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Removing soil cores from a lawn and leaving them on the lawn's surface to breakdown reduces compaction, improves rooting and helps control thatch build-up. Core aeration also speeds applications of lime and fertilizer down into the root zone.

Lawns in the Northeastern US benefit from one or two core aerations per year -- Spring & Fall -- with Fall being the preferred time if it is only being done once annually. Having adequate soil moisture present while aerating will aid in the removal of longer and deeper soil cores, but it should not be muddy. Most rental yards have core aeration machines and neighbors can go together on a rental to share the machine and save money.


  • Reduces soil compaction
  • Improves grass rooting
  • Promotes thatch breakdown
  • Improves drought tolerance
  • Enhanced fertilizer uptake

Aeration cores
Soil cores

Core aeration for lawns
Hollow tines pull soil cores from the lawn. Leaving them on the lawn is beneficial, since it helps breakdown thatch.

Video of a core aeration procedure:



  • New construction compacts the soil
  • Lawns (especially sodded lawns) build thatch
  • Home lawns with heavy traffic get compacted
  • Compacted lawns buildup thatch faster
  • Lime & fertilizer penetrate the soil faster

Kentucky Bluegrass rhizomes
Above: Spreading grasses such as Kentucky Bluegrass have white roots known as rhizomes. This type of spreading grass tends to produce thatch faster than a "bunch-type" grass like Perennial Rye.

soil cores
Soil cores, pulled out by an aerator, provide a good cross-section of the lawn surface and soil profile. The top of the quarter is at the soil surface. Above that is the thatch layer, which in this case is approximately 3/4-inch of roots and organic debris.

It's important to keep thatch layers
under 1/2-inch thick!


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