DIY: Aerate Your Own Lawn
It may be easy to just have a lawn service aerate and overseed your lawn, but you can save a lot of money doing it yourself. All you really need is a riding lawn mower, a lawn aerator, some weight, and a little bit of time.
Aeration is essential to the health of your lawn. After months or years of foot traffic, mowing, debris, grass clippings, and water weighing down on your lawn, the soil needs to be loosened to allow vital moisture, nutrients, and oxygen to reach deep into the roots of the grass. If you have a patchy lawn, aeration will provide the room necessary for new grass seed to germinate and grow healthily.
A lawn tractor can typically handle a tow behind aerator, but if your lawn has been compacted quite a bit, a garden tractor or high HP lawn tractor may be your best bet to handle the additional weight needed to drive the aerator plugs and spikes deep into the soil. Anything that carries a decent amount of weight in a small space works really well, like cinder blocks, salt bags or sand bags, just make sure they are secured with bungee cords or straps.
Under the right conditions zero turn mowers can be used for aeration as well. But again, if your aerator is going to require a lot of weight in order drive those plugs and spikes into the ground, you’ll need a decent amount of HP and dry conditions to aerate effectively.
Aeration should be done in spring while it’s cool and the ground is still soft. If you wait until summer, the ground may become too hard to effectively aerate, and the heat can dry out the turf pretty quickly. Waiting for fall is okay, but make sure it’s done a least a month before the first frost.
When you aerate, do so after a rain shower or watering so that the soil is moist (not the actual grass blades), as it will help the aerator pull plugs easier. If there are highly compacted areas, make multiple passes to ensure the ground has been sufficiently loosened up. Once the plugs dry out, you can rake them to break them down and return the soil and it’s nutrients back to the lawn.