The vast majority of homeowners, likely including yourself, take pride in their home and yard, and have made it a priority to keep their lawn looking good. However, this is easier said than done; maintaining a beautiful lawn can be a lot of hard work.
One of the least known, but just as important, aspects of lawn maintenance is aerating your lawn. This process can drastically help your backyard and garden to thrive, ward off disease and weeds, and grow healthy, thick grass.
However, you may not have the time or knowledge of aerate your lawn properly. This is where our article here comes in.
If you’re looking for the best lawn aerator to improve your yard, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll review five of the best lawn aerators on the market and provide a buying guide to help you choose the right one for your needs. So, whether you’re looking for an electric or manual aerator, read on for some helpful advice.
What Is Lawn Aeration?
Let’s look at what aeration is before we get into how to do it. Over time, lawns often become compacted. Soil becomes thick as a result of the dense matting of grass and constant foot activity, making air, nutrients, and water less able to reach the roots of your lawn.
Aeration is one way to solve this problem. Aerating your yard involves pushing long metal rods or spikes into the earth all over your grass, and then removing plugs of dirt, allowing water and air to reach down to the grass’ roots.
This will thicken the grass by drawing essential nutrients, oxygen, and moisture down into the soil. The result will be a robust and lush green lawn that will amaze your neighbors.
A lawn aerator is a simple but extremely effective tool for achieving this goal. It creates small holes in the soil by either rolling a spoke with a lot of spikes on it to perforate the ground, or it could be shaped like a pitchfork that you stab into your lawn and remove cores of soil.
What Does Aeration Do For My Lawn?
So, why should you care about aerating your grass? There are several advantages to having your lawn aerated. Here are some of the most beneficial reasons of aerating your grass this season.
The soil becomes less dense and is therefore better able to absorb water, and the reduced compaction also allows the roots of the plants and grass to breathe more. However, the holes in the ground also allow water to drain faster as well, so you’ll see less pooling on the surface of your yard after a rainfall.
Aeration also improves the ability for grass to absorb nutrients and minerals. Your grass becomes more heat resistant and drought tolerant. The amount of oxygen reaching the roots of your grass increases, causing it to grow and develop more robustly.
Additionally, aeration discourages thatch build up, and removes any excess thatch that could be damaging your lawn. This also allows for more oxygen and water penetration beneath the surface. Aerating causes each grass blade’s roots to fracture or divide, which is not a typical occurrence in nature, resulting in more blades of grass and a deeper rooted lawn as the holes fill with even more roots.
You may see now that aerating your grass at least once a year is beneficial to your lawn. It promotes growth by increasing the oxygen and water absorption capacity of your grass and soil.
There are two ways you can aerate your lawn. You can use spike aeration, and then there is core or plug aeration.
Spike aeration is the process of pushing a metal rod with spikes in it into the soil. The spikes will perforate your yard and poke tiny drainage holes in the ground beneath the grass’s surface. This type of aeration can be done manually or with a machine.
Manual spike aeration tools usually look similar to pitchforks. They have handles on top and spikes at the bottom, with a footplate to place your foot to drive the aerator into the ground. Motorized spike aerators – whether powered by electricity or a gas engine – often have a spinning rod with spikes all around it that you then push over the grass as it rotates, sticking the spikes into the soil.
Aeration with spikes is the most appropriate technique for sandy or loamy soils. However, some people believe that the actions of pushing a spike aerator into the earth can increase soil compaction, and that as the spike drives deep into compacted earth, it may “seal” the area around it.
Core or Plug Aeration
A core aerator, or a plug aerator as it’s also called, is a tool that extracts chunks of earth from the ground and helps to break up soil, improve drainage, and allow air and water to penetrate further. These chunks are called core, and they look like little cylindrical clumps of dirt.
Core aeration breaks up compacted soil and keeps the openings in it open for a long time so that air, fertilizers, and water can flow through
In heavy clay soils, core aeration is more successful and recommended.
Different Types of Lawn Aerators
Holes are made in the earth by each type of aerator, which then allow water, fertilizer, and air to reach the grass’ roots and encourage growth and health. However, the way each aerator does this is different.
In addition to the distinctions between an aerator with spikes and one that utilizes plug aeration, there are push aerators, handheld aerators, tow behind aerators, and shoe spike aerators.
If you have a small or medium-sized lawn, or simply want an easier approach that doesn’t need much effort, consider using a push-style roller aerator. A push aerator resembles a lawnmower in appearance. They can also be listed as dethatchers and scarifiers, but they all essentially do similar jobs in your yard.
