Aerating Bermuda Lawns

Aeration is the process of poking thousands upon thousands of holes in the soil.  After a years worth of the kids playing and water packing the soil down, nutrients simply can make their way to the roots.  Poking holes in the soil will allow water, oxygen and other nutrients to penetrate the roots of your lawn.

There are two types of aerating devices.  One with spikes and one with plugs.  The devices with spikes are generally pulled by a tractor and do little to penetrate the hard packed clay over much of the southeast.  Ask for a “core aerator”.  These machines have hollow spoons which pull up plugs of soil as the machine moves.

The process is much like mowing the grass.  Twice.  Yes you’ll want to aerate your lawn in one direction and then go back over your lawn at 90º.  This criss-cross pattern should give you the necessary 12 holes per square foot.

Wondering when you should aerate Bermuda?

Aerate in the fall and you’ll have a lawn full of weeds or rouge grass.  This will be a thorn in your side until late in the summer when the Bermuda finally takes back the lawn by force. Therefore, aerate your bermuda grass in the early summer when your lawn is growing quickly.  After aerating an application of fertilizer and a deep watering will help your lawn to recover quickly.


  1. jim prescott says

    I have raised my blade on my mower and my bermuda seems to be getting thinner. Should I lower it. \Will that help thicken it up or do I need to add some topsoil,

    • Paul Ceria says

      Your Bermuda should be cut higher in the hot months. Bermuda will thin in shad condition and will fail entirely as time goes on if there is too much shade. A good dose of fertilizer in spring gets it off to a good start, but be careful in the very hot months if you use a high nitrogen fertilizer and it NOT slow release. I use nothing but Scotts products on my lawn and it has thrived. Aeration in the early summer may help. Use the type of aerator that pulls out plugs rather than spikes the soil. Also, Bermuda is a thirsty grass and should be amply watered about one to twice per week in dry hot conditions. I would also suggest that you take soil samples to your local county agricultural agent for testing. I have had good luck with top dressing bare sports using a rich compost. Somehow, I have a feeling you may have a shade problem.

  2. I would say yes. Bermuda generally does best when cut low and often. You probably already know it likes lots of sun too.

  3. i cut my Bermuda every 2 weeks same day.growth 3 3-1/2 i keep the cut at 2 grass browns and green,more brown. With-in 4-5 days back to a nice green ,very nice deep green 7-9 then cut on the 14th.i bought a mclane reel mower that cuts 1/4 to 1 1/4 .should i cut low and add sand for leveling during the fall winter .Then cut every week at 1 1/4 in the spring every week?

    • You should never remove more than a 1/3 when you mow-so you need to mow more often, bermuda should be cut at a height of no more than 2 inches, usually 1 1/2 is better. So that would mean your grass should never get above about 2.5 inches before you mow. Mow more and you yard will thank you!

  4. Lori Scott says

    I livein Atlanta and my Bermuda gets early day sun. Here it is April and my yards seems to be the last to green up, how can I find out if it is missing a particular nutrient ?

    • Paul Ceria says

      Shade. That is your problem. Bermuda thrives with three things: 1. Slow release fertilizer. 2. Lots of water. 3. Tons of hot sunshine.

  5. Ron Phillips says

    My Bermuda lawn ( Princess 77) will be 2 years old this May. Should I verticut it and put down a top dressing ?

  6. i have bermuda grass and it has several spots in it where it’s just dirt and grass will not grow. Do u have any suggestions on what to do to get my already grass greener and more grass to grow in those dirt spots?

  7. Does putting play sand on bermuda grass really help,,,and when is it reccommended

  8. Jim Shirley says

    I think sanding along with aerating does help. I play golf they do it to greens…..

    My question is that I have just aerated and sanded my yard. Do I keep it cut very low or let it grow. And for how long?

    Thanks for any advise.

  9. This is my first Bermuda lawn and the guy that laid it didn’t roll the ground first, thus I have alot of low spots making the use of my push reel mower a chore. After reading some of the comments, I gather I could cut my lawn a little shorter, add some sand and this will eventually level the lawn? Any advice would be most welcome

    • Paul Ceria says

      It depends on he time o year. In spring, cut it low, especially on the first clipping to get out old dead grass. Some will tell you that it provides fertilizer, however, I’d rather rely on Scotts products. Always aerate in early summer, not fall or you’ll invite a weed problem. Never aerate AFTER you’ve used a pre-emergent. Bermuda does well being a little longer in the very hot time of summer.

