How to dethatch, aerate lawns this spring

Updated Apr 9, 2024

Sw1203 Turf Stand Aerator R 032

If you’ve had issues with thatch or compacted soil on site, here are some basic tips and advice on dethatching and aeration from The Grounds Guys and Clemson University Extension.


  • Thatch – thick, interwoven mat of living and dead materials that accumulate on the soil’s surface where grass grows faster than it decomposes.
  • Compacted soil – First four inches or so that’s slowly pressed together from foot traffic.

How to dethatch:

  • Late spring or early fall are peak times to dethatch. Mow to a low height.
  • Select a mechanical dethatcher or thatching rake with thick blades.
  • If thatch doesn’t have fertilizer or pesticide on it, compost it, then water the lawn.
  • Make sure to avoid sprinklers or buried cables.

How to aerate:

  • Late spring or early summer is the best time to aerate. Moist soil is best, so wait for a good rain or watering before aerating. You’ll know it’s too wet if it sticks to your shoes but is just right if you can penetrate the ground with a screwdriver without much resistance.
  • Ideal warm-season grasses are Bermuda, Buffalo and St. Augustine.
  • Ideal cool-season grasses are ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass and creeping bent. Aerate those in the fall.
  • Be sure to use a specific pattern for even aeration.

Share with your customers why it’s important to dethatch and aerate:

  • Thatch restricts oxygen levels in soil and slows the job of earthworms and other thatch-decomposing organisms.
  • Compacted soil increases maintenance and pest issues
  • Aerated and dethatched soil stimulates root growth by increasing oxygen, water and nutrient levels. Grass density will increase and water runoff’s reduced.
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