How and When to Aerate Your Lawn

In this article, we use the Mantis Tiller to aerate a lawn.

Before you get started Print


Estimated Time

An Hour or Two

Things You Need

Mantis Tiller
Aerator Attachment
Safety Glasses
Garden Gloves

A Little Bit of Background
If you have heavily compacted soil or if your turf has a lot of thin or bare areas, you should probably aerate your lawn.

NOTE -- if your grass is a warm-season variety -- like Zoysia or Burmuda grass -- you should not aerate the lawn. The aerating process will destroy or significantly harm most of the grass plants because the aerator will pull out most or all of the above-grounds stolens. (See "The Basics" in How to Have a Great Lawn.)

When to Aerate Your Lawn
If you have heavily compacted soil or if your turf has a lot of thin or bare areas, you should probably aerate your lawn.

The best times of the year to aerate are: in late spring, after the lawn has been green for a couple of weeks; or, in the early fall, at least 4 weeks before the end of your summer/fall growing season. (Your lawn should have some time to "recover" before going dormant for the winter.)

Pick a time when your lawn is not too wet.
If your feet sink into the soil at all when you walk on the lawn, it's too wet for aerating.

Remove debris, then mow.
Remove any debris (leaves, twigs, etc) and mow the lawn so that the grass is about 3" high. (Most cool-season grasses should normally be mowed to a height of about 4", but aerating is a lot easier if the grass is a little shorter than normal.)

Dethatch first.
If your lawn needs to be dethatched you should dethatch before aerating (see How and When to Dethatch Your Lawn).

Install the aerator attachment
You have two options for installing the aerating tines on your Mantis Tiller: for deeper aeration, install the tines in the more aggressive setting, similar to the tilling tines, so that the teeth will bite into the soil (tine teeth curved downward, like your fingers when your hands are held with the palms down); or, for shallow aeration and overseeding preparation, install the tines in the less aggressive setting (tines curved upward, like your fingers when your palms are facing up).

Start the tiller and aerate
Start the engine of your gas tiller or turn on your electric tiller while it's on your lawn.

Gently pull the tiller backwards while using a slow to medium speed for the engine or motor. You may want to experiment with aerating in a forward direction. Within minutes, you'll be able to determine the best speed and method to accomplish your task.

Notice the slits.
Observe the areas that you have aerated. You should see parallel slits in the soil. These slits will allow air, water, and nutrients to more easily reach your grass plants' roots. You may pull up some of the weaker grass plants, and will probably dislodge some shallow rooted weeds (if you have any).

Clean up and post-aerating tips.
Clean up any surface debris with a rake or with a bagging mower.

After you've aerated your lawn, it is an excellent time to overseed, feed, and water your lawn. You may also want to add a pre-emergent weed preventer if your lawn has a lot of bare spots, is very "thin," or if your area is susceptible to crabgrass infestation or other weeds. (Rule of thumb: if your neighbors have weeds, and you don't do any preventive action, you will have weeds, too.)

With proper feeding and watering, your lawn should "recover" in a few weeks, thicker and healthier than it was before you aerated!

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Aerator Attachment Dethatcher Attachment

Aerator Attachment

Dethatcher Attachment

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