How & When to Aerate Your Lawn

Created By

Updated On

Get FREE Exclusive Access

Keep your lawn pristine with exclusive tips, offers and insights that I only share with my private subscribers.

Latest Posts

How & When to Aerate your lawn

Jump to

Get FREE Exclusive Access

Keep your lawn pristine with exclusive tips, offers and insights that I only share with my private subscribers.

Aerating the lawn – how mundane! Not to worry though – have a read of this.

Aerating is a vital task to making your lawn look its very best. There are a few ways of aerating the lawn and that’s the reason I want to share this article with you.

I also want to share my honest opinions of the different methods – tried and tested.

What does aeration actually mean?

It’s the process of putting holes in the lawn and reducing compaction of the soil, so the lawn can breathe, let oxygen in and drain the water off the surface. It ultimately gives the grass blades a much better chance of surviving the whole year.

So in this article I’m going to tell you how the job done, when the best time is to aerate a lawn and a couple of tips when using hollow tines. Including what you can do with fairy liquid and how to remove soil sausages – keep reading.

Without further ado, let’s look at your options.

Tool Options for Aeration

Using Aerating Sandles

I had a major challenge with these. just getting these on my feet was the hardest part. Actually I chucked them across the lawn the first time and gave up.

I did give them a second chance though and once I’d got them stuck to my feet properly I was able to get across the lawn fairly quickly – albeit walking like a bit of a d**k. Haha!

In my honest opinion – they’re efficient but not hugely effective! And you defo don’t look the part when you’re walking in them.


you can get your aeration holes in the lawn at a fairly fast rate with the sandles, whereas using a fork or tine aerator is far slower.

The spikes on the sandles won’t go as deep – probably about 2 inches deep – but will create a bit of extra drainage, which could be the difference between moss coming back and getting rid of moss for the whole year.

If you have compact soil, then I recommend using these as a supplement choice rather than the main way of keeping a compact soil bed fully drained.

Using a hollow tine aerator

One of the best ways to create drainage holes in the lawn is using a hollow tine aerator – you can buy these or hire one at a cost of around £100. Possibly the slowest of the lot but very, very effective. They are a bit harder to dig in too, so it’s definitely best to do it when the ground is wet,

If you can find the time to use one of these across the lawn, then it’s definitely worth it. It will probably take you about 2 hours to fully aerate approximately 80 metres square of lawn.

I find it best to do a couple of lines at a time, when I can find some time in the day – and I don’t try and do the whole lawn in one day. Sometimes I do 2 lines a day over the course of a couple of weeks. Every little helps and all that.

How to use a hollow tine aerator

One of the most important things to remember is to make sure that your tines are sharp. A sharpened aerator will give you much better leverage when digging it in the ground. The best ones are those which have a lot of metal.

Once you are happy that yours is sharp, you should start in one corner and move up and down the lawn, leaving approximately half a foot (or 15cm) between each set of holes.

Simply put the hollow tine aerator where you want the holes – put your foot on it or stamp on it (use some strong footwear) and wiggle the tool from side to side while pushing down with quite a bit of force.

Pull it back out and do the same again. When you push it in again, the soil will come out of the tines from the top – looking a bit like soil sausages.

A common problem is that the ‘sausages’ don’t come out and you end up compacting it all in the ground or it just compacts in the tines. So, try putting some fairy liquid in the holes before starting. And ALWAYS clear the tines before putting it in the shed for next use.

One more thing – you’re going to end up with loads of soil sausages on your lawn. Don’t leave them there. The fastest way to get rid of them is to go over with the lawn mower. If you want you can leave the box off the mower and let it sprinkle the soil back onto the grass as a bit of a dressing

Using a pitchfork

Some people ask me – can you use a pitchfork to aerate the lawn? And the simple answer is, YES!

This is a tool that we should all have in our toolkit – even if we’re not lawn enthusiasts. So, if you didn’t want to invest in a brand new tool you can always use the good old pitch fork.

Simply work up and down your lawn digging the fork in every half a foot (or 15cm) or so.

