UC IPM Online UC ANR home page UC IPM home page


SKIP navigation


How to Manage Pests

The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns

Aerating methods

You can choose to aerate your own lawn or hire a professional to do the job.

If you decide to do the work yourself, follow these steps:

  • Soften the soil a few days before you aerate by watering.
  • If needed, dethatch and remove the debris.
  • Remove soil cores that are 1/4 - 1/2 inch in diameter, 4 - 6 inches apart, and about 3 to 4 inches deep.
  • Leave cores on the lawn. They will eventually break up due to watering and mowing and return to the lawn as a topdressing material.
  • Fertilize and irrigate as necessary.


It is more efficient to use tools that remove cores of soil, rather than just spiking the soil. Aerifiers remove soil cores and leave them on the lawn.

For small lawns or localized areas, use:

  • Hand aerifier

A hand aerifier consists of hollow tubes on a stirrup that works by pushing it into the soil by foot.

For large or extremely compacted lawns, two different kinds of machine-driven aerifiers can be rented:

  • Roller-type aerifier
  • Piston-driven aerifier

A roller-type aerifier has tines mounted on a heavy drum. As it is rolled over the lawn, the tines, seldom closer than 6 inches apart, are pushed into the soil, removing a soil core. Occasionally, torn holes result as the tine is lifted from the soil.

A piston-driven aerifier is a self-propelled machine that punches hollow tines into the soil and removes a core without tearing. The tines can be spaced at intervals of about 2 inches.

You may need to go over large lawns twice to make sure you have covered the entire lawn.

Illustration of a piston-driven aerifier
A piston-driven aerifier

Photo of a hand aerifier

Photo of a roller-type aerifier

Photo of metal tines of roller-type aerifier

Top of page

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
All contents copyright © 2017 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Accessibility   Contact webmaster.