Best Plug Aerator For Lawn in 2023

Best Plug Aerator For Lawn in 2024

There’s no doubt that taking care of a lawn is hard work. To stay green and lush, grass needs to be watered, mowed, and weeded on a regular basis. If bare spots don’t go away no matter what you do, it’s probably because the dirt is too packed. When the spaces between earth pieces get too small, roots can’t get enough air, water, and nutrients. This is called compaction. If you walk or drive on fields with heavy clay soil a lot, the soil will often get compacted. It gets harder for water to drain, and between the earth and the grass, a thick layer of thatch may form. Thatch is made up of dead stems, leaves, and roots.A lawn aerator should be used once a year to make holes in your yard so that air and water can get to the roots. This could be the key that opens the door to better things. The market was scoured to bring you a list of the best in a wide range of areas. We put each of the following goods to the test in our own garden after reading about their specs, features, and customer reviews. Find out more about what we looked for in a yard aerator, how each one worked, and why we think these are some of the best ones on the market.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Brinly-Hardy 40-Inch Tow-Behind Plug Aerator
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Corona YardBreather Aerator
  3. UPGRADE PICK: John Deere 48-Inch Tow-Behind Plug Aerator
  4. BEST MANUAL: Yard Butler Manual Lawn Coring Aerator
  5. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Agri-Fab 48-Inch Plug Aerator
  6. BEST LIQUID: Covington Liquid Aerator

Who Should Aerate Their Lawn

Do not go out and poke holes in your yard just yet. Not all grass need to be aerated. But you should think about it if any of the following are true about your yard. If not, leave the green alone. Aeration is almost always a good idea for homes that have just been built. It’s likely that you need to aerate your yard because of all the trucks and heavy tools that have been on it. Is your yard the ball field for the neighborhood?

Many people walk on a yard, like kids, parties, pets, and other people. That’s why you might want to think about aerating the lawn. If you put down sod to make your lawn, you may need a yard aerator. For now, it’s just a mat of grass on top of the ground until the sod can take root and connect to the rough soil below. Aerating the lawn helps that link. There may not be enough air in your soil because there is a thick layer of hatch on top of it. Thatch is made up of live and dead grass stems and roots that build up on top of the ground when it doesn’t drain well. Then, a grass dethatcher will help get rid of the layer of thatch. These tools don’t dig into the ground; they just scrape off the thatch. Aerate the grass to fix the soil structure after you’ve taken off the thatch.

Should You Buy or Rent a Lawn Aerator?

It’s not always a good idea to spend money on lawn tools that you won’t use very often. In fact, a lot of people have beautiful fields that they don’t aerate. Borrow or rent a grass aerator if you are new to the area and aren’t sure if aerating will be a one-time thing or something you’ll have to do often.You can rent walk-behind or towable lawn aerators by the hour, half day, full day, or week at most tool rental shops. On the other hand, some homes have trouble spots that need to be aerated once a year. They find it more cost-effective to buy an aerator than to rent one every year and deal with the trouble of arranging the pick-up and return and paying the fee over and over.

Aeration Methods

You can use either a spike or a plug (also called a “core”) to aerate your grass, depending on what works best for it.

Plug Aerators

A lawn plug aerator has narrow tines that go through the grass and pull out plugs of dirt. Home gardeners can either let these plugs break down on their own or pick them up with a rake or lawn mower. Lawns that need plug aeration are those that:

  • The rain makes the grass pool or the streets run with water.
  • It’s hard to dig into the soil.
  • The earth is harder because people walk on it a lot.

You should get a plug aerator for your lawn whether it has any or all of these signs. The holes make room in the earth for the roots to spread out, water to soak in deeper, and air to flow. The roots stay healthy below, and the grass grows thick on top.

Spike Aerators

Aerators spikes don’t take dirt out of the yard. Instead, they use long spikes to poke holes in the ground. This lets air and water get to the roots. They usually work well on sod and dirt that isn’t packed down too much. If the ground is really thick, they might not work. It’s best to use spike aerators on softer soil if you want to make it easier for roots to reach fertilizer or make room for grass seed to settle without running off the surface. We don’t think a spike aerator is the best way to fix dirt that is packed down. Using a spike aerator over and over again for several seasons can make the soil more compact, even though it may look like it helps the yard in the short run.

