Should You Pick up the Plugs After Aerating?

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A core aerator is a type of lawn aerator machine used to improve the look and health of a lawn. These work great to alleviate compaction and get more water, nutrients and airflow down into your soil. During the process, the core aerator machine pulls out small plugs of soil about two inches in length. Once these have been pulled out, they sit on top of your lawn and you have to decide whether to pick them up or leave them be.

I’ve heard arguments both for and against leaving the plugs on your lawn.

In this article, I’ll make the argument for picking up the plugs after aerating. While it can be a lot of work to do, it can be pretty satisfying.

Are there any advantages of leaving the plugs on your lawn?

The most obvious benefit of leaving them on your lawn is that you don’t have the hassle of going around to pick them up.

Aerators aren’t the fastest machines so just the machine work can take quite a bit of time on its own. Going around after to pick up plugs can sometimes be a pain to do.

Do core aeration plugs provide any nutritional value?

Some people make the argument that leaving the plugs of soil provides nutritional benefits to your lawn. No doubt, there is nutritional value within the plugs however the soil around the holes is the same soil. Your lawn isn’t going to suffer from removing the plugs and there are plenty of other ways to make sure your lawn gets all of the nutrients it needs.

If you want to add nutritional value to your lawn…

Just add some fertilizer. There’s nothing to stop you from putting down any product you want to increase the nutritional profile of your soil.

How long do the plugs take to decompose?

These plugs can take up to a couple of weeks to fully break down. It’s certainly not an overnight process.

Of course, the time it takes will depend on the weather, your soil type and whether you decide to take a mower to them.

Why I wouldn’t recommend leaving the plugs on your lawn…

When you leave the plugs to sit on the grass, they cover the grass under them. This shields these spots from the sun which can cause them to turn yellow. This is much more likely to happen to a warm season grass.

The plugs can flatten out too. This increase the area of grass it covers up which increases the size of the yellow spots you are left with. Trust me, it’s not a good look!

If you are going to leave them on your lawn, you need to make sure crush them up.

The cores look terrible sitting on your lawn too!

Having lots of small clumps of soil covering your lawn is certainly not a good look. They can take a little while decompose so you might be stuck for with an eye sore for quite a bit of time if you decide to leave them.

Remove the cores if you plan to reel mow

If you want to cut reel low, you’re not going to be able to do so if there are cores all over your lawn. If you’re leaving holes every few inches, you’re going to be pulling up a tremendous number of cores which makes mowing low a difficult task.

Should you fill the holes with sand?
You can do although it’s not 100% necessary. Using sand in a topsoil mix can help to improve drainage by altering the soil structure.

Lawn services aerate will not usually pick up the plugs!

If you hire out a professional lawn aeration service, don’t be surprised if they don’t pick up the plugs for you. Even if they complete the aeration, be prepared to go around and pick up the plugs after.

How to pick up the cores?

The key with aerating is to have a good amount of moisture in the soil. Before you go around your yard trying to pick up the cores, I’d recommend letting them dry out for a few hours first. This will make picking them up a lot easier.

I should also mention that it’s much easier to collect the cores if your lawn is short. When the turf is short, it’s much easier for the cores to slide along the ground. If your grass is long, they can easily get stuck and break up before you pick them up.

Snow shovel

The good old-fashioned way of removing the cores is to use a snow shovel. It’s pretty tiresome to do this if you’ve got a large area.

It’s a good to use a backpack blower to get them all into a pile first.

Once you’ve got them into a pile, you can easily pick the whole lot up.

Lawn sweeper

My favorite way to remove the plugs is to use a lawn sweeper.

These are manual devices that work great for removing all kinds of lawn debris. They are a great alternative to using a shovel. It’s a lot less effort and you can also attach some models to the back of a tractor or a riding lawn mower.

I use this Scotts sweeper (link to Amazon). It’s pretty lightweight, maneuverable and can be used to pick up debris in various surfaces.

Use your mower

You could also make a couple of quick passes with your mower…

Setting your mower low and to the bag setting is a great way to crush up the cores. It certainly beats using a shovel.    

Here are some of my favorite lawn care products

Thanks a lot for making it to the end of this post! I hope you found it useful. Here are some lawn care products that I use and that I think you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission.

In all honesty, these are some of the basic products that I use and recommend to everyone.

Broadcast Spreader

This Scotts Elite dual rotary spreader is not a professional grade model but it’s excellent for homeowners.

I really like the edge guard on it. It’s really easy to switch on and off so it’s great for going around my driveway and flower beds.

If you’re not looking to spend hundreds of dollars, I’d definitely recommend this model. It spreads out a wide path and is great quality for the cost.

Backpack Sprayer

This 4-Gallon sprayer is my absolute favorite. It sprays for a really long time. I’ve had this sprayer for quite a while and I’ve never had the battery run out.

The adjustable pressure switch is a really import feature to me.

You can order a lot of accessories for this model but I’ve never really found much of a need for it.

Head Aerator

Hand aerators are great for small spots if you’ve got construction debris or a spot that constantly dries out.

You can also fill these holes with organic matter that will hold a bit more moisture.

This one by Yard Butler is an absolute bargain. It pulls nice long cores. I also use it for taking soil samples around the yard!

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