What to Do with Plugs After Aerating Lawn [The Best Lawn Care Trick You’re Not Using]

After core aeration, allow the soil plugs to break down naturally over time. The purpose of aeration is to reduce soil compaction by breaking up hard soil. If you use harsh methods like lawn rolling to break down soil cores quickly, you will cause your soil to become compacted again. If you remove the soil cores and dispose of them, you are robbing your lawn of the nutrients and microbes those plugs contain. After you’ve aerated your yard, it’s a good idea to fertilize and overseed. Other than that, you can continue your mowing and watering schedule as normal.

What to do with plugs after aerating lawn

The Best Use for Soil Plugs

Soil plugs dropped by core aerators can be used to level out low spots in your yard without backbreaking shovel work or spending money to truck in new topsoil. Simply use a rake to pull soil plugs toward chronic low spots in your yard. As they break down, the plugs will build these low areas up.

Man's hand holding soil plugs after aerating green lawn.
Soil plugs, like the ones in my hand, can be left on your lawn after aeration.
  • Rake soil plugs away from high areas, toward low parts of your lawn prone to flooding or standing water.
  • As the soil plugs break down, they will add material to the low areas, leveling out your yard.
  • Fill holes where fence posts or tree stumps were removed with soil plugs.

This tip is great for creating an even, smooth grass yard. Even better, it only takes a few minutes to rake soil plugs to problem areas after aeration is complete. It’s a great cheat for fixing divots or holes where a pole or fence was removed.

Why You Should Leave Plugs On Your Lawn After Core Aeration

Soil plugs are not trash. They are loaded with helpful soil microbes and fertilizer. By allowing them to break down on their own, you provide an opportunity for the soil plugs to slowly give nutrients back to your yard.

  • Soil plugs return fertilizer and helpful microorganisms to the ground as they break down.
  • Removing soil plugs robs your yard of these essential nutrients.
  • If you remove soil plugs you are throwing away part of your yard. The ground level will gradually sink.

Soil plugs are dirt from your yard. If you throw them out, you’re tossing out topsoil where all your fertilizer and other amendments have been applied. Removing soil plugs can cause low spots to form in your yard.

Soil plugs left on a lawn after aeration.
Here are a few of the many soil plugs left on my lawn after aeration.

How Long Does it Take for Aeration Plugs to Decompose?

When left to their own devices, soil plugs from aeration will typically break down in 2–6 weeks. While it depends on weather conditions, soil type, and the amount of traffic your lawn receives, it typically is not long before the plugs begin to fall apart.

  • Soil plugs fully break down in 2–6 weeks.
  • Rainfall and dry periods both work to erode soil plugs.
  • Depending on soil type, soil plugs may break down at different rates.

Clay soil has a tendency to resist breaking down, so soil plugs in a heavy clay yard may take a while to disappear. Heat and dry weather can even bake these soil plugs, making them harder. Meanwhile, sandy and loamy soil plugs break down easily. Typically, if they are allowed to dry for 1–3 days, sandy or loamy soil plugs start to crumble on their own.

How to Encourage Aeration Plugs to Break Down Faster

Follow your regular maintenance schedule after core aeration. Your standard practices of watering, mowing, and using your yard for outdoor gatherings and recreation will help break down soil plugs. Because some of the best things to do after aeration are fertilizing and overseeding, these processes can help speed soil plug decomposition. The extra watering required for new grass seed erodes the plugs left by a core aeration machine.

  • Regular watering, mowing, and foot traffic help soil plugs break down faster.
  • Increased watering associated with overseeding after aeration helps to break down soil plugs.
  • Watering in fertilizer also speeds the soil plug decomposition process.
  • Mower wheels and blades help to break up soil plugs.

If you are not overseeding with new grass, continue mowing your aerated lawn as usual. Mower wheels will break up cores and any cores sucked up into the blades will be broken down.

Do You Rake Up Plugs After Aeration?

Soil plugs scattered throughout a lawn after aeration.
Soil plugs scattered throughout my lawn after aeration.

Although you can rake soil plugs to different areas of your yard to fix low spots, do not rake plugs and throw them away. You’re much better served to leave soil plugs to break down on their own. As they do, the microorganisms and nutrients will slowly return to the soil, providing a constant feed of nutrients to grass roots.

How Soon After Aeration Can You Mow?

You can mow immediately after aeration if your lawn requires it. There will be no harm done to existing grass. However, a common lawn care tactic is to mow your lawn before core aeration, to allow the aerator a better opportunity to penetrate the soil without being blocked by grass. If you do this, your lawn probably won’t need to be mowed for at least a few days after aerating.

  • If desired, you can mow your yard right after the aeration is finished.
  • To really boost lawn health, mow your yard first, dethatch the grass, and then perform core aeration.
  • If you overseeded your yard after aeration, wait to mow until the new grass is established.

Keep in mind that aerating is often paired with other lawn care activities, such as fertilizing and overseeding. This is because core aeration boosts the success of these other lawn improvements. If you’ve recently overseeded with new grass, mowing can damage new grass seedlings. Wait until the grass has reached mature growth before mowing again.

What Do You Do With Soil Plugs After Core Aeration?

The best thing to do with soil plugs after aeration is to rake them to low spots in your yard. This will add soil to the low areas, leveling your yard. It’s a much simpler tactic for fixing low spots than shoveling in new topsoil. If your yard is already level, you don’t need to do anything with your soil plugs. Wherever the soil plugs end up in your yard, let them break down naturally to return their nutrients to the soil.

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