Is It Possible To Over Aerate A Lawn? (Answered)

Have you ever been in a situation where you visit a close relative, colleague or friend from childhood you lost contact with and can’t shake off the feeling of how magnificent their lawn was? If I’m being completely honest, seeing other people’s lawns made me decide to redesign my own lawn. If aeration works well, can you over-aerate?

Over aerating a lawn is possible and usually occurs when done more than one time per year. Aeration allows air, water, and nutrients to reach the root systems of turf grasses. Too many holes caused by over aeration can leave room for weed and insect infestations.

The process wasn’t as easy as I anticipated and knowing when, how, and how much to aerate can be a big issue for those not experienced with it. I will tackle these and other issue around aerating and even over-aerating below. Let’s get started!

Photo courtesy of Guipozjim


Reasons Too Much Aeration Can Be Bad

In the case of my lawn, the soil in my neighborhood lacked the nutrients and appropriate texture to allow the grasses to grow easily. The ‘so called’ soil in my area is dense clay which makes it hard for air, water, and other nutrients to move through the soil and get to the roots. I had to figure a way out.

It was during my quest for a solution that I came across aeration and how it has the power to transform soil situations. As great as aeration sounds, there are downsides that you must pay attention to. Too much of anything can be a bad thing, right?

Too much aeration can be bad because it opens up overly large bare sections in a lawn when cutting divots too close together. This can open the door for unwanted weeds, pests, and over saturation of water at the root base of the desirable turf grass in a yard.

As an expert who has witnessed countless lawn aeration procedures and seen the outcome, one question I believe every lawn owner should ask before aerating your lawn is; is it possible to over aerate a lawn? 

The short answer to the question above is yes. 

Have you ever watered your lawn or garden to a point where you felt like the grasses were going to drown and die out? 

Apply that same string of thought to lawn aeration. If there’s too much air in the soil as a result of the aeration process, it can affect grass growth and also give room for weeds to grow. Weeds love open spaces in between turf grasses and if too many of them are made through aeration, this gives them a foothold.

This could also allow too much water to reach the roots of the grass at one time, especially in dense clay soils where water tends to sit rather than quickly percolate lower.

Now that some context has been created for you to understand a bit about lawn aeration, let’s take a dive into discussing the technical aspects of aeration, what to avoid when aerating your lawn, and when is the perfect time to aerate your lawn.

What Is Lawn Aeration?

Lawn Aeration is the process whereby the soil is perforated with little holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the topsoil and aid grass-root stimulation and growth. 

When a lawn is aerated, this gives your grass the ability to grow and thrive with ready access devoid of soil compaction. Compaction in certain soils like clay can really slow the development and spread of some grasses.

In most cases, when the soil isn’t adequately harrowed or conditioned for lawn growth, thatched soil and debris may cut off adequate supply to the roots. 

When this happens, you may start noticing changes to the color of your grass, especially during seasons when there is heat or a reduction in rainfall.

The small holes created by aeration tools can open up pathways for water and other important elements as well as loosen soils to prevent compaction.

I recommend for small yards this manual aerator that can be delivered right to your door from Amazon… Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator

For larger properties and lawns, I would highly recommend this pull behind aerator that can hook to your riding lawn mower… Agri-Fab 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

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Can You Over Aerate A Lawn

If these benefits can fix some problems in a lawn, is it possible to over do it? Can you aerate a lawn too much?

It is definitely possible to over aerate your lawn. These punctures in the thatch, soil surface, and root systems in a yard are essentially doing damage now for a greater result later. If too much damage is caused to root systems and too much space is left for weeds, the result may be negative.

But, why would someone want to aerate their yards several times per year? It may not make sense to everyone, but some believe it helps their lawn grow healthier and faster.

Reasons Some Over Aerate Their Yard

Some may think it is fine to aerate several times per year. This is because they feel continual aeration would help their lawn achieve more growth. Though in reality, they may simply be blessed with a healthy lawn and good soil base that can withstand the over aeration. Their lawns may actually do better with less stress on the soil and plants.

This is why I strongly advise that you shouldn’t aerate your lawn more than once a season or even once per year unless you specifically know what you are trying to accomplish. As well It is important to not make too many passes over the same area with aeration tools during one aeration session. 

You should understand that as much as aeration is essential to the growth of your lawn, adhering to the due process is vital to make it successful. 

However, if you have to aerate your lawn more than once a season or even year maybe as a result of the soil situation where you reside or due to the type of plants on your lawn, you should keep track of the growth process. 

The moment you notice that the growth of the grass has been altered, that is your cue to reduce the number of times per year and the number of passes made during aeration. 

Soil Compaction And Aeration

Another reason why people tend to over aerate their lawns can be as a result of the constant activities carried out on their lawns which compacts the soil underneath. Everything from simple foot traffic to bikes and kids play toys can have a lasting effect if used often.

Picture how many times you step on your lawn in a day. Picture all the parties, intimate family time, soccer practice, the game of catch with your pets or even playtime with your kids. 

All of these activities take a toll on your lawn and affect the soil. 

