Aerating a lawn is a great way to improve the look and health of your grass. If done correctly, aerating allows more water, air and nutrients to get down deeper into the ground.
If you’re using a core aerator (which I recommend), you’ll be pulling out small plugs of soil called cores. In doing so, you can alleviate soil compaction and improves the quality of your soil to provide a great environment for the grass roots to grow deep and strong.
Aerating is a great thing to do in the spring or the fall when the grass is actively growing.
If you don’t want to purchase an aerator, you can always rent one for the day from a local equipment company. They are pretty cheap to rent so it’s definitely worth it if you’re trying to improve the look and health of your lawn.
In this article I’m going to talk about some of the things you need to do after you aerate your lawn to get the most out of it. Aerating is best done in conjunction with other lawn care tasks to get the best results possible so that’s what I’ll try to explain here.
Let’s starting with watering the lawn!
Watering… Should you water before or after you aerate?
You should water before you aerate.
I’d recommend that you water the lawn before you aerate if the ground is dry and hard.
Obviously if the ground is already holding a lot of moisture due to wet weather then it might not be necessary to add more water, but it’s certainly much better to aerate the lawn when the ground is a little soft. Having some moisture in the soil allows for a spike or a machine to penetrate the ground.
Should you pick up the plugs after aerating?
If you’re using a core aerator, you will be left with lots of little plugs of soil sitting on top of your lawn and there’s some debate on whether it’s better to leave them to decompose or to pick them up.
A lot of people will tell you that it’s better to leave the plugs of soil to break down on their own. The argument is that it’s better to allow them back into the soil to add organic matter.
I’m of the opinion that it’s better to remove them and here’s why…
Firstly, leaving the plugs on your lawn can block out spots from sunlight. This is much more of an issue for warm season turf. It can actually cause these spots of grass to turn yellow. These little plugs can take quite a while to break too, its not like they break down in a couple of days.
If you want to add extra nutrients, there’s nothing to stop you from adding fertilizer to your lawn. There are plenty of great ways to add nutritional value to your soil so you’re not really missing out any benefit by removing the plugs.
Another good reason to pick them up is if you’re planning to reel mow. They will simply get in your way.
The final reason to remove them is that they look terrible sitting on your lawn!
If you’re going to incorporate the plugs back into your lawn…
If you’re going to add the soil back to your lawn, make sure you break up the plugs. You can do this using your hands or a spade.
You could also combine the soil plugs with compost. If you plan to overseed, you can mix your grass seeds into the soil plugs. Distribute the now-loose dirt evenly across your lawn.
Should you mow before or after aerating?
I’d highly recommend that you mow before you aerate.
It’s a good idea to mow the grass down to a shorter height over a period of time before you aerate the lawn. You should do this over a few cuts though. You don’t want to ever take off more than 1/3rd of the grass blades in any single mow.
Some people like to do a full-on lawn scalp. This is only appropriate for warm season grasses like bermudagrass and maybe zoysia.
You can also mow after aerating to vacuum up some of the material that will come loose from aerating or raking up the plugs. You’ll probably be surprised at how much excess material you can pull up so feel free to go over your lawn with the mower once more to open it up and thin it out a little.
Now that you’ve mowed and aerated the lawn, the next thing is to do is to overseed.
Once you’ve aerated your lawn, its’ a great time to overseed to introduce some new plant growth. Aerating and overseeding go very well together! These two lawn care tasks are often paired together, and for good reason! It’s a great idea to overseed your lawn, especially if you have some areas of your lawn where the grass is thin.
Aerating your lawn before you overseed provides those new seeds with the best chance of germination.
Aerating helps to improve seed to soil contact which is critical for the germination process of the new seeds you’re going to be putting down.
How soon after aerating should you seed?
I’d recommend seeding immediately after you aerate your lawn. There’s no need to wait! You don’t want the holes to close up before you overseed. The seeds will go right down into the holes you’ve just created with your core aerator. Once they fall in, they are protected from things could potentially prevent germination. Heavy rain and birds can could both potentially disrupt the process.
Don’t worry if some of the seeds don’t fall into the aeration holes though…
There’s a very high chance these seeds will still germinate. If you want help some of the seeds get into contact with the soil, you could always go around with a rake to try and help some of those seeds that are stuck. You could potentially improve your germination rate.
How to overseed
To do spread the seed, I’d recommend using a a walk behind seed spreader. This broadcast spreader from Scotts is my favorite.
The rate at which you set the spreader can vary quite a bit. You’ll probably need to do a little research about that’s appropriate for your situation.
Once you have successfully overseeded, you should water your lawn every day until you start to see the seedlings come up.
Following this, you’ll then want to follow up closely with your irrigation. This is absolutely critical after aerating and overseeding.
Your watering schedule for new seed is not the same as it would be for established turf.
I’d recommend watering in the follow way:
Week 1 – Water up to ten minutes twice per day
Week 2 – Water up to 30 mins every day
Week 3 – Water up to 30 mins 3x per week
Once the first three weeks are over, you can water the lawn like you usually would for an established turf. Ideally, your lawn should be getting an inch of water per week so you should adjust your watering schedule according to how much rain your lawn is already getting.
When should you mow after overseeding?
I’d recommend waiting as long as possible before getting back out there with your mower. You don’t want to be causing any extra stress on the new grass, especially since the from all of the watering you’ve been doing.
A couple of weeks after you have put down your seed, it’s a good idea to apply a starter fertilizer. I use this Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass (link to Amazon).
Even if you’re not overseeding, adding fertilizer is a great thing to do after aerating. The holes in the ground will allow your fertilizer to be fully utilized by your lawn. The fertilizer is able to directly enter the root zone giving you maximum benefit.
They takeaway message is that aeration and overseeding go hand in hand. These are often done together because the aerated lawn provides a healthy place for the new seeds to get established and grow.
The holes you have created in the created will allow the grass to establish a deep root system which will result in a nice thick and healthy lawn.
Of course, these are only two parts of a full lawn care maintenance routine.
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.
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.
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.
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!