Core Aeration vs. Spike Aeration
If your grass isn’t looking its best, it may need a breath of fresh air. Aerating your lawn is a natural way to solve soil compaction problems, improve drainage, and get your grass thick and healthy for peak growing.
Aeration is like an exfoliating facial for your lawn, loosening surface soil to give tender grass roots the nutrients they need. Core aeration and spike aeration are two major methods to give your lawn a spa day. We’ll walk you through the pros and cons of core versus spike aeration to help you determine which method matches your budget and yard needs.
- What is aeration?
- What is core aeration?
- 3 types of core aerators
- 1. Manual core aerators
- 2. Gas-powered core aerators
- 3. Tow-behind core aerators
- 4 types of spike aerators
- 1. Pitchforks
- 2. Spiked aeration shoes
- 3. Rolling push aerators
- 4. Tow-behind spike aerators
- Core aeration
- Spike aeration
- Testing your lawn for compaction
- Signs your lawn needs aeration
- When to aerate
- How else can I get my lawn to look its best?
What is aeration?
Aeration, also known as aerification, is the process of perforating (poking small holes in) your lawn to alleviate soil compaction, prevent excessive thatch buildup, and increase the flow of oxygen, water, and nutrients to the root zone.
Kids at play, construction projects, and severe weather can compact your soil, leaving roots without a place to grow. Aeration is an easy way to loosen the soil and give your grass space to spread out again.
Core aeration and spike aeration are the major two methods of lawn aeration for homeowners and lawn care professionals. Your lawn type, level of soil compaction in your lawn, and your budget will determine which aeration option is best for you.
When lawn experts talk about aeration, they’re usually referring to core aeration (also known as plug aeration). Core aeration is the preferred method for long-lasting lawn health.
However, spike aeration may be the way to go if your lawn is mildly compacted and you’d like an inexpensive DIY fix to spur grass growth.
What is core aeration?
A core aerator is basically a big hole punch for your yard. When you aerate, though, you aren’t preparing homework assignments. You’re giving roots space to breathe and access to essential water, oxygen, and nutrients.
Core aeration is done by poking hollow tines into the ground and extracting small plugs of soil. It’s the method of choice for lawn pros because it effectively loosens soil, giving root systems access to nutrients and keeping soil more nutrient-rich in the long term.
Core aeration will leave your yard freckled with little holes, but they’ll fill in with denser, healthier grass. According to the Virginia Tech Extension, “Core aeration is very disruptive to surface smoothness, but it is the best way to relieve the physical limitations of soil compaction and improve soil oxygen levels.”
Manual core aerators
If you have a small yard and a free afternoon, a manual core aerator is an inexpensive option. It’s also a great choice for spot aeration if you have a few compacted problem areas.
Manual core aerators are best for: Small lawns with mild to moderate soil compaction, or highly compacted areas in need of spot aeration.
Price: 30 to 125, depending on the quality and number of tines.
Rental cost: Most manual aerators are only available to buy.
Gas-powered core aerators
Most homeowners opt for a gas-powered, push-behind core aerator, which looks similar to a lawn mower. You’ll want to go over your lawn at least twice with the aerator, “mowing” once in one direction, then the second time perpendicularly.
Gas-powered, push-behind core aerators are best for: Medium to large lawns with moderate to high soil compaction.
Price: 2,000 to over 5,000.
Rental cost: Approximately 65 for four hours or 100 for a full day.
Tow-behind core aerators
If you have a lawn tractor and want an easy solution to core aeration, you can invest in a tow-behind (also known as pull-behind) plug aerator. They’re pricey, but they’ll save you time and energy.
Tow-behind plug aerators are best for: Larger lawns with a moderate to severe compaction problem.
Price: range from 100 to 300 (though you could pay thousands for an industrial-grade model). For a high-quality tow-behind option, expect to pay more than 200.
Rental cost: Approximately 35 for four hours or 50 for a full day.
How core aeration works
Manual core aerators and aeration machines have hollow tines that perforate the ground 2 to 4 inches deep. The holes are 2 to 3 inches apart from each other. Because tines are hollow, cores of soil pop out from the top of the tine and fall onto the lawn.
- Cores are long but thin: They’re only 0.5 to 0.75 inches in diameter, so coring won’t destroy your yard. It will just give your roots better access to oxygen.
- Cores are left on the lawn as natural top dressing: They help decompose thatch.
