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What Should I Look for When Buying a Lawn Aerator?

By S. Mithra
Updated May 16, 2024
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When buying a lawn aerator, you should consider how seriously your lawn needs aeration and how much elbow grease you are prepared to put into the chore. Aeration allows soil exposure to air, which keeps your lawn from looking thin, brown, or matted. Different kinds of lawn aerators span a wide range of costs, ease of operation, and efficiency with which they aerate your lawn.

One thing to consider when buying a lawn aerator is how much your lawn needs aeration. Certain types of grass tend to mat together and not allow water, fertilizers, and sunlight to reach the soil. Clay soil tightly compacts and has poor drainage, while sandy soil requires less frequent aeration.

If your lawn is generally healthy, consider getting aeration shoes. These strange looking sandals have an array of sharp, triangular spikes on their soles. They strap onto your regular shoes and for a small investment, they can contribute to a lush lawn. For people who are already out in their yard several times a week, lawn aerator shoes are a great choice. They give you exercise and provide a continuous, yet less powerful, method of spike aeration.

Seasonal treatments for your lawn, such as fertilization, seeding, and aeration, can also be accomplished in one easy step. If you only want to be bothered with major lawn care twice a year, you can consider investing in a hefty lawn maintenance equipment called a plug or coring aerator. This massive, wide, automated tool actually cores your lawn and removes small plugs of soil from the ground so there are noticeable holes.

A coring aerator is a good choice if you are maintaining an area that gets an extreme amount of traffic such as a playground, sports field, or dog park. In these instances, considering the amount of stress the turf is under, this more dramatic lawn aerator may be worth the cost. For a small, personal lawn, this method may be prohibitively expensive and unnecessary. Consider renting this tool once or twice a year.

There is an option that offers a compromise between those two tools to give a semi-automated yet efficient method of aeration. A rotary spike lawn aerator resembles a push mower piled with giant cement blocks to give it enough weight to penetrate a compact lawn. This would be appropriate if you don't have as much storage space or as large a budget as you'd need for a coring aerator, but you need something larger than spike sandals.

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Discussion Comments
By anon298282 — On Oct 19, 2012

The best type is definitely the core/plug style of aerator. The spike aerators tend to compact the soil, which can have an adverse affect on lawns in bad conditions. For very health lawns, they can be helpful, though.

There are several different types of lawn aerators. The spike shoes were mentioned, as well as the walk behind, but tow behind models are very popular as well. They attach to the back of a riding mower and aerate as you drive. These are not very expensive, and are quite effective.

For a landscaping business, I assume you would be looking for a gas powered model. There are a few good brands out there, such as Ryan, Husqvarna, and Billy Goat. Billy Goat models have some cool features and are a bit easier to find.

By anon80513 — On Apr 27, 2010

What is the recommended depth of the aeration plug?

By anon76526 — On Apr 10, 2010

I rented a Plugr reciprocating core aerator today, it was way easier to use than the Bluebird drum aerator I rented last time. It was lighter (about 100lbs less) and was easier to engage and stop, plus it pulled plugs much better than the Bluebird. I won't go back to the drum type aerator, unless it is a pull behind.

By solushunz — On Dec 29, 2009

That's great information.

By solushunz — On Dec 29, 2009

Push the tubes into the soil with your boot on the cross-piece, pull out, take a half-step forward and repeat.

By anon57375 — On Dec 22, 2009

I have worked for many years just doing lawn aerating and I definitely agree that these "spike shoes" are useless and a waste of money. If you're running a business its definitely worth it to invest in a good quality aerator. I would recommend Bluebird or Ryan as two companies that make a range of machines for all work loads.

By anon44954 — On Sep 11, 2009

I would like to know what is the best type of aerator to purchase. I have a small lawn maintenance and landscaping business. someone with experience give me a few clues.

By anon36658 — On Jul 14, 2009

Does "little better than the aerator shoes" mean they are some better but probably not worth the money?

By anon29622 — On Apr 05, 2009

Another alternative for small lawns is a hand-operated aerator - essentially a few narrow conical tubes about 10cm long welded to a cross-piece with a handle on it. Push the tubes into the soil with your boot on the cross-piece, pull out, take a half-step forward and repeat. Tubes need occasional unblocking, but otherwise easy work. I got mine online for about 20 bucks.

By anon14528 — On Jun 18, 2008

Forget the aeration shoes and the "spike" version. Waste of time, effort and money. Either get a tow behind plug (also called core) aerator or rent the self propelled from just about anywhere.

Two types: For the landscaping business person spend the extra (couple hundred more) for the split drive model. Main difference = with split drive you can make turns (around trees/reverse directions) with the plugs still in the ground. On the regular version (non-split) you have to tilt it back so the plugs are in the air in order to do so. OK if you're just doing one lawn a year but you'll notice the difference if you're going to be doing one a day.

By anon9918 — On Mar 16, 2008

I know the aerating shoes are intriguing but they are useless. The spikes simply do not penetrate deeply enough nor are the holes they make wide enough to allow oxygen to penetrate the soil. Don’t waste your money. The spike aerators designed to be pulled behind a lawn tractor are little better than the aerator shoes. The best lawn aerator is a "hollow tine" or "core" aerator, which is motorized. A thoroughly aerated lawn has at least ten half-inch diameter holes made by the aerator per square foot.

By marvinsnack — On Nov 07, 2007

I would like to know what the best type of aerator to purchase. I have a small lawn maintenance and landscaping business. someone with experience give me a few clues.


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