a passionate homeowner who loves their lawn lush and green, you must have heard about aeration. It ensures proper air circulation in your lawn and saves it from dullness.

Just as acupuncture releases our stress, aeration releases the clogged water, puddling, and soil stiffness that either make the grass on your lawn dry and spongy or sloppy. It also prevents your lawn from being water-clogged after showers.

You can rent fancy aeration equipment and hire lawn care companies to do the job, but that would be wasting money since you can easily do it yourself. And today, we will show you how exactly you can do it, step-by-step.

So keep reading to know more about aeration, when and how to do it, and more.

What is Aeration?

What is Aeration

Aeration is the process of perforating your lawn/yard soil with tons of holes to loosen it up. Doing this helps your lawn soil get compact and clustered with periodic watering and drying over time.

It is not the optimal condition for water and air circulation, and also not great if you want a sprawling green grass bed in your yard. Tight and compact soil inhibits the root growth of grass or any kind of plants that don’t have a strong root system. It even suffocates the root system by limiting the air intake from pockets within the soil.

So by aerating the soil from time to time, we ensure that it is loose enough to let air, water, and nutrients seep in, and also give the grassroots space to grow to avoid drought.

How do You Determine When to Aerate your Lawn?

Now that you are acquainted with aeration, how can you determine whether your yard needs it or not? Simple, here are some settings where aeration becomes essential.

1. If Your Lawn has a High Clay Content

If your lawn has a high clay content

If your lawn has high clay content, it has a greater chance of getting tight and compact as clay is heavier and more dense. In that case, you need to aerate it quite often to ensure that it is loose and breathable and isn’t clogging water on the lawn surface.

2. If You Recently had a Construction in Your Lawn

If you recently had construction work done on your lawn or house, chances are that the construction workers stepped on the grass or kept the construction materials in your lawn. This could compress the top layer of your lawn.

Therefore, offering adequate aeration for your lawn after construction will ensure your lawn grass bed stays lush and healthy.

3. If Your Lawn Gets High Footfall

If your lawn gets high footfall

If your lawn is positioned across the entrance to your house, it must encounter heavy footfall. The more people step on your lawn grass with shoes and boots, the more compressed the soil gets.

4. If Your Lawn has been Left Abandoned for Long

If the lawn has been abandoned for at least a year, where it has been exposed to seasonal variations, it could be in a very sorry state. A full cycle of summer heat and rain, along with winter frost, can cause the topsoil to get clustered. If not aerated, it can soon lead to a drought and destroy your lawn’s appearance.

5. If Your Lawn has Sod and Soil Layering

If your lawn has sod and soil layering

Sod lawns usually have soil layering where coarse soil is topped with fine soil, i.e., sod. Over time, with watering and season change, the fine soil grains start settling down, clogging any pore space for air and water flow.

This can cause poor drainage and compaction, making it difficult for your grass to grow. However, a little aeration now and then can easily solve this problem.

6. If Your Lawn is Experiencing Drought or Water Clogging

If you’ve just moved into a new place and don’t know when the lawn was aerated or if it was ever aerated at all, try to look for signs of drought and water clogging.

Both of them signify poor drainage and soil compaction issues, and you can tell if your lawn needs aeration or not.

When is the Ideal Time for Aeration?

The ideal time for aeration depends on a lot of factors. Here are some aspects you must consider to identify the perfect time to aerate your lawn.

1. Depends on the Grass Type

Depends on the grass type

Different grass types have different growth patterns and preferences. Generally, cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and fescue are best aerated in the fall or early spring, while warm-season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia should be aerated in late spring or early summer.

So find the grass type of your lawn to know the right time for aeration.

2. During Growing Season

Aerate your lawn during the growing season. For cool-season grasses, this is typically in the early fall or early spring when the grass is actively growing. For warm-season grasses, aim for late spring or early summer when they are in their exponential growth phase.