Make sure that your lawn is moist but not wet when you aerate. The soil shouldn’t be so muddy that it sticks to the tines.
What type of lawn should be core aerated?
- Are heavily compacted
- Experience high foot traffic
- Haven’t been aerated in multiple years
- Recently underwent construction
- Have heavy clay soil
- Are medium or large
- Have a severe thatch problem
What is spike aeration?
Spike aeration is basically core aeration minus the hollow cores. If core aeration is like using a hole puncher on paper, then spike aeration is like poking through the paper with the tips of scissors. When you spike aerate, no soil is removed. Instead, soil is squeezed to all sides of the solid tine.
Spike aeration loosens soil and alleviates compaction in the short term, but it increases compaction in the long run.
Pitchforks aren’t an efficient option for a larger lawn, but they’re excellent for smaller areas (less than 1,000 square feet) or for spots that get heavy foot traffic and need extra care.
Pitchforks are best for: Postage-stamp-sized lawns with mild soil compaction or specific areas that need special attention.
Price: 35 to 60 (but you probably already have one in your garage).
Rental cost: Pitchforks are only available for purchase.
Spiked aeration shoes
Spiked lawn aeration shoes are the least expensive spike aeration option. You can use them in small areas, but for larger areas, aerating with spiked shoes is a time-consuming, tiring task. Using spiked shoes is not a highly effective form of aerating, and many lawn pros warn against it.
Spiked aerator shoes are best for: Very small areas with mild compaction.
Rental cost: Spiked shoes are only available for purchase.
Rolling push aerators
Rolling push aerators look like large spiny paint rollers. They work well for small, mildly compacted areas. If your lawn is on the moderate or larger side or if your soil is rocky or highly compacted, a rolling spike aerator is not the best option: It takes a lot of muscle to use and the aerator may get damaged.
- A rolling push spike aerator works like a manual mower. You’ll want to go over your lawn at least twice, once in one direction, and the next time perpendicular to that direction.
- To maximize tine penetration, choose a model with a steel tray for additional weight.
Rolling push aerators are best for: Smaller lawns with mild soil compaction.
Rental cost: Approximately 13 per day.
Tow-behind spike aerators
Tow-behind spike aerators are on the expensive side, but they save time and labor and are excellent for larger lawns and fields. Make sure to purchase one with a weight tray to maximize contact with the soil.
Tow-behind spike aerators are best for: Larger lawns with mild to moderate compaction.
Price of a tow-behind spike aerator: 100-175. vary, but expect to pay 135 or more for a high-quality model.
Rental cost: Most tow-behind spike aerators are only available to buy.
How spike aeration works
Spike aeration works just like core aeration, except that spiked tines are solid, so you won’t have any plugs dotting your lawn.
Holes should be approximately 2 inches apart from each other. Spike aerators tend to pierce the soil 1-2.5 inches deep. The spike marks in your lawn will be less deep than the perforations created by core aeration.
What type of lawn should be spike aerated?
Spike aeration works well for lawns that:
- Have mild to moderate compaction
- Are small to medium in size
- Don’t have many rocks, stones, or debris in the soil that could interfere with spikes
- Have a mild thatch problem (a thatch layer of just over half an inch)
- Don’t have a high clay content
Pros and cons of core and spike aeration
✓ Long-term fix: Hollow tines loosen and remove soil so air holes open up, roots can grow deeper, and grass grows more densely✓ Eco-friendly: Reduced compaction leads to less runoff and pollution and decreases the need for water and fertilizer✓ Increases the visual appeal of your lawn in the long term✓ Cores act as compost, so you can simultaneously aerate and top dress your lawn✓ Decreases the need to dethatch your lawn✓ Dense grass growth prevents weed from invading your lawn✓ Good for medium to large lawns with heavy compaction and heavy foot traffic
✗ Can stress your lawn if you aerate in the wrong season or too often✗ Before holes fill in, they can be visually unattractive✗ Plugs left on your lawn can look messy and unappealing (before they decompose)✗ Weeds can sprout in holes if pre-emergent herbicide is not applied
✓ Quick fix: Solid spikes shift the soil and provide temporary air holes, but soil compacts at spike entry points ✓ Generally less expensive than core aeration✓ Less disruptive to the soil surface than core aeration✓ Creates less mess: Does not leave plugs of soil scattered around lawn✓ Can be used frequently in compaction-prone areas without disrupting lawn’s visual appeal✓ Good for small lawns with mild compaction and lower foot traffic
✗ Spikes increase compaction in the long term✗ Time-consuming and labor-intensive: Shoes and rolling spike tools are not ideal for larger areas✗ Less effective than core aeration✗ Does not penetrate as deeply into the ground as core aeration✗ Compaction leads to more lawn problems in the future: Grass will be weaker and more prone to diseases✗ Compaction harms surrounding ecosystems through increased fertilizer use, erosion, and runoff
To learn more about the benefits of aeration, from increasing your grass’s drought tolerance to protecting your lawn from diseases, check out Lawn Love’s “Benefits of Aerating Your Lawn.”
