Guide On How To Aerate Lawn By Hand Like The Pros

In addition to raising the property value of your home, keeping a healthy lawn provides a safe spot for your children to play as well as something to show off during the next summer barbecue. 

Lawn aeration is arguably one of the best ways to grow your grass to its full potential for a lush and gorgeous lawn.

It seems like a huge topic to tackle for some, so we want to make it easier by doing the research and helping you out with this guide. 

After deciding on the time of year to aerate your lawn, water it the day before in preparation for the process. Mow the grass down and clean the yard of any debris. Now, take your aerating tool and poke the holes in the grass to provide easier oxygen access for the soil. 

Hiring a company to aerate your lawn may save you some time, but it definitely won’t save you money or give you the same satisfaction as doing it yourself. 

With just a few tools you may already have in your tool shed, get ready to aerate your lawn by hand like a pro by following this guide.

how to aerate lawn by hand

How To Aerate Lawn By Hand

When aerating your lawn by hand, you push an aerating tool over the grass after watering the day before. The work of doing it by hand is tougher, but it saves you a lot of money for a job you only need to do once or twice per year. 

Aerating your lawn allows for vital nutrients from the air and water to penetrate the soil more deeply. 

You also give the grass more room to grow and reduce compaction, promoting thick and healthy grassroots. 

Let’s get into this simple yet detailed topic. 

Pick A Time Of Year

The first step in aerating your lawn is simply finding out if the grass you have is best to aerate in the fall or the spring. 

The grass type you have will coincide with the kind of climate you live in.

The Northern States, or cooler climates, are more likely to have cool-season grass, and therefore aeration should be done in the fall. 

Aerating in the fall allows your grass to have time to recover and grow before the winter freeze. 

Spring rains and melting snow will make your lawn too saturated in the springtime, and aeration will be useless. 

The Southern States, or warmer climates, are more likely to have warm-season grass, and aeration should be done in the spring. 

Aerating in the spring will give your grass time to recover and grow before the hot sun dries out your lawn. 

Aeration should be done just before the grass’s peak growing period. 

Avoid aerating too close to the first freeze of winter or too close to the hottest time in the summer; both could make aerating ineffective and potentially damage your lawn.

Watering And Inspecting

After figuring out the best time of the year and planning your weekend of lawn care, the next step is watering your yard the day before you aerate. 

You do not want dry soil when aerating because it will make cutting into the ground more difficult. 

If it rained recently, don’t worry about watering, you just want your lawn to be soft so the tools you use cut easily into the soil. 

Be careful not to over saturate the grass. 

Next, remove organic matter (like leaves, pine cones, twigs, and branches) and mark sprinkler heads, underground pipes, and invisible fences. 

Being aware of anything underground will prevent any damage caused by aeration tools, which purposely dig deep into the ground. 

Final Preparations

Mow the grass shorter than usual since you won’t be able to mow again until the grass has had a chance to heal and your seeds have germinated.

Mowing the lawn is the last step before getting down to business. 

You will want to cut the grass shorter than usual because it may be long before you mow again. 

Finally, use your aerating tool (see next section for more details) to evenly scar your lawn. 

In some ways, it seems silly for such a simple end goal (pushing the tool across your lawn) to have so many steps beforehand. 

But doing all of this will set your lawn for its best-looking and healthy potential. 

Different Aeration Tools And Tips For Using Each

Aeration shoes

Aeration shoes are worn on the feet. 

Put them on and slowly walk from one end of your lawn to the other in a straight line. 

Turn around and do the same in the opposite direction, filling in the gaps of aeration made between steps. 

Repeat the process in rows until the entire lawn has been stepped on.

Garden Fork

Insert the fork into the ground 3″ inches deep, then gently tilt the fork. 

Be careful not to rip up chunks of grass. 

You want to create space below the grass to allow water to penetrate deeply, but you do not want to damage the nice layer of grass. 

Repeat this process in rows every 2′ feet. 

This method is better to do in the fall.

Rotary Spike

Start at one end of your lawn and push the machine in a straight line to the other end, going line by line in rows until your yard has been covered.

Hallow tine manual aerator

Push the spikes into the lawn surface by stepping on the foot bar until the tines are fully pushed into the ground. 

Pull the tool straight up from the ground and repeat every 3″ inches, starting from one end of your lawn to the other in a straight line. 

Repeat repeating the process in rows until your lawn has been covered in holes. 

The soil plugs should be left because they contain vital nutrients and microorganisms for your soil. 

They will break down after a while and return those nutrients to the ground.

Tow Plug Aerator

Attach the machine to a vehicle you use to tow. 

Pull the aerator across the lawn in straight lines repeating the process in rows until you have covered the whole yard. 

Again, leave the soil plugs. 

They will break down after a while and return those nutrients to the ground.


