Image: Hollow-tine core aeration pulls soil plugs that should be left on the lawn surface.
The open holes help speed fertilizer and lime into the lawn’s root zone. Aeration also reduces compaction, improves rooting and helps control thatch. Lawns benefit greatly from at least one aeration per year. Aeration is best performed when the grass is actively growing.
Image: Soil cores removed by a hollow-tine lawn aeration machine. The open holes provide faster entry of fertilizer and lime into the root zone, and also create openings for grass seed to grow if you are overseeding a lawn. Multiple passes with an aerator will add to the benefits.
Fall is the best time to aerate your lawn, which is September in the Northeastern US. Spring is second best. Try to aerate when the soil is moist but not overly wet for the best soil “plugs.” Leave the soil cores on the lawn to breakdown on their own, since this also helps reduce thatch build-up. The soil cores disappear on their own within a few weeks.
You can rent a walk-behind machine that removes small soil cores of soil from your lawn. Neighbors will find it beneficial to split the cost of an aerator rental, allowing you to do several neighborhood lawns in one day. Note: If you are physically unable to run an aerator, most lawn and landscape services provide lawn aeration as a regular service.
Some areas of your lawn may prove difficult or impossible to aerate. These areas would include ones that are difficult to access, too steep, or are full of surface roots from large trees. It’s also very important to stay away from “electric dog fence” wiring since it is usually just a few inches below the soil surface, and is easily cut by a penetrating aerator tine.
Dog fences are flagged following installation. Once the flags are gone it’s very easy to forget where the shallow wires are located. Cutting these wires while aerating will create added expense and aggravation.