How We Tested the Best Lawn Aerators

Our tests on the yard aerator included putting it together, using it, measuring it, and watching it work for two days. For the walk-behind and tow-behind types, we marked off 5,000 square feet of lawn. We set up 100-square-foot test areas for the shoes and the mobile models. For the liquid grass aerator, an A/B test was needed with two equal 500-square-foot plots to compare the treated area with a nontreated area. The treated area had to be cared for and watched for one month. In order to find the number of spikes per square foot for each model, we split the area that one full turn of the reel assembly covered (width times diameter in inches divided by 144) by the total number of aerating spikes.

Aerators with fewer spikes per square foot went deeper with less force, but they had to be used more times to have the same effect. On the other hand, models with more spikes per square foot needed more weight to sink in the same amount, but they aerated completely in one pass. Before the aerator tests, we mowed the lawn a notch lower than the standard care height and then watered it thoroughly to help the spikes go deep into the soil. Once the 24 hours were up, we tried each aerator by giving the tow-behind models some extra weight. After aerating, we picked 50 plugs at random from each plug aerator to find out how deep they penetrated on average. The plug aerators that went through at least 2.5 inches and pulled out at least 2.25 plugs per square foot were our favorites.

Our Top Picks

We have a wide range of aerators, from small mobile ones that are good for a few square feet under the kids’ toys to big tow-behind ones that can aerate several acres. Find out more about these tools, how they did in our tests, and which one might be the best yard aerator for you by reading on.

 
 
Photo: amazon.com
The 40-inch tow-behind plug aerator from Brinly-Hardy is a good choice for serious do-it-yourself lawn care enthusiasts. It is made of steel and has 24 separate 3-inch heat-treated holes. The weight tray can hold up to 150 pounds. All of these things make for a long-lasting tool that does a great job of cleaning.The universal hitch on this type lets it connect to lawn carts, ATVs, and UTVs. Landscapers can pull the aerator across paths and roadways by disengaging the knives with the help of the transport lever. The “no-flat” tires make the unit last longer.Based on our tests, the Brinly-Hardy lawn aerator was the best choice for regular upkeep tasks. It was also the cheapest tow-behind plug aerator we looked at. When 120 pounds of weight was added, it went through to a depth of 2.75 inches on average. The steel coring spikes are strong, but they aren’t polished. They are also rolled into a “C” shape instead of a full circle plug shape, which helps with cleaning out but might make it harder to go deeper. These aerators only punch 2.5 plugs per square foot, so we had to use them more than once to get the best results.

Product Specs

  • Spike length: 3 inches
  • Spikes per square foot: 2.5
  • Weight tray included: Yes

Pros

  • All-steel design is durable and built to last
  • Weight tray can support up to 150 pounds
  • Universal hitch compatible with most garden vehicles
  • Durable flat-free wheels can handle most terrains

Cons

  • Assembly required (about 1.5 hours)
  • Low number of spikes per square foot
  • Cannot operate the transport lever from the driver’s seat

BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK

 
Photo: amazon.com
If you only need to aerate a small area of yard, the Corona YardBreather is a cheap and easy-to-store mobile aerator that might work for you. The YardBreather is 40 inches tall and has plugging spikes that are 8 inches apart. It weighs a little over 3.5 pounds.With just a few steps, this tough tool can take out two 3.5-inch soil plugs at once. With each step, the tool pushes soil plugs out of the tops of the empty spikes. Steel that has been heated and cooled is used to make the footplate and filling spikes so that they last a long time. A wide, nonslip footplate and thick, padded grips take away stress spots and make the job easier.It took some practice, but we were able to use the YardBreather to remove about 100 plugs per minute. We tried six different walk-behind aerators, and this one worked better in dry, packed soils because the user’s weight is only on two spikes at a time, not six or eight. The spikes always went all the way through to a depth of 3.5 inches in normal dirt. This tool isn’t the best for even the smallest whole-yard jobs, but it’s a great buy for people who have to deal with pet paths along the property line or a worn path from the house to the shed on a daily basis.

