10 Signs it’s Time for Core Aerating and Seeding Your Lawn

Why is Fall the Best Time For Core Aerating and Seeding Your Lawn?

Aeration and overseeding are two practices that help to keep your lawn looking great for years to come. It’s like a day at the spa for a lawn, providing it with everything it needs to grow well and bringing old roots to life again. 

As important as it is, there is generally some confusion about aeration, particularly about when the best time to aerate and seed your lawn is. Fall is the best time here in Massachusetts, and this article will explain why that is.  

Why is Aeration Important?

Whether your lawn is perfectly healthy or you’re experiencing some of the problems listed below, aeration can help to keep your grass green and lush and improve its health for years to come. By aerating (creating holes in the soil), we’re allowing essential nutrients, water, and airflow to get to the roots of your turf. 

This, in turn, helps beneficial microorganisms thrive in the root zone. They’ll support healthy growth, and at the same time, tackle existing thatch and improve soil quality. This goes hand-in-hand with overseeding as it also creates optimal conditions for new grass growth—which, in turn, can help crowd out weeds. 

Developing and sticking to an aeration schedule is an important part of turf management as a whole. If you’ve never done it before, or have any questions about your lawn, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

Signs it’s Time to Aerate

  • Compacted and/or Dry Soil: Hard or compacted soil will likely feel dry and extremely dense. If you notice certain problem areas, test them out with a trowel or shovel. If you have any difficulty with inserting tools into the soil, it’s likely that aeration is necessary. 
  • Uneven Growth: When you have compacted soil, you might also notice this as areas of the lawn where neither weeds nor grass are growing. Once aerated, more air, water, and nutrients will be able to facilitate growth here. And, if you do it at the right time, you’ll only facilitate growth of grass, not weeds.  
  • Poor Drainage: If you notice any pooling of water—either from irrigation or rainwater—this could be indication of heavily compacted soil. When water can’t permeate the soil, this could lead to problems. Fortunately, aeration is an easy solution because it can improve drainage and allow water to absorb more evenly. 
  • High Traffic: Compacted soil can be the result of areas that experience high traffic. This could be the result of either people, pets, or heavy equipment (i.e. riding mowers, bicycles, vehicles). Aeration can help to address soil compassion and allow for new growth. 
  • Excessive Thatch: Thatch is problematic for several reasons—it could attract pests, become a breeding ground for lawn disease, suffocate grass roots, or make your grass roots more prone to drought, heat, and stress. If you think you might have a thatch problem, remove a slice (one square foot by four inches thick) of lawn using a shovel. If you see a thatch layer that looks to be half an inch thick or larger, you’re in need of some aeration.

When Should Your Grass Be Aerated?

Depending on what type of grass you have, you might choose to aerate in either the early fall or late spring/early summer. 

For instance, people who live in areas with long summers and high average temperatures (at or around 75℉) will likely have warm-season grasses, like Bermuda grass or Buffalo grass. These heat-tolerant grasses thrive in the southern, southeastern, and southwestern United States and do best when aerated in the late spring or early summer.  

For many other areas of the United States, like the Pacific Northwest, upper Midwest, and New England, we have cool-season grasses that can tolerate frigid winter temperatures and thrive well in the moderate summers. In states like Massachusetts, these will include grasses like tall or fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass [1]. Cool-season grasses respond better to aeration in the early spring or early fall.

Why is Fall the Ideal Time to Aerate and Seed in South Shore, Massachusetts?

While most people think that spring is the most important time to spend in the garden, fall is arguably just as crucial for our lawns. Summer can be rough, not just on us and our air-conditioning bills, but on our lawns, too. 

Every summer, our lawns experience periods of drought, intense heat, and pressure from diseases and insects. Not to mention that we spend a lot more time on our lawns during the summer, which means that traffic can take its toll, too. 

As we have cool-season grasses in Massachusetts, it makes fall the perfect time for aeration and overseeding. Early fall means that the stresses our lawns experience during summer (namely, high heat and little rain) are less likely. Not only that, but cool-season lawns are typically at their strongest and healthiest point as we begin to experience cooler weather, which can help in a few ways:

  • Cooler weather can support optimal seed growth. The combination of warm days and cool nights allows for some of the best growth your lawn will experience. Ideally, planning an aeration and overseeding between mid-August and mid-September will take advantage of some of the cooler weather, while still allowing for germination before winter temperatures really start to settle in. 
  • There’s likely to be less traffic (and compaction) in the fall. Why would you fight compaction of your soils with aeration only to have them re-compacted by all of the traffic your lawn experiences during summer? It’s best to wait until cooler temperatures that mean there will be less lawnmower, human, and animal traffic compacting your soils. 
  • The changing season will help with weed control. The summer months bring the perfect conditions for weeds. Aeration may help to further activate their spread, which is why autumn is the best time to aerate. You can help your new seedlings flourish without supporting the growth of weeds and invasive species. 
  • Crabgrass is no longer active. While cool-season grasses are in a semi-dormant condition during the summer, crabgrass is relatively active. If you were to aerate in the late spring or summer, you risk activating the growth of your less-desirable types of grass [2]. 

Aeration and overseeding go hand-in-hand. By aerating the lawn before overseeding, you’ll allow the seeds to better connect with the soil, providing the optimal conditions for germination. If you’re scheduling a Fall Cleanup with us, ask us about core aerating! 

What Does the Fall Aeration and Overseeding Process Entail?

When it comes to scheduling your fall aeration and overseeding, you should try to plan it for the morning. When temperatures are low and there is more humidity in the air, this will help to retain some moisture in the grass. Even better, plan to aerate when the soil is moist (but not oversaturated), like it is a day after significant rain or irrigation. 

The moisture in the grass will not only help to allow the aerator to effectively penetrate the ground and create holes, but it will also help to support the existing grass, ensuring that it retains moisture during the process. 

Once the aeration process begins, we’ll mechanically remove small portions of soil (called plugs), which will be deposited on the top of the soil. They’ll naturally breakdown over the following weeks and the holes that they leave behind will allow air, oxygen, and nutrients to get to the roots of your grass. This will help prevent compaction and support ideal conditions for overseeding. 

Once we add the seeds, they’ll have their best chance at germination by getting down into those newly created holes in the soil. This will support their growth and, as they grow, they’ll support the overall health of your lawn, and allow it to look full and lush. 

You’ll want to give the soil a good watering within 48 hours after it’s been aerated. A watering schedule of every two to three days will help to support the re-growth of the holes and the germination of the new grass seeds. 

How Often Should You Aerate Your Lawn?

There are a few things for you to consider when it comes to determining the frequency of lawn aeration. 

First, if you see any signs (like the ones mentioned above) of compaction or dryness, that’s a good sign that it’s time to aerate your lawn. 

Also, you can consider your soil type and the conditions your lawn is exposed to. 

  • If you have clay soil or an area that receives high traffic, you would benefit from aeration at least once or twice a year. 
  • If you have loamy soil or have a lawn that is prone to moderate traffic, an annual aeration should be sufficient. 
  • If you have sandy soil, or have a lawn that receives low traffic, you can likely go a year or two in between aerations. 

Final Thoughts 

If this has been something on your mind recently, don’t put it off until next year. Now is the time to put in a little work and thought into getting your lawn healthy and ready for next year. Aerating and overseeding are simple processes that can have a huge impact. Get in touch with us today to find out more about our aeration and overseeding service. 


[1] https://ag.umass.edu/turf/fact-sheets/selection-of-grasses

[2] https://extension.psu.edu/aeration-of-turfgrass-areas

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