To solve this, most people settle on the option of aerating their lawns frequently. This thinking is on the surface reasonable. If the soil is compacted, it seems to make sense that aeration would loosen it up and allow for grass root growth. In reality, this could do more damage than good to your lawn.  

So, over aeration is possible and should be avoided at all costs. 

Should You Aerate Your Lawn More Than Once?

There are two issues that need to be considered when talking about aeration frequency. One is the number of times per year or season and the other is the number of passes with an aerator that can be made before it becomes a detriment instead of an aid to your lawn.

Here let’s talk about the former. Should aerate your lawn once and then turn around an do it again ‘to make sure’ it is done adequately?

If the proper tools and weight is used in aeration one pass over a lawn is all that is needed. Aerating the lawn again could cause so much harm to the soil and roots that it may not fully recover. This can produce the opposite result than was intended. Grasses are resilient, but not invincible.

If you have ever seen the result of a proper aeration, it can seem as though the grass spread and growth could be stunted from the ‘violence’ done to the soil. Yet, this is in many cases the best thing for the lawn.

Now think of doubling the amount of punctures by making additional passes over the grass. Some lawns that are really healthy can survive this just fine, but there are many that will show signs of distress if too many plugs are taken out or punctures are made.

There is a way to make your aeration more effective and thus producing stronger and healthier plants. In a study published in the Segmented Journals, research was conducted in sports stadiums pertaining to the size of the holes placed in the turf by aeration.

It was found that the holes by both larger and smaller tines in the aeration equipment cause significantly less compaction after aeration. This prompted root growth and overall better plant health. An important note was that the larger holes lengthened the time soil stayed less compacted and fostered better plant health.

So, instead of doing multiple aerations per year, it is better to opt for larger tines for yards that may need more help with compaction.

Can You Aerate Twice Per Year?

Now we need to look at what the proper frequency is in aeration and not simply the amount of punctures or plugs made when it is done. How many times should aeration be done in a given amount of time? What about in a year? Should you aerate twice per year?

It is not advisable to aerate twice per year for a healthy lawn. Once per year is plenty and this is usually only for lawns with clay soils to allow moisture and air to reach the roots that are usually compacted in dense soil. For healthy and nutrient rich soils, once every two years is plenty.

Will it be fine if you do aerate twice per year over a healthy lawn. Sure, it could work out just fine if the lawn is healthy, but the lawn could actually be healthier, grow faster, and be thicker without so much aeration.

For lawns that are in need of help due to water, soil, or temperature conditions, aerating twice per year could kill off whole sections of plants already struggling to survive.

It is important to know your soil, type of grass, and growing zone to determine if and when to aerate.

When Is It Too Late To Aerate and Overseed?

Once you notice that certain parts of your lawn are thinning and there are some patches without grass, you might become worried and decide to oversee your lawn. This isn’t a bad option in itself, as long as you are doing it at the right time. 

Yes, the right time for overseeding is vital for growth and shouldn’t be done when they have no chance of survival. 

But when does it become too late? Well, the lateness of overseeding varies based on the type of seed that you intend to plant.

If you intend to overseed most all grasses, you should do that right after the heat and dry conditions of Summer. One of the best months for aeration and overseeding is the month of September (in the northern hemisphere of course).

Once Winter passes and Spring approaches, aeration with overseeding would be a waste of time, as the grass wouldn’t be able to stand its ground against the harsh heat and dryness of the Summer.

What many don’t know about grass seed and early grass plants is that they don’t stop growing in the Winter. Though we may not see it happening, they continue to grow underground in their root systems. Though above ground they look dormant, below is where the action is.

Aeration should be done only once, but during the early Fall several overseedings can happen to ensure enough plants sprout and have time to grown strong root systems to endure next year’s heat and dry season.

When Is The Best Time To Aerate And Overseed?

In Southern states, it is best to overseed in late Summer and early Spring since you’d want to give the root systems time to establish underground before hot temperatures put the grass to the test.

At the same time, those in the Northeast, for example, could plant a little sooner to achieve the optimal overseeding result. This is due to the milder temperatures which would allow for the seeds to go in the ground earlier in the Summer.

It takes great soil to make a plant grow healthily. If you live in places where plants only grow by the help of miracles, you should bear in mind that you’d need to aerate the soil where you want the plants to grow. 

There’s a definite threshold for aeration and too much of a good thing is just that, too much. You just have to be vigilant and control all activities where you want your plant to grow since aeration can weaken the soil and existing grass for a brief time. 

If you’re still in the planning phase of planting grasses on your lawn, access the soil carefully to know exactly what you’re dealing with.

The Final Touches On Over Aerating A Lawn…

As you can see, aeration can be a good thing in moderation, but if over done it can cause problems. Isn’t this the same thing with about everything in life?

The trick is knowing where the middle ground is with aeration. Usually if you are doing it once per year you are okay in most regions and with most types of soil. You can get away with not doing it for years if your soil is healthy and the lawn is doing well.

If it is done more than once per year, it should be done by a professional that has a specific purpose for doing so.

Hopefully this is a helpful guide for you and your lawn when it comes to aeration.

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Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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