Product Specs

  • Spike length: 3.5 inches
  • Spikes per square foot: 2
  • Weight tray included: N/A

Pros

  • Comfortable grip helps prevent user fatigue
  • Broad, slip-resistant step makes it easier to use
  • Sharp edges for easy plugging
  • This compact garden tool is easy to store

Cons

  • Only suitable for small areas; large areas would take a lot of work

UPGRADE PICK

Photo:  amazon.com
John Deere’s 48-inch aerator gets holes in the lawn very quickly. It has 12 four-way plug units on the spool, which means it can pull 4.24 plugs per square foot. The heavy-duty body is 101 pounds and can hold up to 250 pounds of extra weight, putting about 350 pounds of downward pressure on it. The plugging spoons that have been heated can go through up to 3 inches. Most lawn trucks and horse mowers can be used with the universal drop-pin tow hitch. In contrast to our other towable aerators, this one rolls smoothly on rubber tires when it’s being moved.Even though it costs a little more than the other types we looked at, the John Deere tow-behind plug aerator is worth every penny. This one is much better. When put next to the Agri-Fab 48-inch tow-behind plug aerator, which was about the same size, the John Deere quickly stood out in terms of both the quality of the materials and the way it was designed. The John Deere model weighs 101 pounds, while the Agri-Fab model weighs 92 pounds. The John Deere can hold 250 pounds of extra weight, while the Agri-Fab can only hold 140 pounds. Besides that, the John Deere works about 50% better because it has 4.24 plugs per square foot.This aerator went into the ground about 2.5 inches deeper when 120 pounds of weight were added to it. It kept penetrating well even as it turned 180 degrees at the ends. We really liked how this model’s inflated tires spread the weight better on soft ground instead of making ruts like hard wheels do. This tool would have been almost perfect if we could have moved the transport button from the driver’s seat. The size and strength of this aerator make it a great choice for bigger homes with lots of open yard space.

Product Specs

  • Spike length: 3 inches
  • Spikes per square foot: 4.24
  • Weight tray included: Yes

Pros

  • Closely spaced coring spikes great for compacted earth
  • Penetrates up to 3 inches even when making end turns
  • Pneumatic tires for better weight distribution on soft ground
  • Top-quality construction is a heavy-duty option

Cons

  • Cannot operate the travel lever from the driver’s seat
  • May be too large for some lawn tractors

BEST MANUAL

The Best Lawn Aerator Option: Yard Butler Manual Lawn Coring Aerator
Photo: amazon.com
Do-it-yourself lawn care pros know how important a good hand aerator is. If you have a small yard or a path with thick grass, the Yard Butler manual lawn coring aerator can handle it. The 3.5-inch tines are strong enough to dig into hard, compacted earth, and the wide footplate gives you plenty of power. It’s made of one durable piece of steel.Because it’s 37 inches high, the Yard Butler lets people work in a relaxed position. It weighs a little more than 3.5 pounds and has cushion T-shaped handles that make it easy to move.Both the YardBreather and the Yard Butler are useful tools with nearly similar designs that can easily remove two 3.5-inch soil plugs at a time. However, the Yard Butler did better in a couple of important testing measures. Both weigh a little more than 3.5 pounds, but the Yard Butler is smaller. It is 0.25 inches thinner, 3.5 inches shorter, and the spikes are 0.5 inches closer together.The shorter height of the Yard Butler made it easier to pull out of the ground while we were working with it. The close spacing between the spikes made the plugs denser, which improved air flow more completely. Yard Butler’s footplate is only 0.25 inches smaller than the competition (4.75 inches vs. 5 inches), so people with wider feet could still use it even though the spike spacing is 0.5 inches worse. The competition had a more comfy handle and a non-slip footplate, but we liked the Yard Butler’s slim design better for both working and storing.

Product Specs

  • Spike length: 3.5 inches
  • Spikes per square foot: 2
  • Weight tray included: N/A

Pros

  • Compact manual tool is ideal for small yards
  • All-steel build is a durable choice
  • Padded T-handle makes it more comfortable to use

Cons

  • Tool can clog easily with dirt and pebbles

BEST HEAVY-DUTY

The Best Lawn Aerator Option: Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator
Photo: amazon.com
A heavy-duty aerator like this one from Agri-Fab might be the best choice for yards that are very big or have very packed dirt. This tow-behind plug aerator’s 48-inch-wide path makes it easier to work on large fields. The job is done with heavy-gauge stainless steel knives that have 32 spikes.A weight tray that holds 175 pounds can move some of the stickiest dirt. The knives can go over rough ground thanks to their 9.75-inch flat-free tires, and a transportation lever keeps them off of roads and roadways. This hitch can be used on ATVs, UTVs, and yard tractors.The Agri-Fab 48-inch tow-behind plug aerator did a better job of penetrating the ground than the smaller Brinly-Hardy model. This is because it is larger and has fewer pointy plugging spikes per square inch. Each of the fewer spikes put more downward pressure on the frame, which made the larger model put more downward pressure than the lighter model. The spikes went through about 2.5 inches deep on average.We had to make two passes, though, because the first one only punched 2.67 plugs per square foot. We tried other walk-behind aerators as well, and the rolled steel spikes were “C” shaped instead of round. This meant that most dirt plugs were not fully removed from the ground. It was easy to clean up, though, because not many plugs got stuck in the coring spikes. The Agri-Fab lawn aerator is a cheap option for taking care of bigger homes.