  10. This is my first Bermuda lawn having had fescue up in PA. I now live in NC.
    I have some low spots and when I mow, it seems to scalp certain spots. If I set my mower at 3 1/2 inches, it looks good but seem too high to me. A landscaper recommended filling in with sand. Is this recommended? Should I do it after aeration in the Spring?
    Thanks for the help.

    • Paul Ceria says

      Let your lawn go as it was for the first season. Use Scotts products as they are the best. Once the lawn has been established, sanding will help level it, but it is a tough job. Aerate in late spring/early summer. Let the plugs lay and dry out. Then pull a carpet over them to help them break up.

  11. Bermuda loves sand. It will help promote growth in thin areas in your bermuda lawn. Aerate then top dress your lawn with a healthy spread of sand. If there is no rain in the forecast water frequently. Sprigging your lawn with similar bermuda sprigs (sprigs pulled from other healthy parts of your lawn)is also a good idea to thicken your bermuda lawn. You will need to water frequently if you sprig your lawn. Bermuda loves warm moist evenings. Sand and water will help the springs take root instead of drying out and dying when you spread them throughout your lawn.

  12. Im in Fort Worth, Tx and have planted my lawn just about 2 months ago and i am noticing that burmuda grass is stemming or long sprouts above ground. What could be causing this?

  13. My Grass stands 2.5 inches above my side walks and drive way. When I mow it scalps these areas. Is this a sign of too much thatch? If so can I use that liquid rake?


  14. Aeration in Georgia is so critical. Due to the compacted clay soil, turf simply has a difficult time thriving without core aerating each year. For higher quality lawns, twice a year is vital. The golf courses aerate monthly in season, why not a home lawn?

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  17. Paul Ceria says

    I have a Bermuda lawn in NC. It is now about 15 years old and absolutely thriving. I think I have it figured out.
    1, Spring: Mow low. Get out the thatch. Don’t believe those who tell you to leave it as it will add fertilizer. That’s why you put fertilizer on it. You can accomplish this with a good mower that vacuums and do it before the grass greens up. Aerating with a plug type aerator does a good job. Do not use the spike type ones as they just compact the soil more. Early in the spring, a soil sample to the County Ag Agent will help you identify any special needs. If you are using a pre-emergent, aerate BEFORE you put down the chemical. Once the lawn begins to green up, I use Scotts spring time formulated fertilizer with Halts. I usually apply it in April. I also spot treat any broad leaf infestations with a post emergent such as Image.
    2. Summer: I fertilizer with Scott’s Turf Builder with the summer formulation. It is slow release and should not burn your lawn. Avoid using the 10-10-10 variety It releases the nitrogen quickly and it will seriously burn the lawn. Continue to spot spray for broad leafs and if you get nutsedge, use Image according to the label. As the heat increases, cut the lawn higher. Water at least twice per week in very hot rainless times. Remember, it is better to water deep a couple of time per week that many shallow waterings.
    3. Fall: Use the Scotts fall formula. It may seem silly, but that is the one that allows the roots to strengthen.
    4. Winter: Scotts has a winter formula, but I’ve never used it. I put my money into Halts, another Scott product which seems to help as a pre-emergent.
    5. Crab grass. Get it out as soon as you see it. I usually dig, but I’ve also found Image to help with it.
    6. Poa annua. Hate it! Get it out and use pre-emergent or it will take over. There is only one product I know of that will kill it and that is called Revolver, but it is VERY expensive. It costs about $250 per liter.
    7. Shade. Bermuda will absolutely not tolerate shade. If you have a very shady lawn and want Bermuda, you’d be best chosing another type of grass.
    8. Sanding. If you have bumps and ridges, use sand to level out the lawn. It should be “sterile” sand of the type used on golf courses. It looks terrible at first. Shovel the sand all over the lawn and then level it with the back of a garden rake. Only the tops of the blades should be showing. This is a lot of work, but pays off.
    9. You can use a rotary mower, but if you are a real aficionado of Bermuda, a reel type mower is what is needed if the ground is level. This will give you a golf green appearance, but such mowers are expensive.
    I learned all this by reading, experimenting, and by hard knocks, but I know it works. Good luck

  18. Best Pre emergent and I have used for years is Lesco 0-0-7 wiped out all Poa and I had a lot and it has now been eradicated as well as crabgrass. I put i down in Fall then in late spring or after I aerate .
    For Fertilizer I go with Scotts Southern for my Bermuda Grass.