Do I need to aerate my lawn?

Do I need to aerate my lawn?
Do I need to aerate my lawn?
“Do I need to aerate my lawn?” is as good a question as any when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of keeping your lawn in tip-top condition.

What is aeration?

To put it simply, aeration is the process of creating holes or slits in soil to allow air and water to pass through freely. This is mainly done to remedy soil compaction which often causes waterlogging and can lead to moss and thatch making an appearance. It’s not just water damage that can be an issue either, in dry months the opposite can occur with soil struggling to absorb nutrients correctly. If left untreated this can kill grass as roots become starved of water.

There’s a good chance you need to aerate your lawn if:

  • It experiences heavy traffic, kids and pets running around your garden all contribute to compaction
  • Dries out easily in the summer and becomes very waterlogged in the wetter months
  • You notice a build up of moss over winter

Which method is right for me?

There are a number of different tools and two different methods that are used when aerating. The first is spiking and the second is pricking. Spiking involves creating holes in the soil at a depth of at least 3 inches. This method is recommended for lawns which are suffering from heavy compaction, usually noticeable when areas become waterlogged or very dry. There are two different approaches to spiking your lawn depending on the soil build up. One is with a garden fork which is great for smaller areas and sandy/loamy soils and the other involves coring with a hollow-tine fork which is ideal for heavy clay soils.

Pricking is a little different in that it doesn’t get right down into the compaction layer of the soil but rather opens up small holes in the surface which are fairly close together. A soil-tine or slitter aerator can be used for this job; these are usually pushed along by hand or can be bought as attachments and fitted behind lawn mowers.

When should I aerate?

The best times to aerate are in summer and autumn. Pricking is a good practice throughout the summer as it isn’t too severe but gives your lawn a little relief from surface level compaction in the high traffic months. Spiking should be left until autumn when there is less traffic on the lawn.

Aeration can be a tough job so whilst it may seem like a good idea to aerate as much and as often as possible it can do more harm than good, to both you and your lawn. Try to confine spiking to areas that are clearly compacted and don’t do this too often, when using a garden fork only do this once a year and if using a hollow-tine aerator cut this down further to once every three years. Pricking can be done a little more regularly but remember this method won’t solve deep compaction issues. Generally, aeration is a good practice to carry out every once in a while to improve drainage and alleviate compaction but it shouldn’t become a regular practice in any garden.

What are the benefits of aerating my lawn?

  • Enhanced colour and lushness as roots are able to take in nutrients from fertiliser easier
  • Less chance of moss, weeds and lawn diseases forming
  • Overall quicker recovery from heavy use in warm, cold or wet weather
  • Improved drainage and less chance of puddling

Ok, I want to aerate my lawn - how do I do it?

We have a video guide on how to aerate your lawn here.