If you’re not very knowledgeable about caring for your lawn, you’ll be pleased to know you’re not alone. Most homeowners only have a basic knowledge of lawn care. It isn’t until a few problems become evident that we scratch are heads and wonder why? Most of us know that lawns, like all plants, need water and oxygen to flourish and survive. The roots of plants will only grow when water and oxygen are present. What many people don’t realize is that a lawn needs pore space to ensure water and oxygen can get to the roots. Without the two there will eventually be little or no root growth. The average lawn will gradually show the consequences of such neglect. Over a period of time diseases will become apparent, brown spots may appear, weeds will flourish and the lawn will gradually begin to show the consequences of compacted soil.

In an effort to reverse the process some people will over-water, some will over-fertilize, and still others will turn to pesticides in an effort to guess their way through the problem. In reality, all of these fix quick schemes won’t help, and more often than not, people neglect the actual cause of the problem which may be compacted soil. In fact, compacted soil may be one of the most overlooked causes of lawn problems.

So how do you loosen the soil and create a way for oxygen, water and nutrients to get down to the roots after you have a lawn growing on top of the soil? The solution is to core aerate the lawn.

When you consider that many lawns are often growing in compacted soil, core aeration is a great maintenance tool and it should be part of a regular routine to sustain your lawn and minimize problems.

You can hire a landscaping firm to do the aeration or you can rent an aerator from a rental store, hardware store, nursery or home & garden retail outlet. Aerating your lawn will probably take about the same amount of time as mowing it.

What does a core aerator do? A core aerator removes 2 to 3 inch plugs from the lawn and soil creating a series of holes that the grass will eventually grow into. As the core aerator makes a pass over the lawn you will see plugs pulled from the lawn that resemble goose droppings. The spaces created by the aerator allow oxygen, water and nutrients to enter the soil and reach the root zone. The holes also allow organic matter, such as grass clipping, shredded leaves, or fertilizer to work their way into soil.
This perforation of the compacted soil will eventually improve the pore space and you are likely to see positive results within a few weeks. It is also recommended that the plugs resulting from core aerating remain on the lawn. Although they may appear unsightly they will eventually breakdown and provide added nutrients to the soil.

Another benefit of core aeration is the breaking down of thatch. Thatch is the normal accumulation of decaying roots, stems and shoots, but a thatch layer thicker than 1⁄2 inch can prevent water from infiltrating the soil. Thatch is most often caused by over fertilizing and over watering. Core aerating followed by a compost top dressing twice a year (in spring and fall) will improve compacted soils and reduce thatch buildup.
It should also be noted that grass clipping do not cause thatch. In fact, it is recommended that grass clipping be left on the lawn (grass recycling), because grass clipping contain nutrients that will break down and actually provide nourishment to your lawn. This will also reduce the need for fertilizer.
Aerating offers few other benefits – It reduces water runoff and puddling, helps the lawn deal with heat and the stress associated with drought and improves the lawns resiliency.


Core aeration can help make your lawn healthier and reduce its maintenance requirements through these means:

  • Improves the air exchange between the soil and atmosphere.
  • Enhances soil water uptake.
  • Improves fertilizer uptake and use.
  • Contributes to stronger turfgrass roots.
  • Reduces soil compaction.
  • Helps to breakdown thatch.
  • Reduces water runoff and puddling.
  • Enhances tolerance to heat and drought stress.
  • Improves resiliency and cushioning.