This style aerator is composed of tubular steel with two hefty plastic wheels and a tray positioned between the wheels, which houses sharp steel spikes that pierce through the grass and dirt.
A push aerator is not appropriate for yards with a lot of space or where the soil is very dense, such as hard clay soil. It does not pierce far into the ground, so it’s unsuitable for intensely compacted dirt or rocky, uneven ground.
Handheld aerators usually have two to five hollow tines on a step bar. One foot is placed on the step bar and pushed downward, forcing the tines into the soil.
The handle on the step bar is then pulled up to remove the soil cores from the ground. By repeating the same procedure, the next spot of land will push out the cores still remaining in the tines.
Handheld aerators are typically less expensive than push or pull-behind ones. They’re also simpler to use, and you have more control over where you aerate and where you don’t. The disadvantage is that they operate at a slower speed than motorized aerators.
Pull-behind aerators have a three-pronged, spiked or coring attachment that you can lower to roll along the ground and create holes as required. Pull-behind aerators are either self-powered or towed behind a lawn mower or ATV for operation.
See here for our recommendations for the best pull behind aerators.
Lawn aerator shoes enable you to aerate the grass as you walk about. The sandal-like device fits over your shoes with adjustable straps and solid spikes on the soles.
They’re only useful for moderately compacted soil and light upkeep, however. They only penetrate the soil very lightly and therefore cannot do real aeration work like a plug aerator.
Aerator Vs. Dethatcher Vs. Scarifier
Chances are you’ve come across the words dethatching and scarifying while looking into lawn aeration. These are very similar terms that have to deal with thatch removal from your yard. Let’s start by defining what thatch is in the first place.
Dead roots, stems, and cells from your grass blades that have fallen into the soil are known as thatch. It’s basically the layer between your healthy grass and the dirt it was intended to grow in.
Thatch, on its own, is not necessarily a harmful thing. In fact, up to 1/2″ of thatch is beneficial to your grass as a barrier from the scorching heat of the midday sun.
However, more than 1/2″ of thatch may be harmful, since it prevents the roots from growing correctly in the soil beneath it.
This is where a dethatcher comes in. This is a device that also has tines like an aerator, but it doesn’t penetrate or remove soil from the ground, rather it just stirs up and collects the thatch layer above the dirt. A dethatcher can also be called a scarifier, and they are essentially the same tool and perform the same task of removing thatch.
If thatch, rather than compacted and non-draining soil, is your only lawn problem, dethatching is the best option rather than using a core aerator. However, most lawn owners struggle with both thatch and compaction, so they choose to aerate their grass since it addresses both issues at once.
When To Aerate Your Lawn
The best time to aerate a lawn is determined on the type of grass.
The fall season is when cool-season grasses, such as Bluegrass, Ryegrass, and Fescue, should be aerated. Temperatures are still relatively high, but weeds are no longer as widespread as they were in the summer. On the other hand, the spring, or early summer, is when warm-season grasses, like Zoysia, Bermuda, or St. Augustine Grass, should be aerated.
There are exceptions to these rules, of course. If the grass is part of a new home and has been compacted as a result of all of the construction equipment used during excavation, you may need aeration to ensure that water reaches the roots of freshly laid sod.
Also, don’t aerate during or immediately after a super heavy rainfall. Wait a few days so that the soil is moist but not too damp.
The majority of lawns only require one aeration per year. You may aerate your lawn twice a year if it’s frequently used. Golf courses, for example, aerate 3-5 times each year as a standard practice. However, they are a unique case since those are lawns meant to be walked on!
Features to Consider When Choosing Your Lawn Aerator
There are a few factors to take into account when you’re in the market for a lawn aerator, and here are some that we think are most important.
The type of soil you have will determine what type of aerator you need to look for. For example, if your soil is predominantly hard and clay-like in structure, then a plug aerator will be best for you. These aerators remove larger pieces or plugs of dirt to allow nutrients to reach the grass’s roots more easily. If the soil is sandy or loamy in texture, a spike aerator is all that’s required.
If you’re not sure what type of soil you have in your yard, pick up and squeeze a handful of it. If it is mostly clay, it will form a sticky ball of dirt in your hand, and sandy or loamy soil will most likely break apart and fall away when squeezed.
Your yard size also determines which aerator will be best suited for your lawn.
