Should You Aerate Before, During, or After Rain? (Answered)

Aerating the lawn is an integral part of lawn care as it allows much-needed air to reach the grassroots and soil while alleviating the problems caused by excessive thatching and compacting. However, is there an optimum time to aerate your lawn?

You can safely aerate your lawn before a rainfall as long as the accumulations are 0.39 in or less per hour. You can also aerate during these types of rain showers. With a well drained lawn, aeration afterward is no problem, but with swampy conditions further compacting could occur.

That is the question we want to address in the following article. Our focus is on the best conditions for aerating a lawn. When the grass is wet? When it is dry? What time of the year is best for this exercise, if any? Let’s find out!


Can You Aerate Your Lawn After Rain When It’s Wet?

Lawn aeration is the best way to minimize the impact of soil compactness. Over time, soil can get compacted due to excessive foot traffic, heavy snowfall, as well as frequent watering or rain. The more compact the soil is, the harder it is for water, nutrients, and oxygen to reach the roots. But can you aerate when it’s wet?

Regardless of your chosen tool, the best time to aerate the lawn is when the ground is a little moist. Too wet, and you risk plugging the tines with muddy soil. However, aerating bone-dry soil will make it difficult for the tines to get as deep as they should.

Aeration is also used to reverse the effects of excessive thatching. Thatch is dead plant material that is on the soil surface. Thatch can include grass clippings, twigs, and anything else nestled within the lawn. 

This layer of dead matter is largely beneficial to your lawn, as it returns vital nutrients to the soil. Thatch is also good insulation from the elements.

However, too much thatch can also end up holding up the seepage of water, which, in turn, blocks the entry of oxygen into the soil. Soggy or overly wet thatch is also a perfect breeding ground for fungi and harmful bacteria, which is more bad news for your lawn. Vermin may also move into the new swampy accommodations.

Aeration does wonders for wet, soggy thatch.

One of the most popular and inexpensive pieces of lawn equipment is an electric detacher for those lawns with excessive thatch problems. I recommend this best seller electric automatic dethatcher from Amazon.

Aeration involves the creation of holes in the soil with sharp objects like pitchforks or aerator boot attachments.

However, a better way to aerate a lawn is to use a core aerator, a piece of equipment with several hollow spikes, known as tines, that extract soil plugs from the ground.

The easiest way to aerate, especially on big yards, is to use an automatic aerator.

If your lawn grows in clay soils that are easily compacted, you should aerate it at least twice a year. Sandy soils have much better drainage, so once a year should suffice.

To get more great insights into lawns and grass growth, see my other articles here…

Is It Okay To Aerate Before Rain?

So, we now know that light to moderately wet lawns are okay to aerate in, but what about dry ones? Can we aerate before it rains?

It is absolutely fine to aerate before an expected rainfall. The root system of your lawn will absorb the water and then be able to take advantage of the increased air flow. The caveat here is that the amount of rain should be light to moderate and not lasting more than a day.

A freshly aerated lawn can accommodate rainfall for several days without any problems. Heavier rains could fill up the aeration holes in a couple of days, but the grass roots’ rate of absorption can easily counteract this.

Excessively heavy rains and floods, on the other hand, are not ideal for an aerated lawn. In these conditions, your lawn could sustain serious root damage and loss of nutrients. The excess water could also promote the growth of weeds.

It’s important to note that you should aerate before or after heavy rain.

Is It Good To Aerate In The Rain?

So as we can see, wet or moist conditions can help the aeration process as long as it is within moderate to light quantities. Heavy rains should be avoided when aerating lawns. How about aerating in the rain?

If you must aerate while it is raining, do it during drizzles or light showers. Aerating during heavy rain runs the risk of compacting the soil even more. You will also have the same problems with aerating muddy soil. Keep an eye on weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

One thing that can be said about flood prone areas. When young or brand new lawns have been established, runoff of soil, plants, and seeds can sometimes be mitigated by aeration. We have used this especially areas of heavy rain drainage. Prolonged exposure to such water levels could create the opposite affect, but then you have other problems.

What Is The Best Month To Aerate?

For the best results, you must select an optimum time of the year to aerate your lawn. The type of grass in your lawn is the main factor behind the timing of your aeration. You want to aerate the lawn during peak growing season. 

Warm-season grasses, like St. Augustine and Bermudagrass, have peak growth during late spring to early summer. April to June is their ideal aeration period. Cool-season grasses including Perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass are best aerated from September to November or March to April. 

As we’ve already touched on above, the frequency of aeration depends on the nature of your soil. But most academic sources give the estimated number of aerations per year at 1 to 2. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) recommend at least once per year.

What Do You Do After You Aerate Your Lawn?

While aeration is a welcome boost to your lawn’s well-being, there are other things you can do afterward to guarantee great results. 

Steps After Lawn Aeration

  1. The first thing you should do is add the extracted soil plugs to the lawn, so they can serve as an additional nutrition source as they break down.
  2. The next step is to add fertilizer, so the deeper grassroots can absorb vital nutrients as quickly as possible. Fertilizer will allow the grass to grow faster and thicker, which can suffocate the growth of unwanted weeds. Thick grass will also be able to survive harsh summer conditions.
  3. If you have areas of patchy lawn, aeration gives you the option of re-seeding the grass. For the best chances of survival, grass seed requires loose soil so shoots can emerge more easily. 
  4. Finally, you will have to water the lawn. This is especially important if you have re-seeded parts of the lawn. 

Watering Your Lawn After Aeration

For the best results, you will have to follow a watering regimen that varies over time.

During the first two weeks after aeration, you should water the lawn daily but very lightly. Do not water beyond a 60mm depth, just enough to keep the soil moist without washing away the grass seed.

At three weeks, you can water the lawn 3-4 days a week, but you must increase the depth to about 130mm. This will keep the soil moist and not dislodge any newly established roots. You can also mow the lawn if the grass is taller than three inches.

After a month, you should water the lawn even less often. However, make sure to water to a depth of 3 inches. Avoid watering on, or immediately after a rainy day.

After a month and a half, you can water your lawn frequently at a depth of about 2 inches or so. Also, avoid watering on rainy days. You can water in this fashion until you are ready to aerate the lawn again.

Final Touches On Aerating Before, During, And After Rain…

It is perfectly fine to aerate in dry or wet conditions and before, during, or after rainfall. It is important to make sure however that the accumulations stay in the moderate to low range to protect root systems and keep down weed growth.

Aeration is a major part of lawn care, even though it is only recommended once to twice per year. Do it and don’t let a little rain stand in your way.

To read more on this and other subjects in landscaping, see my other articles…


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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