Core Aerator vs Verticutter

What’s the difference between core aeration and verticutting?  Which one should I use on my lawn? We get these same questions from customers every year. During fall overseeding season, there are many different options as to how to prepare your lawn for renovation. Ultimately, the homeowner needs to make the decision based on the condition of their lawn. Understanding the benefits of each will help you make the right choice for your overseeding project.

What is verticutting?

Verticutting makes shallow vertical cuts or slices into the soil. A verticutting machine has many vertical slicing blades. It will cut multiple slits or grooves across its path. The more grooves you have in the soil, the better seed to soil contact. The better seed to soil contact, the better seed germination you will get when overseeding. A verticutter will be the best tool to use for overseeding when you are attempting to get large areas established.

See Related: Steps to Fall Overseeding

Uncle’s Tip: Use a verticutter for total lawn restorations when the majority of your lawn is a weed patch, dead grass or bare ground. Apply Grass Pad seed first then verticutting the lawn in two directions (recommended for best results) will drill the seed into the grooves made by the verticutter. This practice mimics how a farmer drills his crops into the field. Drilling grass seed into the soil utilizing a verticutter can help reduce seed washout due to unexpected heavy rains. 

What is core aeration?

Core aerating is the process of pulling up cores or plugs of turf and soil from your lawn. The benefits of core aeration are to reduce the bulk density of the soil, improve gas exchange and water infiltration,  which in turn benefits nutrients uptake and strengthens the root system of your grass. Homeowners with thick turf, poor drainage, or heavy soil compaction will benefit from hollow tine core aeration. Core aerators are not the best tool to use for overseeding, but the best method to improve soil conditions to help the grass to grow.

See Related: Non-Mechanical Microbial Aeration

Hollow Tine Plug Core

Uncle’s Tip: If your lawn is thick, vigorous and healthy you may not need core aeration. If you should choose to core aerate, run the machine over the lawn multiple directions. Recommended aerification intensity is  20-30 cores per square foot for cool season grasses (40-60 for warm season zoysia grass). After aerifying, overseed and fertilize the entire area. Expect to see more weed germination after aeration from the exposed weed seeds.


Areas with hard compacted soil and poor drainage will benefit from Primera Sports Field Conditioner immediately after aerification. Primera Sports Field Conditioner, calcined clay particles, will fill the aeration holes and soil substructure to prevent the cavities from collapsing and increasing the soil porosity.  Calcine clay adds permanent air-holding pore space, decelerating natural compaction, improving water infiltration and gas exchanges. Each particle acts like a sponge that holds beneficial microbes, air, water, and nutrient near the root zone.

When to use a Core Aerator or Verticutter?

When soil density needs to be improved, use a hollow core aerator; when you need to get maximum seed germination when large overseeding areas, use a verticutter. When you have a few bare spots, use a garden rake. It does not have to be complicated. In any case, every fall season, overseed your lawn with Grass Pad quality seed and fertilize with Loveland RenovatorGolf Course Starter, or Loveland Supreme.

Uncle’s Tip #1: Moist soil is best when verticutting slices in the soil or pulling up aeration cores. Two to three days in advance, water your lawn thoroughly to moisten the soil and reduce dust.

Uncle’s Tip #2: Speed up grass seed germination by keeping the seed moist. Covering grass seed in bare and open areas with PrimeraFC or sphagnum peat moss will help hold moisture over the seed. If you can see the seed on the ground, it won’t germinate.


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