Tow-behind aerators are large pieces of garden equipment that aren’t suited for tiny properties or confined places. Tow-behind aerators are ideal for lawns over one-half acre in size and have a consistent shape. When looking for tow-behind aerators, consider the breadth of the device as well as your turn radius.
Choose a push aerator, hand-held model, or aerator shoes for lawns with irregularly shaped grass areas and smaller yards.
Durability is something to consider when acquiring lawn equipment. Aerators are subjected to particularly hard usage as landscapers drive them deep into the earth. As a result, the materials used in the construction of this item are quite significant.
In general, look for a lawn aerator that employs stainless, galvanized, or heat-treated steel for the spoons, or spikes, that cut into the earth. These materials are preferred for this work. They resist rust and can handle stones in the ground and other tough lawn patches. Stainless spikes are also preferable in a shoe-style aerator.
Consider the structure of tow-behind aerators as well. Powder-coated frames, trays, and other components will keep your equipment rust-free and aerate it for many years to come.
Weight and Mobility
When it comes to lawn aeration, weight and mobility can be a challenge to balance. An aerator must have enough weight to penetrate the earth. On the other side, a big, hard-to-move aerator may not be of much use if you can’t operate it.
The weight of a large tow-behind aerator may be in excess of 90 pounds, plus the additional tray weights as well. They must be hefty so that they can really plunge into the soil. However, they’re difficult to move around in your garden beds, you need a tractor to tow them, and the setup time isn’t always worth it.
For modest yards, a lighter manual mower could be the better option. These machines are usually light enough to be lifted out of the ground with ease, and they’re extremely agile and may operate in very tiny grass spaces.
Top 5 Lawn Aerators Available
Now that you understand what lawn aeration is and the benefits it provides, it’s time to choose the best lawn aerator for your needs. Our top 5 list includes both push and tow-behind aerators as well as spike and core aerators, so there is sure to be one that will fit your needs.
Keep in mind the size of your yard, how often you plan to use the aerator, and any additional features you may need before making your purchase. And remember, aerating your lawn at least once a year will keep it looking healthy and lush!
#1. Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator
- 32 galvanized knives to penetrate the soil easily.
- Pulls plugs up to 3 inches deep for thicker and healthier lawn.
- Flat free tires for smooth transport.
The Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator is the number 1 lawn aerator option we have found. It can do everything you want a tow-behind plug aerator to do. It’s 48 inches wide, making it one of the widest aerators available, so you can complete a large yard in less time while using it. It also has 32 galvanized steel spoons that easily dig deep into the ground, pulling up to 3 inches of dirt from below your grass and allowing water, nutrition, and air to get to your lawn’s roots.
Its flat-free tires provide a smooth ride and transport for any tractor or riding lawn mower, as well as an easy-to-use cantilever transport handle to quickly raise and lower the machine.
This model’s tray weight can support up to 175 extra pounds for deeper and more efficient penetration. With a 3-year limited warranty, this model will be covered for years of lawn work.
#2. Yard Butler ID-6C Manual Lawn Coring Aerator
- LAWN DETHATCHER: The Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator revitalizes old lawns while using less water and fertilizer. By removing two 3-1/2 inch cores, the Lawn Coring Aerator reduces compaction and...
- DURABLE: The Yard Butler lawn aerator tool was built to last with durable steel construction. The powder-coated steel is heavy-duty and rust-resistant. Cushioned handles provide additional grip. Yard...
- PRODUCE STRONG & HEALTHY ROOT SYSTEM: It is a high-performance tool that will make a big difference in the vital health and survival of grass. It promotes vigorous root growth, reduces water runoff,...
The Yard Butler ID-6C Manual Lawn Coring Aerator is the best, and only, manual lawn aerator on this list. With a solid steel one-piece design, it can sink the 3.5″ tines into difficult compacted dirt, and the the broad foot plate provides lots of extra leverage so it’s sturdy enough to tackle any task. The steel is also powder-coated to make it rust-resistant and heavy duty.
The Yard Butler measures 37 inches high, making it easy to maintain a good posture while you work. It’s also very light at just over 3.5 pounds with padded T-shaped handles, so you won’t grow tired using it for an afternoon. It removes cores up to 3.5 inches in length, and it has a tapered end to it, so the next coring pushes out the previous soil plugs that were left in it.
Your grass’ vitality and survival will be significantly enhanced by this high-performance tool. It promotes vigorous root development, minimizes water runoff, improves drought and heat tolerance, and helps you avoid using excessive grass supplements or fertilizers.
