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Research suggests that compaction is the prime cause of weed growth. Lawns fed with a steady diet of chemicals often suffer from compaction, since the aerating organisms, such as earthworms, have been eliminated. Old lawns or those exposed to heavy traffic are also likely to be compacted. When soil is compacted, water and nutrients can't reach the turf roots and the hardened soil prevents roots from penetrating the ground. Consequently, bare areas open up and opportunistic weeds move in.

It is best to wait until the ground is relatively dry before aerating—otherwise, you'll end up with a muddy mess. There are several different tools available for aerating. For a large area, you can rent a power aerator. Smaller tools include hand-and-foot powered aerators, or aerator footwear that you put on while walking over the yard. If you use a core aerator, leave the plugs on the surface. They will help break down thatch.

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