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6 Best Lawn Aerators for All Yard Sizes

When your lawn is heavily compacted or has a build-up of thatch, there’s no better tool to help you get your grass growing strong and healthy again than one of the best lawn aerators. 

Both compaction and thatch can make it difficult for your grass to grow, blocking air and oxygen from reaching your plants’ hungry roots. Aeration can help alleviate these problems by creating tiny holes in the lawn, allowing nutrients, water, and air to better penetrate the soil. Finding the ideal tool can be challenging, but if you think your lawn could benefit from aeration, there are several options you can choose from.

What is a Lawn Aerator?

Lawn aerators are garden tools meant to create holes in the soil so that grass can more easily grow. It can improve the drainage of your soil and encourage microorganisms as well as worms to flourish. Of course, lawn aeration can also help nutrients get to the hungry roots of your plants. 

These tools are typically mechanical devices but can also be found in chemical form. There are several types of lawn aerators, each of which poses its own unique benefits and disadvantages. 

Types of Lawn Aerators

There are several types of lawn aerators to consider. You may use either plug or spike technologies. Then, you’ll have several choices of how you “apply” the aeration – in a push machine, a handheld machine, a tow-behind aerator, aerator shoes, or even by using a liquid aerator. 

Plug Aerators

Plug aerators have long, hollow tines that remove chunks of soil as they penetrate the lawn. These work best for lawns where water has a tendency to pool after heavy rain. Plug aerators are also considered one of the best methods for true aeration, as it removes plugs of dirt which creates more space for air and light, and reduces compaction better than poking holes.

Plugs of dirt removed from a tow-behind plug aerator.

Spike Aerators

Spike aerators don’t have quite as much strength when it comes to penetrating tough, compacted soil. Instead of removing plugs of soil like plug aerators, spike aerators instead just puncture it, pushing oil out of the way. Because this can result in dense soil, it’s best to use spike aerators on loose, sandy soil, especially if you want to make pockets for grass seed to germinate.

Push Aerators

Push aerators can be either plug or core technology but usually have spikes. They work best in small areas, particularly those with lots of tight areas to navigate or obstacles to deal with (like trees). These require a bit more force to get the tunes into the soil. 

Handheld Aerators

These can be found both as spike and plug types and are also good choices for small lawns. You’ll step onto the aerator to loosen the soil, driving spikes or hollow tines into the ground until the lawn is aerated. This kind of tool takes a bit more force to operate but can still be a good option for people with limited space to work with. 

Tow-Behind Aerators

If you have a massive lawn to deal with, there’s a good chance that you already have a riding lawn mower or a tractor – and in this case, a two-behind aerator makes the most sense. You’ll connect your aerator to your tow hitch and take off! 

Aerator Shoes

Another unique option for aerating your lawn is aerator shoes. These are sandals that strap on over your shoes and have solid spikes on your soles, allowing you to aerate your lawn as you walk across it. They don’t remove soil but instead force it lower or off to the side. 

Most landscapers don’t recommend using aerator shoes because they can actually make your lawn more complicated. Though a good quick fix, they’ll push soil deeper down and can increase your problems with poor drainage. 

Liquid Aerators

A final option to consider is a liquid aerator. A relatively new technology, liquid aeration takes a longer time to work on your soil but has longer lasting effects. Liquid lawn aerators are soil conditioners that enhance soil structure and break apart soil compaction over a period of several months. Usually, these aerators are made out of chemicals like ammonium lauryl sulfate. 

What to Look for in a Lawn Aerator

There are several considerations you should make when shopping for a lawn aerator. Here are some of the most important things to look for and tips on what to keep in mind.

Lawn Size

First, consider the size of lawn you have. If you have a large lawn or several properties to maintain, you will probably want to invest in a larger piece of equipment to aerate your property. In that case, a tow-behind aerator will likely be your best bet. You can handle the widest swath of ground with minimal effort.

While you can certainly use a tow-behind aerator on a smaller lawn, too, you may find that these machines are more expensive than what it’s worth to aerate your tiny parcel. In that case, you will likely want to use a manual tool instead. 

Level of Compaction

If your soil is heavily compacted and the grass is really struggling, you may want to invest in a plug aerator, which will remove actual plugs of soil from the lawn to provide holes for the water and nutrients to run. Some people argue that spiking a lawn is not as effective, since the compacted soil has nowhere to go and therefore will thus become further compacted.

For lawns that just need a small amount of aeration, though, a spike aerator will work just fine. These machines might even be better if you’re looking for a bit less work, since many landscapers complain that the hollow tubes used in plug aerators often become full of soil and need to be emptied frequently between uses. 

Methods 

Finally, think carefully about the methods you’d like to employ when it comes to aerating your lawn. Do you want to improve your soil quality and condition it so that it is healthier and more fertile? If so, a liquid aerator is the way to go. Do you want to be able to quickly aerate your lawn at a moment’s notice, with no maintenance or expensive equipment to care for? You’ll want to employ a manual aerator. 