Product Specs

  • Spike length: 3 inches
  • Spikes per square foot: 2.67
  • Weight tray included: Yes

Pros

  • Control the travel lever from the driver’s seat
  • Large powerful unit is ideal for large yards
  • 9.75-inch flat-free tires can handle most terrains
  • Universal hitch for a versatile usability

Cons

  • Assembly required (about 1.5 hours)
  • Low number of spikes per square foot

BEST LIQUID

The Best Lawn Aerator Option: Covington Liquid Aerator
Photo: amazon.com
There is no scientific evidence that liquid yard aerators work, so that’s something to keep in mind before we get into this one. More people are searching for these products on the Internet, so we chose to test the Covington Liquid Aerator because it has good reviews from customers and we were interested.Along with microbes (20%), molasses (10%), humate (10%), and kelp (5%) the concentrated result has low amounts of manganese, sulfur, iron, and amino acid complexes that help plants grow. People are told to use 2, 4, or 8 ounces of the product every 45 to 60 days on every 1,000 square feet of yard, based on how hard the soil is packed down. The company says that deep watering should be done every three to four days after the application. The microorganisms (the “active ingredient”) probably include bugs that make soil, but the label doesn’t say for sure.We used the Covington Liquid Aerator on a 500-square-foot sidewalk area that was moderately compacted, as advised. We also didn’t treat an area next to it and watered both of them as planned for the follow-up routine. After 30 days of tests, our results were still not clear. The area didn’t look bad before, but it did look great now. It was hard to tell the difference between the effects of the plant food and any real change in the soil’s compaction, which would probably take a lot longer to happen anyway.Aside from the lush green grass, which we thought would change because of the extra water, we didn’t notice any difference in the way either place looked. It didn’t hurt the garden, which is good news, and the grass did a little better.

Product Specs

  • Spike length: N/A
  • Spikes per square foot: N/A
  • Weight tray included: N/A

Pros

  • Contains plant food supplements as an additional benefit
  • Also contains beneficial soil microbes
  • Ingredients help support healthy soil as well as aeration

Cons

  • Results are difficult to measure
  • Not backed by scientific evidence

What to Consider When Choosing a Lawn Aerator

If you do it right, your grass can be thick, green, and the talk of the neighborhood. It’s not easy to pick the best lawn aerator, though. The most important things to think about are broken down below.

Types of Aerators for Lawns

Which type of aerator is best for you will depend on the size of your yard and how much hard work you can do.

Put out aerators

The best places for push aerators to work are small ones, especially ones with playsets and trees that are hard to get around. Most of the time, these aerators have spikes instead of empty tines, which makes them better for lawns that aren’t packed down. It’s a little harder to find push aerators, and you have to work harder to get the tines into the ground. To loosen up packed-down dirt, choose a plug aerator that you can hold in your hand or pull behind you.

Carry-On Aerators

Most of the time, handheld aerators work best on small grass. They come in two different styles: plug and spike. Landscapers can step on the tool and drive the hollow tines or spikes into the ground over and over again across the whole yard. The tool has a strong foot platform and two handles that are put high on it to avoid back pain. It takes a little more time and work to aerate with hand tools, but it works.

Aerators that pull behind

Your lawn must be pretty big if you have a push mower. A tow-behind aerator might make sense in this case. You can quickly cover a lot of ground by connecting the yard aerator to the mower’s tow hitch. Tow-behind aerators have a tray above the tines that can be used to add extra weight and dig deeper.

Walk-behind air cleaners

Professional gardeners can aerate your lawn, and most of the time they use plug aerators that you can walk behind. These machines move themselves and can go up to 4 miles per hour, so they can aerate grass quickly and completely in one pass. They are very heavy, but easier to move around than tow-behind models. They also have coring spikes that are closely placed and go about twice as deep as most tow-behind models. Most people may not be able to afford to buy one, but this is the hire tool that professionals use to get the job done right.

