We’re here to give great lawn care advice, not to bury the lede. So for those of you who don’t want to read a treatise on lawn aeration – yes, you can mow your lawn right after aeration.
It just might not be the best idea. You might damage your mower (but even that’s pretty improbable).
You’re almost certainly better off to mow your lawn before aeration, in order to reduce the (admittedly slight) risk of damaging your mower. To understand why you want to mow your lawn before aeration, it’s helpful to understand what aeration is, how it helps your lawn, when you should be doing aeration, and what you can do after aeration.
Basically, we’ve created an entire guide to aeration, all to answer the simple question posed in the title.
Let’s plug in.
What is aeration?
Aeration is a perfect example of creative destruction – it’s the process of taking chunks out of your lawn so that new grasses can grow. That might sound a bit – well, brutal – but it’s actually essential to aerate your lawn if you want to maintain its health.
Don’t step on the grass!
You’ve probably seen signs telling you not to step on the grass or lawn plenty of times before – maybe as a kid you got yelled at by curmudgeonly neighbours when you stepped on their freshly-mown lawn.
There’s a reason for all of this. Dirt compacts over time – the more people stepping on the lawn, the more quickly the dirt compacts.
When dirt is compacted, nutrients like oxygen and water have a harder time reaching the roots of the grasses. This leads to your grass being starved of what’s good for it. This can lead to thatch building up too quickly – too much thatch leads to your grass being deprived of even more nutrients, and the vicious cycle continues.
Aerating creates perforations in your lawn. These perforations not only allow nutrients to reach the roots of your grass – they also create space for the roots to spread out, leading to stronger grass.
The types of aeration
There are two common types of aeration – plug aeration and spike aeration.
Plug aeration is almost always done by a professional – they have the tools required to plug aerate. Plug aerators lift “cores” of soil from your lawn.
Spike aeration can be done by hand (or worse yet, by foot), but it’s generally frowned upon by lawn care professionals. They don’t remove cores – they simply create holes. These holes can actually make the soil around them more compact – and that’s exactly what we’re trying to alleviate with aeration!
Dethatching vs. aeration
Dethatching is another way of getting more nutrients into your lawn and creating space for your grass to grow. So which is better: dethatching or aeration?
Generally speaking, aeration is a better option – the dethatching process, especially when not handled by professionals, can lead to healthy grasses being ripped out. In some circumstances, however, you might want to dethatch and aerate a lawn – this can be the case if there’s a very thick layer of thatch.
The advantages of aeration
The advantages of aeration should be pretty clear at this point – doing it leads to a healthier, lusher lawn! If your lawn is always spongy, if you find there are thick layers of thatch, or if your lawn looks unhealthy, aeration may well be a good option for you.
At this point, we can start looking into the relationship between mowing and aeration. It’s true that you almost always want to mow your lawn around the time you’re aerating it. Nothing we’ve talked about so far screams “You need to mow your lawn”, though, so what’s the deal?
Mowing and aeration
The need to mow your lawn when you aerate it is actually only loosely tied to the aeration itself. The truth is that the best time to overseed is right after aeration, and you want to mow before you overseed.
For those of you not in the know, overseeding is the process of seeding more grass into your lawn – it’s different than reseeding because you’re sowing the seeds on top of existing grasses, rather than starting over. It’s perfect for replacing dead grass and revitalizing your lawn.
Aeration and overseeding
Overseeding and aeration make great friends – you’ve just created a bunch of space for roots to spread out and nutrients to penetrate the soil. These are ideal conditions for new grasses to grow. The best time to overseed is immediately after aerating a lawn. Of course, you don’t want to overseed before you aerate, or you’ll displace or damage all of the seeding.
Mowing and overseeding
Finally, we can get to the meat of the matter – the connection between aeration and mowing passes right through the connection between mowing and overseeding. Before overseeding, you want to mow your lawn particularly low – you may also want to rake your lawn to remove dead grass and debris, as well as to loosen the top soil. All of this gives the new grass plenty of room to grow and access to nutrients.
Because you’re going to mow your grass before overseeding, you’ll always be mowing around the time you aerate. Now that we’re equipped with all of this information, we can answer why it’s usually best to mow your lawn before (and not after) aeration.
Why you should mow before aeration
The reason you want to mow before aeration has everything to do with the little cores we’re going to pull up during the aeration process. The first reason is one we touched on during the intro:
The cores could damage your mower
Honestly, this isn’t that likely to happen, especially if you have a high-quality mower – the cores are mostly composed of soil, after all. That said, with all other things being equal (and they are), you might as well mow before in order to limit your risk. The cores can also dull your mower’s blades, and who wants to sharpen blades more often than they have to?
The cores are best left undisturbed
The cores the plug aerator removes will slowly break down when exposed to the elements, adding nutrients back into your lawn. Letting the process happen naturally, rather than catching the plugs in your mower, can slightly improve your lawn’s health.
All in all, you can mow after aerating, but there’s really no reason too. It’s not all that harmful (and mowing before isn’t all that helpful), but seeing as you’re going to mow anyway, you might as well mow before aerating.
The best time to aerate
Here in Winnipeg, the best time to aerate is almost always in the fall – because the best time to overseed is during the fall. Leaves have started falling off the trees – that means your lawn can absorb more nutrients from the sun. There are fewer weeds, and fewer active diseases that can attack seedlings, as well as a lower chance of pests and pest infestations.
Winnipeg lawns are predominantly composed of cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and fescue – if for some reason you’re reading this and you live in the south, you might want to aerate earlier to help grasses under heat stress. Also, thanks for reading – welcome (virtually) to Winnipeg!
Preparing for aeration
At this point we’ve answered the question posed in the title, but we always like to give a little extra TLC here at Cleanr, so here are some tips to help you prepare for aeration:
Mow your lawn
Having read the article so far, you understand why you want to do this. Moving on:
Mark off all the sprinkler systems
You really don’t want to pull a core out of your sprinkler – that’s an expensive mistake. Either remove your sprinkler system or mark it off so the aerator doesn’t cause any damage.
Get a mechanical aerator
While there are the aforementioned spike aerators (and another type known as slashing aerators), the best aerators are mechanical plug aerators. You can rent a machine yourself, but it’s almost always less expensive and less work to get a lawn care professional’s lawn aeration services. Surprising, but true.
What you can do post-aeration
Once you’re done aerating, you can do a whole host of things – yes, even mowing. More commonly, however, you’ll do what we’ve talked about – overseeding! You can also fertilize or water your lawn. Most often, we recommend overseeding and fertilizing immediately after aerating.
And with that, you know everything you need to (and more) about the relationship between aeration and mowing. Any questions? Feel like we missed something? Get in touch with us!