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There is no debate, you really do need to aerate

Behold, the hole-y lawn. Why Colorado yards need aeration to thrive.

This story is part of Denver Water’s TAP series in partnership with the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado on water-wise landscaping practices. Subscribe to TAP to make sure you catch the rest of the series.

Aerating your lawn helps water, oxygen and nutrients get deep into the soil to create a healthier landscape, improve your water efficiency and even allow you to cut back on your water use (which can save you money). Photo credit: iStock.

Every spring and fall, I get phone calls and flyers on my door with offers to aerate my yard. 

I’ve heard aeration is good for my yard. But I never really understood why it’s good. And do I really need to do it? 

As it turns out, the answer to the question is a strong “Yes! You do really need to do it!”

“Outdoor water use accounts for roughly half of a homeowner’s annual water bill, so doing regular maintenance steps every year like aeration to improve your water efficiency can make a big difference in your water bill,” said Austin Krcmarik, water demand and efficiency planner at Denver Water

“Using water efficiently can really improve the health of your lawn and help protect our water resources.”

Forward this water-wise lawn care tip to a friend who needs it. (Did someone send this to you? Sign up here for direct delivery of the free, weekly TAP email.) 

I had more questions, so I turned to Lyle Fair, a landscape expert with the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, for help. 

What is aeration, anyway?

Aeration is the process of poking holes into the soil and pulling out 2-to-3-inch plugs of soil. 

Fair’s pro tip: Leave the dirt plugs on the yard. They’ll fall apart and return nutrients to the soil.

Why does my lawn need it? 

Over time, soil gets compacted. This is especially true with the heavy clay soil that is common here in the Denver metro area. 

When soil gets compacted — typically from walking, playing or mowing on it — it’s harder for air, water and nutrients to pass through the soil, which makes it harder for the grass to thrive.

Hole-y lawns are water-wise lawns. The tines of the aeration machines poke holes in the soil and pull out 2-to-3-inch plugs of soil. Photo credit: iStock.

Any other benefits? 

Yes! There are many benefits to aeration. For one, taking plugs of dirt from compacted soil lets it “breath,” allowing water and nutrients to get deeper into the root zone of the grass. 

Aeration also improves the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which plants need to be healthy. It opens up passages for compost or fertilizer to get into the soil and reach the roots. Aeration also helps reduce thatch buildup.

I’m sold. But how often should I aerate?

Aerate your lawn at least once a year. If your grass has heavy foot traffic, you can aerate twice a year. 

Removing 2-to-3-inch plugs of compacted soil allows air, water and nutrients to reach the roots of the grass, helping the plants establish deeper roots, which leads to a healthier lawn. Photo credit: iStock.

When should I aerate?

The best time for aeration is in the spring and fall when temperatures are cooler. Aeration shouldn’t be done during hot and dry periods in the summer.

How do I do this?

All the DIYers out there can either buy or rent an aerating machine. 

And if that’s not you, many landscaping companies provide this service for a fee. 

For more information about lawn care, check out Colorado State University Extension and Denver Water’s annual summer watering rules. Resource Central also offers irrigation system consultations.

The Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado is the premier professional organization for Colorado’s landscape companies. ALCC promotes the responsible use of water and other natural resources, and provides educational and industry certification opportunities to Colorado’s landscape professionals. ALCC’s Sustainable Landscape Management and Community initiative promotes sustainable maintenance practices that reduce water use and loss of plant life. 

For more information on ALCC or to find a landscape professional, go to or call 303-757-5611.