Skip to main content

How to aerate a lawn without a ton of expensive equipment

Aerate your lawn on a budget

If your lawn is the pride and joy of your property, it’s pretty disappointing when it starts struggling to grow or just isn’t looking quite as green and lush as it used to. In these cases, it’s probably due for some aeration. Buying an aerating machine, renting one, or hiring a landscaping service can all be quite expensive, and many homeowners may not have space in the budget for these investments. Luckily, there are some simpler ways you can successfully aerate your lawn. Enhance your curb appeal without breaking the bank with these tips.




2 hours

What You Need

  • Lawn mower

  • Working garden hose

  • Aerating tool of your choice

  • Lawn fertilizer

While the easiest way to aerate your lawn is to hook up pull-behind aerator attachments to your riding lawnmower or ATV, these can get pricey and are only effective if you have the right machine to pull it. Especially for a smaller lawn, you can aerate it effectively without investment in any heavy machinery.

person wearing foot aerators

What is aeration and why does your lawn need it?

Aerating your lawn is the process of loosening up the soil. Heavy rains, foot traffic, and even time can compact your soil, and this prevents the water, air, and fertilizer from getting down to the root system of your grass to feed it. By driving thin spikes down into the soil, you can loosen it and give it a better chance to thrive.

How to tell if your lawn needs to be aerated

Keep an eye out for these telltale signs that your lawn is in need of aeration:

  • Browning or yellowing grass
  • Bare patches where the grass isn’t growing
  • Growth-stunted grass
  • Areas with puddling water

Aerate your lawn with a pitchfork

The simplest way to aerate your lawn without the use of a motor is to use a pitchfork. Particularly great for smaller lawns, simply press the spikes into the ground about 4 inches deep and repeat the process every 4 to 6 inches over the entirety of your lawn.

Use a manual core or spike aerator

A manual spike or core aerator operates similarly to a pitchfork. The tool has spikes or hollow tubes on the end that puncture holes in the soil. The biggest difference between a manual aerator and a pitchfork is that the aerator is designed specifically for aerating your lawn, so the spikes are short enough to avoid penetrating the soil too deeply. Additionally, and the handles are designed for extended use which prevents cramping and general discomfort.

Aerating shoe attachments are handy

If you want to avoid some physical labor, invest in shoe attachments specifically intended for lawn aeration. They are designed like sandals with straps that go over your shoes and they have spikes on the soles. This way, you can simply walk carefully across your lawn, spacing your steps as close together as possible, to aerate it.

Aerating rollers make the job easy

Rolling aerators could not be easier to use. These push-operation rollers have spikes between the wheels that allow you to quickly and easily aerate even a mid-sized lawn in very little time. Just walk and push the roller in front of you to take care of your entire lawn within minutes.

16454 the best lawn mower covers that protect machines from elements cover

How to aerate a lawn successfully

Step 1: Mow the grass. Shorter grass allows your aerating tool to pierce the soil more easily.

Step 2: Start watering your grass generously two or three days before you aerate. Keeping the soil moist will lead to easier aeration and prevent damage to the grass’s roots.

Step 3: Check that the soil isn’t too wet or too dry. If you push the spikes into the soil and it sticks to them in clumps, your soil is too wet, and you’ll end up pulling up patches of grass.

Step 4: If the soil is so dry that it’s powdery, water it thoroughly and aerate again in a couple of days.

Step 5: Use the tool of your choice from the ones described above. Be sure you aerate the entire lawn to orchestrate adequate drainage throughout.

Step 6: Once you've finished aerating, throw down some fertilizer since it will be able to reach the roots more easily than when the soil was compacted.

Step 7: Water thoroughly for a few days to keep it moist but not drenched. The water will reach the root system well and helps the fertilizer soak into the soil.

General maintenance of your lawn includes the obvious tasks: watering, fertilizing, and weeding. However, if your lawn isn’t aerated properly, all that effort will go to waste since air and water can’t reach the grass’s roots. To promote new and healthy growth, be sure to aerate every one to two years. However, if it’s looking a little dull in the meantime, feel free to loosen the soil and give your lawn a breath of life.

Editors' Recommendations

Veronica Sparks
Veronica Sparks is a writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who loves writing about gardening, home décor, and DIY life. She’s…
Manage your overgrown lawn in 8 easy steps
Tips for cutting your tall grass
Tall grass with good lawn maintenance

An overgrown lawn is certainly an ugly sight. You may have purchased a new home whose previous owners let the yard go, or maybe you've just been neglecting it yourself. You don't have to be ashamed — this is a common tale, especially when life gets busy.

Read more
This low-maintenance, attractive ornamental grass adds instant curb appeal
Blue oat grass is a gorgeous addition to your landscaping
Blue oat grass

If you're looking for something to add to your front or backyard landscaping, look no further than blue oat grass. Ornamental blue oat grass is a perennial that offers gorgeous blue-green colors to any yard. It resembles blue fescue grass, but is just a bit larger (it grows about 18-30 inches tall). The blue and gold hues look stunning against green grass, river rock, and mulch, and the hardy grass is ideal for use in most areas because it grows in the sun, partial sun, and in various substrates like soil, clay, and sand.

Prices range depending on how you plan to plant the grass. If you buy, plan on spending around $15-$25 per plant, depending on the size. If you're buying just the seeds, it can be as cheap as $4 for 100 seeds. Whether you're looking to grow or plant blue oat grass, here are a few things to keep in mind so it stays looking healthy.

Read more
10 bad ideas for your front yard that will kill your curb appeal
front porch with wall lantern lighting

You may be thinking about all the projects you want to tackle outdoors thanks to the warmer weather. While you may have grand plans to improve your curb appeal, taking the time and patience to properly land on a front yard design is important. If you want to ensure you're staying on trend and not dating your home, there are some common mistakes to avoid. These will help with the resale value of your home and leave you the envy of all your neighbors.

Landscaping mistakes
These are some common mistakes you'll want to avoid when thinking about landscaping your front yard.
Not having a game plan
One of the biggest mistakes is not having a plan when it comes to the design and layout of your landscaping. This can leave your yard feeling disjointed and your plants at risk of looking overgrown and out of place. Meet with a local garden expert or map out your front yard, including where all plants, trees, rocks, water features, and flowers will live. This will help ensure things don't look too busy or sparse, and it will make your yard feel well thought out.
Using the wrong plants
Understand which plants work for your exact yard. If they need full sun or partial shade, or require a lot of maintenance, it may be a disaster waiting to happen. Not only do you need to consider placement in terms of sunlight, but different flowers and plants have varying schedules of watering, so you want to know exactly what's expected before you plant them.
Too many decorations
Everyone loves a yard that changes with the season in terms of decor, but you can overdo it. You want to avoid garden decor that makes your front yard look tacky or cheap (we're talking to you, plastic deer), so keep decorations to a minimum.

Read more