#3. Greenworks 13 Amp 14-Inch Corded Dethatcher And Scarifier
- 2-IN-1 DESIGN - 13A 15-Inch Dethatcher / Scarifer provides the power and versatility to keep your lawn healthy
- LIGHTWEIGHT, EASY TO USE - Lightweight design allows for easy manuevering. Easy push button start
- QUICK RELEASE - Quickly and easily switch between the included dethacther and scarifier attachments
The Greenworks 13 Amp 14-Inch Corded Dethatcher And Scarifier can be used as a spike aerator, and is a great lawn maintenance tool for both dethatching and light aeration work. This machine is lightweight and easy to maneuver around a medium sized garden, and has a simple push button start. It also allows you to quickly and easily switch between the scarifying and dethatching attachments, and you can also use it to aerate as it can dig about an inch into your soil with its stainless steel tines.
Because it doesn’t aerate deep under the soil, and it is less powerful than some tow-behind models, we would recommend using this only on slightly compacted soil, or sandy or loamy dirt. It offers 5 position depth adjustment, so if you want to only get a bit of thatch off the top or if you want to aerate a bit of the topsoil, this provides the ability to choose both.
#4. Brinly PA-40BH Tow Behind Plug Aerator
- Aerate & Relieve Compacted Soil: 24 heat-treated, 16-gauge Steel plugging spoons penetrate compacted soil and remove up to 3-inch plugs of soil, allowing water, seed, and fertilizer to reach the...
- Long-lasting construction: durable, all steel design with Fully-Enclosed Weight tray holds up to 150 pounds of any type of extra weight for maximum soil penetration and depth. Tines are heat-treated...
- Easy transport: for crossing drives, walks and rooted areas, Brinly plug aerator includes a single transport lever to engage transport mode using the 10" Never flat rubber tread tires.
The Brinly PA-40BH Tow Behind Plug Aerator is also a top-of-the-line tow behind aerator. This is a 40-inch model, so it’ll suit medium to small lawns, or those with tight spots or corners that are difficult to get around for bigger models.
It has 24 plugging spoons that are made from heat-treated, 16-gauge steel, and can do the job in any scenario. These spoons each have a large hollow space and are designed to penetrate deeper into the ground, removing up to 3 inches of soil.
This Brinly aerator has a new shape with sharpened plug tips to make soil penetration simpler and lighter. The all-steel design is robust and can support up to 150 pounds of extra tray weight.
The tines are heat-treated for strength, and the 10-inch semi-pneumatic rubber tread wheels are flat-free, so they won’t pop when you’re mowing your lawn. The three tines segments are welded to rotate independently to minimize grass damage during turns and assure uniform penetration on uneven terrain.
It also has a universal hitch that fits on any tractor or riding mower, as well as a single transport lever that switches it into transport mode with ease.
#5. Sun Joe AJ805E Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier
- Questions, Text 563563 to chat directly with a Sun Joe expert
- IDEAL for revitalizing small to mid-sized lawns
- POWERFUL 13-amp motor rakes a 15" wide path to get your job done faster
The Sun Joe AJ805E Electric Dethatcher and Scarifier is another great aerator and dethatcher for sandy or loamy soil. We would recommend other more heavy-duty models for a larger lawn or for more compacted soil, but this can do the job for any light aeration or scarifying work.
The Sun Joe AJ805E is powered by a 13 amp electric motor and can rake a path 15 inches wide. It’s a corded model so you won’t have to worry about the motor running out of battery or gas. It also comes with a bagging attachment, meaning it can collect any waste materials you pick up while thatching or aerating, or you have the option to leave them to decompose on the grass as well.
It cuts the grass roots with the scarifier function, so they can grow back healthier and thicker. It also boasts airboost technology that helps its spring steel tines pick up the thatch and aerate the lawn more easily.
Aeration is an important process that helps improve the health and appearance of your lawn. There are a few different methods of aeration, but the most common are spike aeration and core or plug aeration. When choosing an aerator, there are several factors you should consider including materials, weight and mobility, yard size, and additional features.
We hope this post has helped you learn more about the benefits of lawn aeration and how to choose a lawn aerator that best fits your needs. After reviewing all of the top 5 lawn aerators available on the market, we would recommend the Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator as our top pick, but you should choose the top one for your lawn.
Please feel free to leave a comment below if there are any questions about lawn aeration. And if not, get out there and get to work!