Consider your own level of fitness and how much time you have available to care for your lawn aerator. It’s important to think carefully about your lifestyle before you decide on the aerator that’s right for you. 

The Best Lawn Aerators

In the market for a new lawn aerator? Here are some of the best options for you to choose from.

1. Best Plug Aerator: Agri-Fab 45-0299

Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator,Orange &...
  • 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.

Agri-Fab manufactures several different makes, models, and styles of lawn aerators, but this tow-behind option is our top pick when it comes to plug aerators. 

It utilizes plug aeration to remove sections of soil from the ground, helping to remove heavy compaction with its 32 galvanized knives. It can support up to 140 pounds and is 48 inches wide – the weight is important when it comes to penetrating heavily compacted lawns. By adding weight to the weight tray, you can increase the knives’ ability to penetrate tough lawns. 

Made out of heavy-gauge steel, this model is durable and even has a cantilever handle to make it easier to operate. 

What We Liked:

  • Flat-free tires require minimal maintenance
  • Has a universal hitch
  • Best for heavily compacted or large lawns

What We Didn’t Like: 

  • Requires a lawn tractor for operation

2. Best Spike Aerator: Craftsman CMXGZBF7124331

Craftsman CMXGZBF7124331 100-Pound Spike Aerator...
  • 100 lb. Capacity hopper holds many types of materials such as fertilizer, weed killers, grass seed and Ice melt
  • 100% rustproof polypropylene hopper delivers all-weather durability
  • 96 Steel Tine tips penetrate the soil up to 2 in. Quickly and easily

When nothing but a spike aerator will do, you may want to consider this option from Craftsman. Craftsman is a highly respected brand when it comes to lawn care and this machine is no exception.

Technically a spike aerator and drop spreader all in one, it has a 100 lb capacity hopper that will allow you to not only aerate your lawn but also to deposit fertilizer, grass seed, ice melt, herbicides, and more. This hopper is made out of 100% rust-proof polypropylene for all-weather durability.

It is fashioned with 96 steel tine tips so you’ll be able to penetrate the soil at depths of up to two inches with ease. The spreader has a large 32-inch width so you’ll be able to cover more ground without damaging delicate garden beds. 

What We Liked:

  • Universal hitch attaches easily to all kinds of lawn tractors
  • Has a galvanized metal agitator for added durability 
  • All-inclusive, 2-in-1 design is versatile and efficient for both spreading and aerating

What We Didn’t Like: 

  • Difficult to assemble, even with instructions

3. Best Push Aerator: Kapler Garden Manual Roller

Garden Lawn Aerator Manual Roller Rolling Lawn...
  • Lawn Aerator: The rolling lawn aerator used for loose soil, dredge the air, regulate the soil moisture, to help the growth of lawn...
  • Easy Insertion Into Soil: Pull/push the rolling aerator, the heavy-duty spike can be easily inserted into soil, deep water for the...
  • Ergonomic Energy Saving Design: 50-inch handle with 18 inches rolling length, reasonable width, and height to make the work finish...

This push aerator by Kapler receives top marks when it comes to affordability and quality. It’s a simple, no-frills machine that operates by a simple pull/push movement. You’ll find that the heavy-duty spikes are easy to insert into the soil, allowing water to get deep down to the roots of your grass.

As far as push aerators go, it’s one of the most comfortable and stylish you can use. It has an ergonomic design with a 50-inch handle and an 18-inches rolling length – no more bending or straining. It’s easy to assemble and perfect for a small- to medium-sized lawn.

What We Liked:

  • Easy to assemble
  • Reasonable height and width make it effective on most lawns yet easy to operate
  • Comfortable to use 

What We Didn’t Like: 

  • Does not come with a safety cover

4. Best Handheld Aerator: Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator

Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator Manual Grass...
  • REMOVES TWO ½” WIDE 3 ½ INCH GRASS PLUG LAWN CORES, reducing soil compaction and dethatching your lawn while letting air,...
  • REDUCES RUNOFF AND PROMOTES TURF GROWTH. Your lawn will look better with less water and fertilizer.
  • HAND HELD LAWN AERATOR WITH FOOT BAR FOR EXTRA LEVERAGE. Perfect garden tool for easily aerating smaller yards. Promotes vigorous...

If you don’t mind using a bit of elbow grease, this handheld aerator by Yard Butler is another great choice. It’s perfect for small lawns where just a little bit of work is required. This model can pull plugs up to half an inch in diameter from your lawn, allowing you to remove thatch and compaction.

An effective but simple tool, it will require minimal maintenance and is incredibly affordable. It has a cushioned handle to make it more comfortable to use along with a foot bar to help you push it easily into the soil. With every push, it can remove two plugs up to 3 ½ inches long. 