Shoes for Aerator

You can loosen up the grass while you walk on yard aerator shoes. But they’re only a good idea for lightly packed dirt and easy upkeep. The device that looks like a sandal goes over shoes that have straps that can be adjusted and solid spikes on the bottom. If you use this spike aerator often, it may make packed dirt worse.

What it is

When looking for yard tools, durability is always important. When gardeners drive aerators deep into the ground, they get a lot of rough use. So, the materials used to build the aerator are an important thing to think about. Most of the time, the spikes or knives that dig into the ground on the best yard aerator are made of stainless, galvanized, or heat-treated steel. These strong materials won’t rust and can handle rocks and other rough ground. The same is true for aerators that look like shoes: A spike made of stainless steel is best. Think about the frame of tow-behind aerators as well. Powder-coating the frames, trays, and other parts will help them last for years and keep your lawn healthy.

Size of the Yard

People looking for the best yard aerator should think about whether they want to push the aerator themselves or pull it behind a lawn machine. For manual lawn aerators like the shoe style and the step-on style, the spikes or knives have to be driven into the ground and pulled out again and again. For small yards, the work might be manageable by hand, but for big lawns, you’ll probably need a model that pulls behind you. For big lawns, tow-behind types are by far the most useful, but they do take some time to set up. The aerator has to be attached to the tractor and the right amount of weight has to be put on top to make sure the spikes go through the ground. There are no hard and fast rules for what weight is best for each lawn because it changes a lot.

Weight and Moving Around

When you aerate your yard, it can be hard to find the right mix between weight and mobility. Aerators need to be heavy enough to dig into the ground, for one thing. But an aerator that is big and hard to move around might not be very useful. Aerators that are pulled behind a tractor can be very heavy, sometimes more than 90 pounds. They need to be heavy to really dig into the ground. They’re hard to move around flower beds, though, and the time it takes to set them up might not be worth it. If you only have a small yard, a lighter hand choice might work better. Most of the time, these types weigh less than 5 pounds, which makes them easy to dig up. They can move around very easily, so they can work in very small areas of grass.

Some extra features

There are some extras on some of the best yard aerators that might make them better in some situations.

  • Should the spikes be knife- or spike-length? The longer the spikes go into the ground, the more air and water get to the roots. But the aerator is hard to use when the tines are too long. The best length is about three inches.
  • Some types of aerator/spreader combs have hoppers that hold seeds and spreaders that spread the grass seeds while the knives work to open up the soil.
  • Shape of the handle: For manual types, look for a handle that is well-balanced.

The Benefits of Aerating Your Lawn

If your yard is in any of these situations, aeration can help:

  • Most of the time, pets go to the bathroom in the same place.
  • Because it is thick, thatch keeps water from getting into the soil.
  • After it rains a lot, the ground can’t soak up the water.

Getting rid of the dirt around where pets like to go will give the grass the food, air, and water it needs to fight back against pet pee. An aerator has tines or spikes that dig through thatch and speed up the breakdown process. Aerators with plugs make air spaces and break up the dirt around the hole. This makes it possible for water to drain quickly and effectively, so after it rains, it doesn’t pool.

FAQs

The following section aims to answer any remaining questions you may have about the best lawn aerator. Look for the answers to your questions below.

Q. Which is better: spike or plug aerators?

Ultimately, plug aeration is better than spike lawn aeration as it physically removes mass from the yard instead of merely poking into it. Repeated spike aeration may lead to more soil compaction over time.

Q. What is the best month to aerate my lawn?

The best month to aerate your lawn depends on the climate and grass type. The first month of spring weather is best for warm-season grasses and for lawns in cool climates. It’s also helpful to aerate in the fall before overseeding a cool-season lawn.

Q. Is it best to aerate the lawn before seeding?

Yes, aerating allows seeds to penetrate the surface for the best possible germination.

Q. How deep should I aerate the lawn?

For the best results, it is important to aerate deeply into the grass root zone. A depth of 3 to 3.5 inches is more than sufficient in most cases.

Q. Should I mow before or after aeration?

Mowing a notch lower than normal a day or so before aerating helps to ensure the best spike penetration. Mowing after using a plug aerator can help bust up the clumps left behind.

Q. How often should I re-aerate my lawn?

Once a year is usually sufficient, but any time the lawn is more compact than usual is a good time to poke a few holes.

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