Does my lawn need to be aerated?
As a general rule, lawns need annual aeration to prevent compaction and keep grass growing densely.
- Lawns with high clay content or foot traffic may require aeration twice per year.
- If your soil is sandy or if you have no drainage issues, you may only need to aerate every two to three years or simply spot aerate as needed.
Spikes do not aerate as deeply or as thoroughly as cores, so if you choose spike aeration, you’ll need to aerate more frequently. Spike aerate two to three times per year during the growing season, targeting places prone to compaction.
Contact your local extension service for advice on your area’s specific aeration needs.
Testing your lawn for compaction
A quick test to check if your grass needs to be aerated? Cut out a square foot section of lawn at least 6 inches deep. If grass roots are growing only 1 to 2 inches deep, your soil may be compacted and need aeration.
Alternatively, give your lawn the old “screwdriver test.” If you can easily push a screwdriver 3 inches into moist soil (without undue force like jabbing), then coring is likely not necessary.
Signs your lawn needs aeration
If compacted soil is causing a problem, your grass won’t be shy to let you know. These lawn symptoms are good indicators that your lawn needs aerating:
- Your lawn feels spongy and dries out easily.
- Your soil is hard to the touch.
- Your lawn isn’t draining properly during rainstorms, and puddles are forming where they did not before.
- Your grass is thinning and becoming discolored.
- Your grass is developing diseases like brown patch.
- Your lawn gets heavy foot traffic.
- Your house was newly built or you have recently had construction done.
- Your lawn was laid from sod: If sod was not mixed with the soil underneath, grass roots may struggle to grow into the lower layer of soil. Aeration breaks up the soil layering to spur root growth.
Even if your lawn isn’t in desperate need, aeration is a natural way to stimulate beneficial microbial growth, promote thatch decomposition, and increase oxygen flow to roots, which will get your grass growing faster and looking healthier.
When to aerate
Aerate during your grass’s active growing season so that grass recovers quickly and fills the holes in your lawn.
- For cool-season grass lawns with types like tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, fall is the ideal time to aerate. While cool-season lawns can be aerated in either early spring or early fall, fall is preferred because weeds are less likely to sprout in the holes.
- For warm-season lawns with grasses like Bermudagrass and Zoysia, aerate in late spring or early summer when grass is growing most vigorously. This will ensure speedy lawn recovery.
Aerate in the right season for your region to prevent lawn stress. Avoid aerating during the peak heat of summer or in the cold of winter when grass is dormant.
FAQ about aeration
What lawn improvements can I expect from aeration?
Aeration will decrease your lawn’s susceptibility to pests and diseases, eliminate yellow and brown spots, and increase the number of beneficial organisms in your yard (like earthworms, which keep your soil loose and nutrient-rich for lasting grass health).
Aeration stimulates renewed growth, so you can expect your grass to grow greener and more rapidly than before, with deeper roots and stronger shoots. Your lawn will be lush and holes will be healed in three to four weeks after aerating.
How long does it take to aerate my lawn?
With a tow-behind or walk-behind aerator, you can aerate a medium-sized, 10,000-square-foot lawn in an hour to an hour and a half. If you want to call in the pros, they can do the job in as little as 30 minutes.
The less sunny news? If you’re using a manual core aerator or spiked shoes, it’ll likely take a full morning or longer, and you may have to take breaks depending on your lawn size.
How long will aeration’s benefits last?
Well, it depends on your soil type and lawn characteristics. Lawns with sandy soils could thrive for as long as five years after a single aeration, whereas with clay soils, your grass might start losing its color just eight months after being aerated. To make sure you’re aerating on the healthiest basis for lawns in your region, contact your local extension service.
