AERATING YOUR LAWN
If your lawn is hard and very compacted, it is probably time to aerate your lawn. Aerating is described as drilling small holes in your grass in order to allow for moisture, air and nutrients to penetrate your yard and in return, give you a much healthier lawn. It also allows for standing water to drain away much more quickly so this is a clue as to when you may need to aerate. For small jobs the use of a pitchfork may be all that is necessary. Simply poke as many holes as possible into your yard for best results. You may want to wait until after it rains to make this job a little easier.
There are hand-held tools that you can purchase for aerating your yard or you can rent larger machines, some that roll behind your riding lawn mower. What could be easier than that? Generally if you are going to rent the larger, pull behind machines, you may need to wait a day or two after it rains so as to not further compact your soil. If you are using a push mower you can wear specially made aerating shoes, or simply wear a pair of spiked golf shoes. Aerating is usually done no more than once a year but if you are using the golf shoe method, you could do it as often as you feel it's necessary.
There is another simple way to aerate without poking any holes at all. Nature's Lawn, Inc. has a chemical method of spraying their Liquid Aerator at the rate of 1 quart for 16,000 square feet. I am sure that if you look around you will be able to find this product or one similar to it at your favorite garden center. This makes me think of all of those folks that "lime" their yards, or better yet, treat their yards with gypsum. All of these help, over time to break up hard, clay soils. Treat in the late summer to fall for best results.
Oh, and one other thing...if you aerate your yards with tools or a machine, allow the plugs to simply lay there on the ground where they will dissolve over time and actually add nutrients to your yard. After aerating by poking holes in the yard you should lightly top-dress your yard with sand to fill in the holes then consider tossing out some grass seed for a much thicker yard.