When it comes to seeding your lawn, many of our customers ask us about aeration and verticutting. What exactly is the difference and when is it best to choose one over the other? There are many factors that help make the decision but It really boils down to one question: What condition is your lawn in? If it’s in decent shape, just aerate and overseed to keep it thick and healthy. If it’s thin, patchy, sickly, or completely overrun by weeds, verticutting and reseeding may be your best bet.
The Difference between Aerating and Verticutting
The word aerating is a shortened form of the term core aeration. When you aerate your lawn, you use a machine that removes cores or plugs of dirt about ¾ inches around and 3 inches deep. By removing some of the soil, you help reduce soil compaction that naturally occurs over time. Removing the plugs helps the roots by giving them more room and making it easier for them to grow. It also helps control thatch buildup (the layer of dead and dying debris just above the surface of the dirt) by bringing those cores of soil up to the surface and having them filter back down into the thatch layer adding microbes to the thatch which speeds up its decomposition. Aerating creates looser soil, stronger root structure, and better results when overseeding.
Verticutting is a more aggressive treatment. A verticutting machine with many vertical blades cuts small grooves in the lawn down through the thatch layer allowing the seed to drop into the soil. Verticutters loosen the topsoil so that seed will have better contact with the soil for more successful germination. This is a good way to seed in very thin and bare areas.
If your lawn is generally healthy, the grass is looking fairly thick with just a few thin spots here and there or a few problem areas, you’re probably best off aerating and overseeding to thicken it up and repair any problem spots.
Thin or Damaged Lawns
If your lawn is very thin with lots of patchy areas or perhaps it was damaged by disease, insects or animals, or if you wish to start a new lawn with different type of grass, verticutting is probably the better option. Verticutting actually turns over the existing soil for better seed-to-soil contact, but it disturbs your existing lawn as well.
Can I Verticut AND Aerate?
So, to sum it up, aerating is for thatch control and relieving compaction in an otherwise fairly healthy lawn. Verticutting is for seeding very thin and bare lawns or replacing a lawn altogether. You can use the two techniques together. If your lawn is thin and bare, you can aerate the lawn first, then verticut in one direction, apply your seed, then verticut again in the opposite direction. This will give you a good seedbed and will help work the seed into the soil for better germination.
PRO TIP: If you’re seeding your lawn, make sure you use the right kind of grass seed.