Lawn aeration is undertaken for the purpose of repairing compacted soils by opening up the soil profile underneath a lawn, this breaks up the soil to allow more free flowing of Oxygen and Water, two components which are vital to the root systems of lawns in order that they survive and thrive.
Over a period of years as lawns continue to be used for their intended purposes, the soil underneath them will become more squashed and compacted. Oxygen can no longer flow freely to the lawn roots and water can no longer penetrate the soil nor distribute effectively within the soil, and as a result lawns will become more sick as time goes by.
There are two main methods of aerating home lawns, as well as one or two shoddy methods as well, but regardless of the method used, once a lawn becomes heavily compacted, it must be repaired one way or another.
Lawn Coring is the most popular and most effective method used to aerate lawns. The lawn coring machine goes across the lawn surface and punches holes into the soil with hollow tynes, plugs of soil, including grass and thatch are pulled out of the lawn and left on it's surface. Lawn Coring is the best method and can be undertaken by the homeowner with a hired lawn coring machine, or a Contractor can be hired to do the work for us.
See our article on how to core a lawn for detailed instructions on how to complete the work for the greatest benefit and with the least amount of effort, and of course how to avoid potential problems.
An alternative method of aerating lawns is to use a garden fork to dig into the soil. The fork is pushed straight down and then leaned back in exactly the same way that a spade would enter the soil and is then moved backwards to begin digging a hole.
Of course we don't want to dig a hole, but our aim is to really break up the soil profile underneath the lawn as much as possible. This is the only effective way to really gain the greatest benefit from aerating a lawn using this method. It allows the soil to move both Oxygen and Water very easily. Simply poking holes in the lawn with a garden fork will have no benefit whatsoever.
When completed, the lawn will look rather nasty, if your lawn looks horrible then congratulations... you've done a great job. Don't panic though, the lawn will settle down and even itself out over a week or two, and the aeration work will become unnoticeable after one or two mowings.
We often see one gadget or another for sale at different times which purport to give our lawns an aeration effect. The worst of course would be the pair of shoes with spikes sticking out from their soles. The person wearing these shoes are supposed to simply walk over their lawn and it will suddenly be aerated.
While these things certainly add to the bank balance of the person selling them, they do nothing to aerate the soil. This is because the process of sticking a spike into the soil may well create a hole, but the soil surrounding the hole only becomes more compacted as it is squashed out of place into the soil surrounding it. We're just making the compaction worse!