Whether using a manual machine or a towed machine, cross your lawn in a straight line repeating the process in rows until you have covered your lawn if needed. 

Or use only on areas of vary compacted soil. If you are only removing the thatch layer, be sure to rake/ suck up and dispose of it after removing it.

Whatever method you use, do not be afraid to poke a lot of holes. 

The grass will grow back together stronger after watering, seeding, mowing, and natural growth.

Hallow tine manual aerators seem to be the best option, for the price and the amount of effort it requires. 

If you do not want to spend a lot of money on fancy, automatic equipment, but if you want something offering the best results, this is the best tool on the market. 

The hard part is choosing the model you like the best.

How To Care For Lawn After Aeration

After aerating your lawn, continue watering your grass regularly and consider overseeding. Other than this, there isn’t a need for other steps; just make sure you do your normal due diligence regularly. 

If you only rely on rain, you’re depriving your grass of the water it needs, especially if you are going into the hot summer months. 

Consider overseeding after aeration. 

It is the perfect time to plant more seeds because you create more surface area for seeds to germinate and grow. 

How Much Does It Cost To Aerate A Lawn (Pricing By Type) 

Based on our research, you’ll save up to $400 aerating your own lawn, as this table shows.

Many of the links in this table also go to our favorite types of each product on Amazon.

Click to head over and check the most current pricing.

TypeSolid TineHollow TineScarificationProfessional
ExamplesAerator Shoes
Garden Fork
Rotary Spike
Tow Plug AeratorSun Joe Electric ScarifierTruGreen
Cost>$50$50- $200 $100- $200$250-$450+

Good for sandy soil
Many choices depending on budget

Great for clay-type soil

Quick and effective
For lawns needing a lot of work

Best for yards with thatch buildup

Effective for overseeding
Save time

Professional tools

Done in one day
ConsNot precise

Not good for clay soil

Shoes are unstable and can cause injury
A tool with only one use

Not as good for sandy soil

Need a large machine to tow the tow plug aerator
May cause damage to lawns already looking amazing

Not always necessary

Company picks the time

You still have to prepare your lawn for the appointment

How Often Should You Aerate Your Lawn?

You only need to aerate once or twice a year, depending on the kind of growth you are looking for. Heavily trafficked lawns will benefit from aerating at least once a year. 

If you have a very compacted and brown lawn, aerating and overseeding twice a year will create the beautiful lawn you are looking for. 

If your lawn is already a beautiful green carpet, aerating once a year may even be more work than necessary. 

Consider dethatching instead and aerating once every two to three years.

How To Overseed A Lawn

Overseeding a lawn is when you reseed an already-grown lawn. It helps keeps the grass even and healthy, and right after aerating is the perfect time to do it. Just apply basic fertilizer and seeds followed by a sprinkling of water. 

Putting down new seeds directly after aeration is a great way to optimize the seed to soil contact and get the most out of your lawn care efforts. 

Aeration creates holes in the ground where seeds can germinate deep in the soil.

Since you have already watered and mowed your grass and created the holes/ fissures when aerating, you are ready to start the seeding process! 

Before laying down seeds, you want to put down fertilizer. 

Stay away from regular starter fertilizer or fertilizer with high nitrogen levels because nitrogen encourages growth in the top grass already thriving. 

To make sure you get the most out of your fertilizer, check out our article on how long to wait before watering a lawn after fertilizing.

You want to give the baby seeds a chance to germinate and grow before the top growth takes over. 

Ask your local garden expert to help you pick out the best fertilizer for your grass type. 

Then check the fertilizer package for instructions on how much to use for your specific lawn. 

Lay down the fertilizer evenly.

Tips For Putting Down Seeds

After fertilizer, throw down the grass seed. 

Check the package or ask your local gardening expert how much seed to put down per square foot. 

Throw the seed down evenly without letting the seeds pile up. 

The best way to ensure even coverage is to use a drop spreader. 

This is a very inexpensive tool even to buy second-hand. 

If you have brown patches with little to no grass, throwing down extra seeds by hand is okay.

Once you have put the seed down, you have the option to roll the seeds into the ground or put down peat moss. 

Rolling the seeds will require an additional tool for your garden shed, but it lightly pushes the seeds into the soil, preventing them from blowing away. 

Putting down peat moss will protect the seedlings from being blown or washed away as well. 

It will also help the seeds keep their moisture. 

Both of these options help keep your seeds in place and ready to grow.

However, neither of these tricks may be necessary because you have created pockets for the seeds to fall into.

The final step is to water your lawn, but do not oversaturate. 

After overseeding, wait 3- 4 weeks before mowing. 

Wait for the germinated grass seeds to start sprouting before chopping them away. 

When you go to mow, raise the height of your mower, so you do not cut off too much of the grass. 

Limit or completely avoid traffic on your grass until after the seeds germinate to avoid compaction and killing the new grass.