Will aerating my lawn damage my irrigation system?
Not if you take precautions. Make sure you mark your sprinkler heads clearly with flags, stakes, or spray before you aerate. That way, you won’t have an aeration tine ramming right into your watering system.
What should I do after aerating my lawn?
Water your lawn thoroughly after aerating. This is also a great time to overseed, apply compost and fertilizer, and amend your soil (i.e. if your soil is too acidic, now is the time to apply lime).
After overseeding, you’ll need to water your newly aerated yard daily or twice daily for the first two to three weeks as grass germinates. It’s important to keep soil moist for grass seeds. Once your grass has germinated, switch to deeper, less frequent waterings to encourage deep root growth.
Want to make sure your grass grows evenly? Wait a month after aeration before overseeding so that holes are healed before you plant.
If you’re not planning to overseed directly after aerating, you can apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weeds from popping up in empty holes.
Can I combine core aeration with spike aeration to give my lawn some extra care?
You can, but use caution to ensure you’re not aerating too much.
Core aerate yearly to give your lawn thorough aeration. Then, if your lawn needs an extra boost during the growing season, you can spike aerate. The thin tines from spike aeration won’t disrupt the visual appeal of your lawn like the larger holes and plugs from core aeration.
If reducing compaction is your long-term goal, you’ll want to stick to core aeration.
How else can I get my lawn to look its best?
Aerating is the start to healthy, long-lasting grass. With nutrient-rich soil and strong grass roots, maintenance will be a whole lot easier. To keep your aerated lawn in peak condition, check out our articles on lawn health:
- Mow:How to mow a lawn
- Water:When is the best time to water your lawn?
- Fertilize:How to fertilize your lawn
- Overseed:4 steps to overseed a lawn
- Weed and pest control:5 organic pest control options
Choosing spikes or cores
If you’re ready to give your grass a refreshing breath of air and a natural dose of nutrients, aeration is the way to go. Spike aeration is a quick fix for a mildly compacted lawn. But for a long-term lawn health solution, core aeration will give your grass what it needs for sustained, dense growth.
Want your grass to grow greener but don’t have the time to aerate? Call a local lawn care professional to aerate away the day, so you can breathe easier without sweating it out in your yard.
Lawn aerator for tractor
For many years, folks asked me: “Don’t you have a company logo?” And we really didn’t, as I just never took the time to come up with one…we just had “Earth Tools” written out in a blocky font, and that passed for a logo.
Finally, though, I decided to put some effort into it, and I hired my sister-in-law Trina Peiffer (my wife’s twin sister) to make a line drawing of the Earth Tools sign we have here at the shop. This sign is made out of a 4-foot length of Eastern Red Cedar log; the letters are carved with a chain saw.
I made this sign about 15 years ago (below is a photo). I figured this was a logo with some “meaning”…not just some arbitrary design. Hope you like it!
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The “supply chain issues / delays” caused by Covid are pretty much worked out now, BUT.- we STILL get VERY busy in the late Winter Spring, and assembling/shipping wait times increase, just because of the “log-jam” of Tractor / Implement orders coming in all at once at “the last minute”. So.- DON’T wait until the “last minute” to order! If you want equipment for this upcoming growing season, ORDER EARLY! Keep in mind that we ship orders on a “first-paid, first-shipped” basis. we do NOT offer “expidited” assembling/shipping of tractor implement orders for an extra charge. We appreciate your business and your patience, and we work as hard as we can to get orders out as fast as possible, WITHOUT cutting corners on the proper equipment setup, prep checkout that we are famous for.
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NEW: REGIONAL DELIVERY SERVICE!!
We are now offering a “regional” delivery service for tractor implement orders within a 400-road-mile radius of our location in Owenton KY. Earth Tools’ owner’s Father-in-law (Charles) will be doing the deliveries. Charges for this service will be a bit more than for shipping by truck freight (call for a quote to your specific location), but delivery will be with a pickup truck (and trailer, if needed) that can get to most any location – unlike a semi-truck. Also, scheduling of the delivery will be more flexible, to better meet your needs. “perks” of this service are that the equipment will be FULLY assembled, and Charlie will show you basic operation of the tractor. Minimum merchandise order for this service: 6500. Call for a delivery quote!
Why are new BCS tractors BLACK or SILVER?
