I would like to aerate my lawn but do not poses a lawn aerator. Would spiking the lawn with a garden fork be sufficient in aerating the soil or is it simply going to further compact the soil around the holes it creates?

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    It can work in some conditions, but it wont change the over all soil density, it will make make some spots less dense (holes) and some denser(area around holes) back filling the holes with sand can help. worms will eventually incorporate this in to the rest of the soil
    – Dagon
    Aug 18, 2015 at 2:45

2 Answers 2


For once I have to disagree with Bamboo! Poking tines in the ground actually compresses soil further. Proper aeration is only done by REMOVING cores of soil and allowing these cores to disintegrate on top of the lawn. Very inexpensive to go rent one of these machines and usually works out well if you talk to your neighbors and share the machine. All lawns need aeration at least once per year. Think about it...push something down in the soil and the soil surrounding justs gets tighter. Pulling plugs of soil out of the lawn albeit only 3 or 4 inches deep is all that is necessary seeing roots of lawns are only 3-4 inches in depth. Those that have trained their lawns with proper watering will have roots down 6" but not necessary to reach that far. This breaks up lawn debris and congested roots. Gives air to bacteria necessary for breaking down debris. If your lawn is used more than normal ie) volley ball, lots of kids, big parties it would behove one to do twice a year aeration!! Got this info from master gardeners over and over again but I am sure it is out there on the internet. Maybe I should go find a site and post it here, huh? Sigh and grins!

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    Oh, I know the theory, Stormy, but practical experience says otherwise - and unless you're using a plug aerator, there really isn't any difference between an aerating machine with tines and a fork with tines...
    – Bamboo
    Aug 19, 2015 at 11:04
  • Not at all...the point was if one takes out plugs they lessen compaction. Especially in clay. As tines are pushed into the soil they actually compact the soil tighter. The surfaces of clay are kind of magnetized and pushed together they will stay together. Even with the tiny hole the tine leaves behind. I was saying proper aeration is only done by pulling plugs of soil and debris out of the soil and left on top to disintegrate.
    – stormy
    Sep 30, 2015 at 19:38

Not only is it as good as an actual lawn aerating machine, its better - but it's time consuming and there's a knack to it. You need to insert the fork vertically and remove it in the same direction without tipping it either back or forward. Once you've inserted it, stand on it to make sure the tines go down to a good four inches, then pull it out. A little wiggle from front to back if it gets stuck won't do any harm, but ensure you pull it out vertically once you've done that so you don't break and lift the turf. Space the holes you make no more than 8 inches apart, and preferably 6 inches. If you're going to brush some kind of topdressing into the holes you've made, its best if you can use good loam mixed with sand, but you don't have to topdress.

Aeration is best carried out in autumn (though it depends where you live and what type of grass), and best restricted to areas of lawn which are obviously compacted - so where foot traffic is highest, or you notice water collects and doesn't drain easily, where it may get dry and brown more quickly than the rest, or there's poor grass vigour. It is not necessary to aerate the whole area if most of it is growing well.

As for 'making the problem worse', you haven't said what the problem is, so can't comment... unless you mean does fork aeration cause more compaction. Despite what you may have read, it doesn't in my experience, it helps. Technically, carrying out aeration with a machine is much the same process as with a fork, unless you're using a plug aeration machine, which might be marginally better for very heavily compacted ground.

  • why do you say it is better than a lawn aeration machine?
    – That Idiot
    Aug 18, 2015 at 13:40
  • @ThatIdiot Because you can better target the areas you want to treat, and the tines penetrate a bit deeper and are a little broader. I've done both, and that's the only explanation I can think of as to why I've got better results with a fork than a machine. But it's so time consuming...
    – Bamboo
    Aug 18, 2015 at 13:56
  • do you feel it is better than plug aeration with a machine as well?
    – That Idiot
    Aug 18, 2015 at 14:32
  • @ThatIdiot - about the same really - but plug aeration I'd only use if I was definitely going to topdress and brush it into the holes. Even then, because its mostly small lawns/areas I've done, I'd just make bigger holes with a fork and topdress into those - I'm in the UK don't forget and everything's smaller here
    – Bamboo
    Aug 18, 2015 at 14:53
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    haha "but plug aeration". Aug 18, 2015 at 21:57

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