3. When the Soil is Moist

When the soil is moist

Aeration is best achieved when done in moderately moist soil. Overly wet or dry soil won’t give you the best results. It is because the soil particles resettle fast and won’t allow the pores and micropores of air to develop. So according to the moisture content of your yard’s soil, you can choose the perfect aeration time.

4. According to the Weather Condition

Picking the right weather condition is also important if you want your aeration to be successful. Ideally, pick a day when the weather is mild or not excessively hot. Aeration can stress the grass, so avoid doing it during extreme heat or drought conditions.

5. Fertilization and Overseeding Period

Fertilization and overseeding period

Aeration is often done before fertilizing or overseeding your lawn.

This allows the nutrients to get mixed in the soil layers easily and better reach the root system. It also allows the seeds to find their place within the soil pockets and have enough space around them for growth. Lastly, it ensures there is enough interstitial space for the air to circulate around the germinating seeds and their root systems to offer them adequate oxygen and nitrogen for rapid growth.

So if you are planning to seed new grass, we recommend doing it after you aerate your lawn.

6. Depends on the Compaction Level and Frequency

You need to test the compaction level of the soil and determine how frequently it needs to be aerated. To do so, insert a screwdriver or a soil probe into the soil. If it’s difficult to push into the ground, your lawn may benefit from aeration.

Most lawns can be aerated once a year. However, heavily compacted lawns might require more frequent aeration.

How to Aerate Lawn by Hand?

How to Aerate Lawn by Hand

There are a couple of ways in which you can aerate your lawn by hand. Here are the most popular DIY aeration processes you can try and the tools you must use.

1. With a Manual Core Aerator

Manual core aerators are quite popular amongst avid gardeners for doing regular aeration of their lawns on their own. This manual tool is made by connecting a spiked roller with a handle.

The spikes are made up of hollow cylinders, which is why every time it perforates into the turf or soil, it removes small plugs of it. This technique ensures that there is no future scope for soil compaction as you’ll be removing soil and making space for air to inhabit those pores instead of pushing soil particles down.

2. Using a Gardening Fork

Using a gardening fork

If you can’t get your hands on a core aerator, the gardening fork will be your second-best option. Different from the core aerator, it has a number of spikes at the end of the handle.

It drives small holes into the turf to loosen the soil instead of plugging the lawn. This allows for better penetration and circulation of air, water, and nutrients.

Lawn Aeration Tips

Assuming it is your first time aerating your lawn, here are some tips for you to get the best results.

1. Prepare the Lawn Well

Mow your lawn slightly shorter than usual to make it easier to work with. Also, water the lawn a day or two before aeration to ensure the soil is moderately moist, as it makes it easier to penetrate.

2. Mark the Right Area

Decide which areas or patches of your lawn need aeration. Pro-tip: Focus on areas with high foot traffic, compaction, or poor drainage.

3. Use a Lawn Roller

After aeration, you can use a lawn roller filled with water to help push the soil plugs deeper into the holes and level the surface.

4. Give Recovery Time

Your lawn might appear a bit disrupted after aeration, but it will recover over time.


Is it necessary to aerate my lawn?

Aeration is an important step for almost any kind of lawn, especially if you want lush green turf. However, if your lawn doesn’t experience heavy footfall, you might not necessarily need it from time to time.

How deep should I aerate the lawn?

Aeration holes depend on the type of tool you use; however, most aeration holes are usually 1 to 6 inches deep and are made 2 to 6 inches apart.

Does aerating make any difference?

Aeration loosens the soil around the grassroots, making water and oxygen easy to penetrate and improving growth. Thus, it is fair to say that aeration can have a positive impact on your turf.


Aeration is indeed a great practice to keep your yard green and lush; however, if you are planning to do it by hand, be prepared; it is going to be a physically demanding task. You might want to plan it on the weekends and take some help from family and friends.

However, if you have a big lawn and don’t have that much time to invest, we recommend you rent or purchase a mechanical aerator or take help from lawn care companies.

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