Make sure your pitch fork is sharp so that it makes it easier to get in and out in real quick time. Using a pitchfork is quite a bit quicker that a hollow tine option but still a bit slower that the aeration sandles

Using an electric Aerator (& Scarifier) in-one

You might see scarifer machines advertised as a 2-in-1 scarifier AND aerator.

Be careful here though, because the ‘aerating’ blade is still going to scarify, so it’s not necessarily the best option if you need to do some proper aerating.

Of course any job is miles quicker when it’s done by electric but in this case it’s probably not going to be the most effective against compact soil. So, really try to get your manual hat on for this job.

Now you know your options, let’s look at when you should be getting out there and giving this a go?

When to aerate your lawn

Technically, you can aerate at any time of the year but most people do it when the grass is growing well. That means Spring or Autumn – a bit like most tasks when it comes to grass and lawns.

The main thing to remember when it comes to spiking the soil is that it’s much, much easier when it’s wet.

Can you aerate your lawn in the Summer?

If you have a few wet days during the Summer, the you may be tempted to get the aerator out. If you’re like me, you might be doing the job over a few weekends so don’t be afraid if you need to go into the Summer to complete the job.

What you will find though is that the soil hardens up in the Summer due to the hot weather, so you will have a much harder time getting anything spiked into it.

Can you aerate your lawn in Winter?

As we know, during the Winter, your grass is dormant, which means it’s not growing. But it does still need drainage otherwise the dreaded moss will likely come back. So, Winter is a suitable time for aeration, especially if it’s not been done in the previous Autumn.

So, yes, grab yourself some warm gloves a cosy jumper and get yourself out with your gardening hat on to give your garden some Winter TLC in the form of aerating the compact soil.

How often to aerate your lawn

Now the answer to this question probably comes down to how much time you have and how big a lawn you have too. Especially if you’re doing it manually.

Ultimately, once a year should be enough but if you have the patience and time then it’s a good idea to do it in both the Spring and the Autumn too. Doing so will give a great boost for drainage during the wet and cold months of late Autumn and Winter.

There’s one more question –

Should you cut the grass before aerating?

Personally I don’t think it’s absolutely essential to cut the grass before you aerate. But it can have its benefits.

Basically if you give it a quick mow, then the lawn can re-establish itself well. after its been trampled on during the process. You will definitely want to mow afterwards though, so you can get rid of the ugly soil sausages as mentioned above.

Article By

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Phil

    Can I use horticultural sand instead of sharp sand to fill in the holes?

  2. paul

    ive seen hollow tining done on golf course and then they seemed to sand it afterwards. should i bother with sharp sand after aeriating ?

    1. Matt Adams

      Hi Paul, If you struggle with drainage, then I recommend using a 70/30 sand/soil mix to top dress. However it’s not absolutely essential as the holes will also fill themselves in over time too. Hope that helps. Cheers, Matt


    You advise to put washing up liquid “in the holes before starting” I presume you mean in the tines, because if the holesis are already there, you wouldn’t need the tool ????. I find it makes a difference how hard you stamp or punch the tines into the ground coupled with how moist the ground is. It needs to be moist enough to put the tine in but not too moist such that a hydraulic lock forms making it difficult to extract the tines. I have a bucket of water at the end of the lines so that I can clear out the tines and rinse the tines before starting each row. Pushing too hard can ‘cap over’ the end of the tine and compacting the bores. It is better not to to be too greedy. Like everything else, practice and perseverance bring better performance.

  4. Frank

    Thanks for all the good info..can you tell me if I can put lime on my lawn.then put a grass fertiliser a 3 in my lawn is in the shade most of the time. The ph ranges from 5.0 to 6.0.i see moss starting again.thanks for any info you can give me. Frank

    1. Matt Adams

      Hi Frank, yes it’s fine to use lime after applying fertiliser. However, you’ll want to wait a minimum of 8 weeks after applying lime before doing a fertiliser application. Cheers, Matt

      1. Phil

        Hi I have a combined electric scarifier/aerator which includes fine metal disks that slice the turf to a depth of 1-3mm. This produces lines about 2-3 inches apart. I have a lawn which is on clay and water logs every winter. Even now I have only been able to cut it once this year. Appreciate your view.

Leave a Reply