How to Improve Lawn Drainage Without Causing Turf Damage

Are you noticing water pooling in your yard after heavy rains? Because clay soil easily becomes compacted, lawn drainage can become a big concern over time.

This is a result of the make-up of the soil. Because its particles are so small there isn’t much space to begin with. This can make the movement of water and oxygen difficult. Over time, foot traffic, equipment use (like mowers), and other factors can contribute to even more compaction.

As a result, lawn drainage can become a challenge.

The problem is that many of the lawn drainage solutions are invasive and involve tearing up your turf. While that can be a solution, in this article, we’ll talk about lawn drainage solutions that won’t cause turf damage.

How to Improve Lawn Drainage in Clay Soil

If you begin to look into drainage solutions, you might find information on various types of drains like a catch basin or a French drain. While these are definitely lawn drainage solutions that are out there, the big problem with them is that they involve tearing up the turf.

If you’ve been investing time and money into a great-looking lawn, you might be wary about choosing one of these invasive options. We certainly understand that concern. Many drainage solutions are expensive and will result in turf damage that will need to be restored.

Fortunately, there is a key way that you can improve your yard’s drainage without completely tearing it up.

Lawn aeration is a great solution for improving drainage by breaking up compacted lawn soil.

Aeration is the process of making small holes by pulling out soil plugs (“cores”) in order to allow more oxygen, water, and nutrients to penetrate down to the root zone. This provides a more favorable environment for the root systems to develop and grow.

Let’s look at how it could be the optimal non-invasive lawn drainage solution.

How Does Lawn Aeration Improve Drainage?

Lawn aeration helps to improve drainage by reducing soil compaction and improving the soil’s overall structure. The way this works is two-fold.

lawn aerator pulling soil plugs on nice lawn

For one, the aeration process creates small holes throughout the soil which allow necessary oxygen, water, and nutrients to reach your turf’s roots.

But there’s also a natural decomposition process occurring at the same time.

When those cores of soil are pulled, they are purposefully left on the lawn to decompose and recycle nutrients back into the lawn. This process also helps to alleviate soil compaction simply because it’s reintroducing organic matter back into the lawn and increasing the soil microbiology that’s occurring. The goal is healthier, more nutrient-rich soil.

Another benefit to lawn aeration that people don’t always consider is that it makes our other services more effective. When the lawn is compacted, products like lawn fertilizer struggle to make it down to the root zone where they’re needed to help the lawn grow.

But when the lawn is well-aerated, it’s receiving more of what it needs to grow and thrive. This helps reinforce a healthy growth cycle.

Want a Healthy, Green Lawn? Learn Best Aeration & Seeding Practices in Our  Expert Guide!

Finally, it’s also important to mention that lawn aeration helps to break up thatch, which could also be contributing to a drainage problem.

Thatch—which is naturally occurring, dead organic material that can build atop your soil—is a common problem that many homeowners deal with.

Thatch build-up of over ½” can prevent oxygen, water, and nutrients from penetrating the soil to reach the root zone. Excessive thatch can even make your lawn more susceptible to problems such as disease or pests. But a lawn aerating service will help break up thatch by increasing the activity of soil microorganisms that decompose it.

Improve Lawn Drainage in a Non-Invasive Way

We understand that no two lawns are alike.

In some cases, if drainage issues are due to a grading problem (such as a severe low spot in the yard), more invasive lawn drainage solutions may be required. But the good news is that in many cases, yard drainage can be solved in a minimally invasive way, using lawn aeration.


Lawns with clay soil should be aerated every year in order to maintain progress. It doesn’t take long for compaction to start happening again, so you want to keep up with this vital service.

Some of our customers ask us about performing lawn aeration on their own. While this is certainly something that can be done, it’s not something that we advise for several reasons.

  • Time: Aerating your lawn can be a time-consuming task. It will involve renting a core aerator from your local equipment rental facility and bringing it to your home. Besides performing the aeration service itself, you also have to factor in the time of transporting the equipment. There’s usually a lot more hassle involved than people tend to realize.
  • Laborious work: People don’t always realize how much work aeration can be. The equipment available for rent is often clunky and well-used. It’s also generally small, so it might take many passes to complete an entire lawn. Oftentimes the equipment is heavy (a lot heavier than you might expect), so pushing it around can be exhausting. In fact, we have had many clients who have gotten a third of the way through the work and then called us to complete it for them.
  • Results: Finally, it’s important to mention that a DIY aeration job is unlikely to get nearly as good results as that of a professional. One thing that we find incredibly important is the plug depth that’s created by the equipment. In our experience, when clients try to do lawn aeration on their own, they’re not getting as deep a plug depth with rental equipment as we can achieve with our commercial-grade aerator. That means you’re not going to have the best possible flow of oxygen, water, and nutrients to your lawn’s roots. That means you might not fully solve your lawn drainage problem.

At Joshua Tree Experts, we offer professional lawn aeration that will help improve your soil health and solve lawn drainage problems.

This is a really important service that you should not skip. We know that lawn aeration can make a tremendous difference in the overall health of your lawn. Because we care about you having the best results possible, we suggest you consider adding aeration to your lawn care regimen.

If you’d like to know more about how Joshua Tree can help meet your lawn needs at your home, or you have more questions, we’re here to help! Get in touch with us to get some free expert advice and learn more about our lawn care program options.

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