Should I aerate before seeding? The experts advise on this lawn-care question

Get your new grass off to a strong start

fork in garden lawn
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Q: I am planning on over-seeding a patchy area of lawn in my backyard. Is it a good idea to aerate the soil, first?

A: Periodically aerating a lawn is a core part of any good maintenance routine. But it's also an important step when preparing the ground to repair lawn patches with seed.

Aeration involves perforating the soil with small holes, which allows air, water, and nutrients to penetrate it more thoroughly. This is why it's a good idea to aerate before fertilizing a lawn, too. Not aerating a lawn, whether you're over-seeding it or not, can lead to compaction, increased rainwater run-off and poor overall health, says Jeremy Yamaguchi of Lawn Love.

Some gardeners use a simple garden fork to do so, however, there are also aerator tools, such as this Gardzen model from Amazon, which make the process a little easier. A mechanical aerator can be useful for larger lawns.

Jeremy-Yamaguchi headshot
Jeremy Yamaguchi

As the CEO of Lawn Love, Jeremy Yamaguchi helps homeowners find quality, reliable lawn care. Specializing in technology and using industry experience, he intends to revolutionize the lawn care industry.

aerating a lawn

Aerating is an essential part of lawn care

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What are the benefits of aerating a lawn before seeding?

'As a lawn care professional of ten years now, I highly recommend aerating your lawn before seeding,' says Anton Schwarz, the CEO of Lawn Liberty. 'It creates a more hospitable environment for your new grass seeds.' He explains how the resulting small pockets of air and space in the soil allow the seeds to establish a stronger root system more quickly. 'This results in faster and more efficient grass growth, filling in any bare or patchy spots and resulting in a more uniform, even lawn.'

Dan Rothermel, the President of Green Giant Home & Commercial, agrees. 'Just spreading grass seed over a lawn won’t get you the results you want. To germinate and become a mature plant, grass seed requires several things, one of the most important being a seedbed.'

Aeration provides a safe seedbed where the grass seed contacts the soil, Dan continues. 'Plus, the holes prevent birds from eating the seeds, keep grass seed from washing away when it rains, and reduce the amount of watering that’s needed. Aeration holes hold moisture longer than the surface of the lawn.'

So, before you grab your grass seed, get aerating. To help your seeds along, you can also apply a lawn fertilizer – either a pre-seeding fertilizer at the preparation stage, or a starter fertilizer once the seeds have germinated. Keep the area well-watered, too, for the best chance of success. And be sure to check when to plant grass seed – which depends on the type that you're planting.

aerator shoes

There are multiple tools available that will aerate a lawn, including aerator shoes

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Shop lawn aerators:

Holly Crossley
Contributing Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.