Beginning in late 2017, the BCS factory started a new “paint scheme” for their tractors and implements: The tractors are just painted BLACK, and the BCS-branded implements are painted SILVER. (and in 2023, the tractor bodies started coming through SILVER as well) So, on the tractors, the only “blue” parts are now the plastic “beauty” shrouds for the handlebars.
Because the BCS factory in Italy produces 3 brands of walk-behind tractors on the same assembly line: BCS, Ferrari, and Pasquali (BCS purchased these other 2 companies in the 1990s…and no, this is NOT the automotive “Ferrari!”). Historically, they had different paint-lines for each tractor and implement line (Blue for BCS, Green for Ferrari, and Yellow for Pasquali)…but sometime in 2017, they decided to optimize efficiency by painting all the tractors and implements “neutral” colors and just letting the plastic shrouds and decals delineate what brand tractor it would be. Hence, “non-blue” BCS tractors started appearing in the USA in early 2018. (We have told BCS that we think this is a bad idea. the “blue” was a color most people associated with BCS, and now, if the plastic “beauty shrouds are discarded or lost, there is no color for “brand recognition”, and that would hurt them more in the long run than the few bucks a tractor they’re saving by not having separate paint lines in their factory. We’ll see if they ever bring the “Blue” back. )
This unit is made in Indiana, and was originally designed to be towed behind a lawn tractor or ATV. We have adapted it to tow behind a walk-behind tractor (pictured with Grillo model G110). It features 24 heat-treated “spikes”, which penetrate up to 3” deep, pulling out “plugs” to provide aeration and better water penetration for your lawn.
Working width is 40”; Maximum coring depth 3”. The tray on top is made to accept cement blocks (as in pictures) or other weight up to 150 lbs, for increased penetration in harder soils…these blocks do not come with it!! Also keep in mind that the soil must have adequate moisture in it for the spikes to be able to penetrate.
There is a lever which raises the wheels up (for aerating) or down (which holds the “spikes” out of the ground, for transport). This adjustment takes a few seconds.
Recommended to fit BCS models 749, 750, 852 or 853, or Grillo model G110 Walk-behind tractor; Tow coupler to attach the aerator to specific tractor make/model must be purchased separately (see below). Wheel weights may be required for extra tractor traction as well.
40” Core / Plug Aerator
- Fits BCS 749, 750, 852 and 853, or Grillo model G110 walk-behind tractors
- Item ET AER 40: MSRP: 419370
- Tow coupler to fit aerator to BCS 749, 750, 852 or 853: 922.47720 7571
- Tow coupler to fit aerator to Grillo G110: 9F4212 7571
- Wheel weights may be required for extra tractor traction
EARTH TOOLS, Inc. 1525 Kays Branch Road Owenton, KY 40359
(502) 484-3988 tel. (502) 237-1026 fax.
Annual Winter vacation: closed from Christmas Eve until the first Business Day of New Year (in 2024, re-opening Jan 2nd).
Also closed Martin Luther King day, Memorial Day, USA Independence Day (July 4th), Labor Day and the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving in Nov. (USA).
If you’d like to visit our shop, we have plenty of land to demonstrate our walk-behind tractors with any implement. But if you’re coming to visit, CALL AHEAD at least one day in advance! Retail business hours are by appointment (yes, weekends, too), so the more notice you give us the better we can set our schedule to fit your schedule. We are occasionally out of the shop doing deliveries, demonstrations or displaying equipment at trade shows.
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Spike vs Plug Aerator (differences which is best for you)
You already know the amazing benefits of aerating your lawn. Maybe you’ve decided that now is the time to start this process on your property. But what kind of aeration will you do? After all, there are several options: you can aerate with a spike aerator, or with a plug aerator (often called a core aerator). In this article I’ll compare spike vs plug aerator options.
I’ll explain the characteristics, and pros and cons of each. I’ll also share my recommendations about which type of aerator will give you the best results depending upon your lawn’s current condition.
We will also discuss which type of aerator is more practical for homeowners looking to purchase an aerator (there’s a clear choice).
The Main Difference Between Spike and Plug Aerators
When comparing a spike vs plug aerator, the style of tines is the key difference:
- A spike aerator has long, solid tines that punch holes into your lawn’s turf to allow water, oxygen, and nutrients to reach the lawn’s roots more easily.
- A plug aerator (or core aerator) has hollow tines which remove round plugs of soil from your turf, opening larger holes for oxygen, water and nutrients to penetrate your lawn and reach the roots of your grass.
