Lawn Core Aeration

By Todd Fratzel on Lawn Care

Lawn AerationWhat is Lawn Core Aeration?

Lawn Core Aeration is a simple process of removing small cores of soil and grass to allow air, water and nutrients into the root zone. Another way of aerating a lawn is to use a spike aerator that punches spikes into the lawn to make small holes. However, this method isn’t considered as effective as core aerating.

What are the Benefits of Aerating Your Lawn?

The biggest benefit to aerating your lawn is allow sufficient oxygen to reach the grass roots. Heavy soil compaction severely reduces the pore space around grass roots which limits the amount of oxygen in that region. Roots require oxygen to grow and absorb water and nutrients. Core aeration benefits lawns by:

  • Increasing the activity of soil microorganisms that decompose thatch
  • Enhancing water infiltration from rainfall and irrigation
  • Improving root growth
  • Increasing water, oxygen and nutrient movement in the root zone
  • Helping to prevent run off of fertilizers and pesticides

How do you determine if your lawn needs aeration?

Most lawns can benefit from lawn aeration. However, the biggest reasons to aerate are heavily used lawns, thatch layers greater than 1/2 inch and soils that are mostly clay. An easy way to test your soil is to peal back a section and check the depth of roots. If the roots are only a couple inches deep then your lawn could probably benefit from core aeration.

When should you aerate?

For cool season grasses like we have here in New Hampshire the best time to aerate is in late August or early September when the grass is coming out of the summer dormancy. The grass begins to grow at a rapid rate again and there is little competition from weeds. Lawns should be aerated when the soil is slightly moist, either a day after rainfall or irrigation.

How do you aerate a lawn?

The best way to core aerate a lawn is to rent a mechanical core aerator from a local rental shop. If you have a large lawn like mine you may want to consider buying a core aerator like the one I just purchased. You can buy the John Deere Tow Behind Plug Aerator over at They are a very professional online retailer that specializes in John Deere equipment. I’ll definitely purchase additional John Deere products from them based on my customer service experiences so far. Regardless of the type you use, regular lawn aeration will help keep your lawn looking it’s best.

Lawn Aerating Tips

Check out my Lawn Aerating Tips post which talks about the most effective way to aerate lawns including a discussion about plug aerators vs spike aerators. Not all aerators are created equal!

Also, if you’re looking to purchase a plug aerator you can buy the John Deere model I own, John Deere Tow Behind Plug Aerator over at There are cheaper models available from other manufactures at Amazon, Agri-Fab 40-Inch Plug Aerator or Precision Products 42-Inch Plug Aerator. If all of this seems like too much work you can always hire a lawn service to do it for you.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been aerating my lawn every spring and fall with a hand spiky thing for the past two seasons… it does seem to have made a noticable difference in the lawn!

  2. Alice says:

    Thanks for the article – very helpful! I just moved into a brand new house with a remnant of lawn and cleared sandy soil that I want to turn into a beautiful lawn. I just heard about aeration – what a great idea! No wonder my old lawn on clay soil never thrived – guess I won’t make that mistake on this lawn!

  3. Mike DeVaney says:

    I live in a condo that is about 13 years old and the lawn is a combination of sod and seeded areas. There are small hills and flat areas with very little activity on the grass.
    Yards have been well taken care of by the landscaping company. There are large areas of very nice grass (when looking at it from a distance), but with closer inspection there are small and large patches that have no grass. When it rains the ground is soft, when it is dry the ground is very hard. I can not find anything that explains the benefit of continuing what we are doing vs aeration, which I have heard is the best thing to keep a lawn healthy.

    I have thought that aeration is best for all lawns but it is difficult to convince the board that it is worth the expense. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Todd says:

      Mike – Sounds to me as though you probably have some type of clay in the sub-grade (soft when it rains, hard when it’s dry). Core aeration can benefit all lawns and is one of the major techniques used by athletic fields and golf courses to keep grass growing well. In my opinion if you’re looking to save money then skip one cycle of fertilizer and aerate the lawn. It will definitely pay off.

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