Updated: November 2017

Lawn Aeration Guide:

Keeping a lawn looking great and healthy is not just about mowing and watering. There are things like fertilizing, weeding, and aerating. Many homeowners are good about fertilizing and most of us will pick the occasional weed that is growing in our grass. The one thing that goes undone more often than not is the lawn aeration. I live in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon) where the soil is "clay" like and drainage can be an issue. Every few years most landscapers and professional lawn service companies will recommend having your lawn aerated. This means that they come out with a lawn mower/rototiller looking machine and extract lots of plugs of soil from your lawn. Your lawn will look a bit messy for a few weeks as the plugs take time to degrade and fall apart back into the lawn and soil. Although it looks bad, don't worry because this is all part of the process.
lawn aeration

Why You Need to Aerate Your Lawn - You might ask why this even needs to be done. Well, it's not always necessary but in some parts of the country the soil just isn't condusive to growing a healthy lawn. I find that moss is a huge issue as well as the soil being so dense (just like clay). There are many reasons why aerating your lawn is good for it. We have listed quite a few below:

*By opening up holes in the soil, water will be better able to reach the roots.
*The new access to the roots will let nutrients and fertilizers go where they are needed most.
*Lawns with thatch issues will benefit as well.
*Root systems need space to grow and by breaking up the soil, you now give them space to expand.

It's not like this needs to be done yearly and the cost is minimal given what monthly lawn service costs. I see most landscaping/lawn companies offering this service from $40 to $60. I do admit I hate the look of the lawn for a few weeks while the plugs are breaking down, but by summertime the lawn looks great.

Having your Lawn Aerated Professionally:

I have always chosen to have my lawn aerated by a professional. They come out with their aerator machine and get it done within about 30 minutes. I don't have a lot of lawn to do, but there are 5 unique areas in my yard that need to be done. The service is offered in the spring time as the sun comes out and the wettest weather is past us. You could get it done in mid-summer, but from what my gardener told me, it's best to do it before the peak growing season. Check with a local lawn service to see if they are offering this in your area. Sometimes you can get a few neighbors together and get a discounted rate. Don't be talked into doing this yearly as it is rarely required at that level.

DIY Lawn Aeration:

Ok, so you want to do the lawn yourself. There are quite a few options, even if you choose not to rent a machine from Home Depot or Lowe's. Their are both manual and power aerators to choose from. Browse top selling lawn aerators online here. The lawn spike aerator from Yard Butler is popular and so is the Precision Products PA42GY 42-Inch Plug Aerator. Just attached the Plug Aerator to your garden tractor and off you go. Some of the power machines you will see are the Husqvarna AR25 Aerator and the Classen TA-17D Split Drive Aerator. The Husqvarna retails for $3000 so you can understand why renting may be better than buying. Home Depot rents out the Bluebird Aerator which features a 19" aerating width and a 4 HP motor. You'll need to have a few people get this into or out of your truck bed as it weighs over 250lbs. I would suggest a ramp for transporting it back and forth from the store. Look into rentals for the gas powered, self propelled core aerators. We found that rental costs are roughly $35/hr with half day and full day discounts. One of our neighbors does this each year and he allows other homeowners to use it when he is done. BE CAREFUL - These are big and powerful machines. Use proper safety gear and make sure you know where sprinkler heads are before ruining them. The guy at the store recommended putting up small flags where the sprinklers are so you can avoid them while aerating your lawn.