While both tools can be effective at fixing compact soil – they work in different ways.
A plug aerator makes large, deep holes in your turf, which is generally more beneficial and needs to be done with less frequency.
To understand which type of aerator you need (and why), I’ll dig a little deeper into these two types of lawn aeration tools in today’s article.
What is a Spike Aerator?
A spike aerator has sharp tines that create holes in the soil. This helps loosen the soil without picking up soil from the ground surface.
When you use a spike aerator on your lawn, you put small holes in the ground with the sharp tines.
These holes help get rid of soil compaction. This is important, as soil compaction stops your grass roots from getting all the air, water, and nutrients they need.
Different spike aerators have tines of different lengths. Some have very long tines, up to nine inches.
If you use a spike aerator, you will need to aerate your lawn more frequently than you would with a core/plug aerator. If you go with spike aeration, you should plan to aerate two or three times annually. This is because the effects of spike aeration don’t last very long.
The good news is that spike aeration is typically very easy to do.
Different Kinds of Spike Aerator
Have you decided to try spike aeration? If so, there are a few kinds of spike aerators that you can try. These include:
Spiked Shoe Aerators
Using a spiked shoe aerator (like this one on Amazon) is something many homeowners find quick and easy. All you have to do is wear special shoes with spikes on the bottom, and walk all over your lawn.
The spikes you get on these shoes are usually a specific thinness, to cut back on how much resistance you will have to deal with when getting them into the ground.
Make sure you water your ground before trying to use this aeration process, or do it after a moderate rain. This will make the soil softer and it will be easier for the spikes to make their punctures.
Do you have an oscillating sprinkler? If so, leave this on and watering your space for an extended period.
While using spiked shoe aerators is fun and easy, it’s honestly not enough for a thorough lawn aeration. Many homeowners choose to use this equipment for a sort of touch-up aeration, several times a season.
I find it’s best to use these along the edges of walkways and at the base of stairs coming off of your deck – locations in your yard where people often walk and the soil gets compacted.
Hand and Foot Manual Aerators
A hand and foot manual aerator is a type of aerator that is simple to use and easy to handle.
To use a hand and foot manual aerator, you simply use your hands to keep it upright and then step on the other part of the device, the same way you would a shovel.
When you step, you drive the tines into the ground. This is what aerates your lawn.
Be ready for a workout if you use a hand and foot manual aerator. They’re simply impractical for a large lawn, unless you only want to aerate specific areas, as discussed above.
This is a good tool for quick, targeted aeration of high traffic areas. I own and recommend this one on Amazon.
Riding Mower Aerator (tow-behind)
If you have a riding mower (or even an ATV), you can purchase a towable lawn aerator to make quick work of aerating your lawn.
These tools can generally be purchased for a little bit more than the cost to rent a professional core aerator, allowing you to spike-aerate (or even core aerate) your lawn a few times every year without a trip to the equipment rental center.
If you have the space for it and are into lawn care, a tool like this will really benefit your soil and turf over time. And the convenience of just hooking up an aerator to your lawn tractor or ATV and driving around your yard (instead of muscling around a heavy machine) is something everyone can appreciate.
It’s a great way of aerating your lawn on a frequent basis without feeling like you’re doing an extra lawncare task. Here are links to a few popular options on Amazon:
Whether you choose a plug vs a spike aerator – with any of these tow-behind pieces of equipment you’ll want to have a few cinderblocks to stack on top of them to weigh them down, and you’ll need to make sure your lawn soil is nice and moist for best results (and to avoid damaging your equipment).
Push Spike Aerators
A push aerator is a bit easier to use than some other kinds of manual spike aerators.
As implied by the name, you have to push this kind of aerator, which rolls across your lawn with spikes that make small holes in your turf.
You should water your ground first, to soften it.
If you don’t do this, you will find the soil a bit tough for pushing in the aerator tines and making the holes.
The drawback to this style of aerator is that it can be difficult to get deep holes in your turf. Without them, you’re not really doing much.
That’s why I recommend getting a model similar to this one from Agri-Fab – it has a spot to attach a cinderblock to the top, which really helps get the depth you’re looking for and sets it apart from similar rolling lawn aerators.
Pushing it with the cinderblock on top can be difficult, so turn around and pull it across your lawn. It’ll be a workout, but it’s effective.
