Lawn aeration is the practice of making non-damaging holes in the soil, to allow air and nutrients to better reach the roots of grass.
Before aerating, make sure that your lawn is damp.
It is a good idea to aerate a few hours after rainfall, after the soil has had a chance to absorb water deep below the surface.
There are two methods for aerating your lawn.
The first, and perhaps simplest, is to perforate your lawn with holes using steel spikes.
This method can be carried out using one of two types of garden equipment.
The most basic method is to wear aerating sandals on your feet. These have spikes attached to the bottom of the shoe that puncture holes into the soil as you walk on the lawn.
The other tool is a rolling aerator, which is basically a lightweight version of a lawn roller except that it has spikes on it.
You simply push the roller along and the steel spikes puncture the soil.
Again, this is a very simple and easy to operate tool.
And if you don’t have access to such specialized equipment, a standard pitchfork can also help do the job, though it will take longer and may not do as good of a job.
The second method is to actually plug holes into your lawn using a plug aerator.
Plug aerators remove a plug of lawn and soil from the surface instantly alleviating soil compaction. The plugs should then be left on the surface of the lawn until they have dried up.
Then simply crumble them by mowing over them or pounding them with a rake, and flatten them over the lawn surface to make it look neat.
Some gardeners suggest that simply puncturing the soil through spiking (rather than removing whole bits of the soil) doesn’t create enough of a reservoir under the soil for the air to circulate. In fact, by puncturing holes, the trapped air in the soil can get compressed even more, which defeats the purpose of aeration.
Here is an analogy:
Imagine 20 people are stuck in a hot elevator. It’s stuffy. Not much air to breathe and cool down with.
The people represent soil and the elevator is your lawn.
Plugging would be the equivalent of removing 5 people from the elevator, thereby instantly allowing more air to circulate inside.
Puncturing would push the 20 people against the walls of the elevator. There would be a nice gap in the centre of the elevator but only because you’ve compressed the people against the walls, which might allow even less air to circulate in between them.
Plugging holes is often preferred to puncturing the soil with spikes. As demonstrated by the elevator analogy, puncturing the surface can sometimes cause additional compaction around holes, thereby making the problem of compaction worse, not better.
In contrast, plugging removes whole tubes of soil, thereby allowing the air to circulate more freely under the surface.
However, if you have a lot of compaction, then plugging may not be an option and puncturing (i.e. perforating) may be the only choice.