Although we have recommended the coring aerator, the Yard Butler aerator can also be purchased as a spike aerator and with an optional spreader, if you choose. Regardless of the options you select, this tool will help you get your lawn aerated and your grass growing healthy in no time.

What We Liked:

  • Made out of durable steel
  • 37-inch height makes it comfortable to use with minimal back strain
  • Has an ergonomic handle

What We Didn’t Like: 

  • Doesn’t work as well on a dry lawn

5. Best Tow-Behind Aerator: Brinly PA-40BH

Sale
Brinly PA-40BH Tow Behind Plug Aerator, 40-Inch
  • Aerate & Relieve Compacted Soil: 24 heat-treated, 16-gauge Steel plugging spoons penetrate compacted soil and remove up to 3-inch...
  • Long-lasting construction: durable, all steel design with fully-enclosed weight tray holds up to 150 pounds of any type of extra...
  • Easy transport: for crossing drives, walks and rooted areas, Brinly plug Aerator includes a single transport lever to engage...

Another tow-behind aerator to consider is this option by Brinly. It will make quick work of your large lawn and is perfect for homeowners with broader swaths of property to maintain. 

This model has a universal hitch that can be used on a lawn tractor or even on an ATV. IT has a 40-inch wide frame with 24 steel tines that work hard to penetrate the ground and remove long plugs of soil.

Made out of heavy-duty steel, this aerator has an enclosed weight tray that can support a whopping 150 pounds of weight to allow you to treat heavily compacted soil. One of its best and most unique features is the fact that it can easily be used on uneven or rocky terrain since its tines rotate independently.

What We Liked:

  • Easy to service 
  • Flat-free tires
  • Best for uneven terrain

What We Didn’t Like: 

  • Doesn’t support quite as much additional weight as other Brinly tow-behind aerators

6. Best Liquid Aerator: Simple Lawn Solutions Liquid Aerating Soil Loosener

Sale
Liquid Aerating Soil Loosener- Aerator Soil...
  • Liquid Soil Aerator: Alternative to Physical, Core & Mechanical Aeration, Liquid Soil Loosener loosens compact soil and break...
  • Soil Conditioner: Enhances soil structure, detoxifies soil and improves root growth by decreasing compaction. Breaks apart soil...
  • Helps Standing Water, Promotes Drainage: Increases nutrient availability by helping fertilizer reach the root zone. Safe, Natural,...

If a liquid aerator is what you have in mind, you might want to consider this option by Simple Lawn Solutions. A mechanical aerator will get the job done faster, sure – but if you want a more long-term solution, you’ve got to consider this option instead. 

It will help loosen up heavy clay and soil colloids, enhancing soil structure and improving your soil quality over time. Just one 32-ounce bottle can treat an entire 32,000 square feet of lawn. It relies on non-toxic ammonium lauryl sulfate to get the job done and works relatively quickly compared to other liquid products. It only needs to be applied one month before you sow new grass seed.

What We Liked:

  • Conditions soil as well as aerates it
  • Nontoxic and biodegradable 
  • Helps improve nutrient availability in lawn

What We Didn’t Like: 

  • Takes some time to work 

When it comes to finding the best lawn aerator, you’ll need to carefully consider your needs and preferences before buying. There is no single best selection for everybody – the size of your lawn and how much manual labor you’re willing to put into aerating your lawn will both play big roles in your ultimate purchasing decision.

If you want to green up and freshen up your lawn, a lawn aerator will be one of the most important tools to help you do this. Invest in the best lawn aerator and you’ll make quick work of your lawn care chores.

FAQ

How do you know that you need an aerator?

There are several key indicators that aeration should be in the future. One is when rain and water puddle on the surface of your lawn  – that’s a good sign that water isn’t draining properly or getting to the roots of your grass. You should also look out for smooth patches of dirt and bare spots, two other indicators that aeration might be necessary. 

What is the difference between aeration and dethatching?

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not one and the same. Dethatching refers to the act of removing excess thatch from the lawn while aeration refers to poking holes in the soil to help improve drainage and nutrient availability. Most homeowners have problems with both thatch and compaction, so aeration will usually take care of both issues. 

However, if it’s just a thatch build-up (and more than ½” of thatch) that is causing you trouble, using a dethatching tool will be much more effective. 

What are the benefits of aeration?

There are very few lawns that won’t benefit from aeration. Some of the biggest benefits of aerating your lawn include:
– Makes it possible for the soil to absorb more water
– Reduces compaction
– Thatch breaks down more easily
– Greater resistance to drought and heat stress
– Improved oxygen uptake
– Better root development
– Nutrients more easily absorbed and used by grass
– Reduced erosion and water runoff

When is the best time to aerate your lawn?

Generally speaking, aerating your lawn about once per year is a good idea. If you have a heavily trafficked lawn, you may want to aerate more often. Golf courses, for instance, often aerate four or five times per year! 

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