What are the Pros and Cons of Spike Aeration?
There are advantages and disadvantages to using a spike aerator instead of a plug aerator.
Spike Aeration Advantages
- Spike aerators are easier to use and more convenient for many people.
- Spike aerator tools tend to be smaller and easier to purchase or rent.
- Compared to a plug aerator, you can use a spike aerator more often.
Disadvantages of Using a Spike vs Plug Aerator
- Spike aeration only deals with soil compaction in the short term
- If you use a manual spike aerator, it will really only be useful in small spaces
- Some kinds of spike aerators are very labour-intensive to use
- Many spike aerators aren’t practical for aerating a large lawn
What is a Plug Aerator?
A core aerator (also called a plug aerator) takes a plug or core of turf and soil from the ground.
Because a core aerator actually removes plugs of soil from the ground, it provides more thorough aeration than a spike aerator does.
Additionally, core aeration has much longer-term benefits than spike aeration. Generally you will only need to do this kind of lawn aeration once every two seasons.
When you use a plug aerator on your lawn, the plugs will typically be left on the ground to decompose.
This is a great way of not only aerating your lawn through taking out the plugs of soil, but also giving your lawn some extra nutrition (if you remove them you’re effectively stripping away some of the yard’s topsoil).
What are the Pros and Cons of Core/Plug Aeration?
Most plug aerators are mechanical. This is different than spike aerators, which are usually manual. Some plug aerators are large and you will probably want to rent rather than buy them.
After all, you only need to core/plug aerate once every two seasons, so there’s often no reason to have one taking up space in your shed or storage space.
Advantages of Using a Plug Aerator vs Spike Aerator
There are many advantages to core/plug aeration. These include:
- thorough aeration. You’re creating larger holes in the ground, letting in more of the air, water, and sunlight your grass roots need.
- You can find core/plug aerators in different sizes, meaning they create different sized holes in the ground.
- A core/plug aerator’s tines are hollow, so they are able to take out plugs of dirt
- You won’t have to aerate your lawn nearly as often with a core or plug aerator. In general, this only needs to be done once every two years.
Disadvantages of Core Aeration vs Spike Aeration
Let’s take a look at some of the drawbacks of using a plug aerator on your lawn. These include:
- It creates a bit of a mess. After all, you’ll be left with plugs of soil sitting on your grass. They decompose, but many people don’t like the look of them while they’re still visible.
- As you probably won’t want to buy a core or plug aerator, you’ll have to go through the hassle of renting one every time you want to aerate.
- Plug or core aeration is a larger project than spike aeration, so you have to devote a large amount of time to it. It’s not something you can do small bits of when you feel like it.
When Should You Aerate Your Lawn?
Now that you know about the key differences between spike and plug aerators, and what each machine does, maybe you’re wondering when you should use them.
Most landscapers and lawn service pros agree that the growing season for your turf is the most effective time to do aeration. So the time of year that’s best for you will depend upon your growing zone.
This is usually in the late spring or early summer (warm season lawns), or in the first part of spring or in early fall (cool season lawns).
These are the times of year when your grass is doing most of its growing. It’s also the best time of year to overseed, which is why I recommend overseeding when you aerate your lawn.
Aerating your yard during these times gives your lawn more water, nutrition, and air at a crucial time in its development and regeneration.
When you aerate your grass, you should make the holes quite close to each other. For example, you could make the holes two or three inches in distance from each other.
Make the holes as deep as you can with the equipment you have. As touched on earlier, one advantage of core aeration is how deep it can make the holes (as well as how it actually removes soil from the ground).
I like to take a pass around the perimeter of the lawn, and then run the aerator over the lawn in two directions.
I travel North to South on the first pass, then East to West after I’ve been over the whole yard, to ensure even coverage and thorough aeration of the turf.
Both Spike and Plug Aerators Can Be Effective
Now that you know the difference between a spike and plug aerator (and how and when to use each tool for best results), it’s time to get out there and aerate!
While it can be hard work, many homeowners actually do find aeration quite enjoyable. They think of all the extra water, oxygen, and nutrition their grass will get as a result, and understand it’s one of the best weekend projects you can tackle to improve the health of your lawn.
Improving the soil structure and giving your grass easy access to everything it needs is the key to a healthy and beautiful lawn that will be the envy of the neighborhood.
When you’re ready to rent your aerator – here’s my guide on lawn equipment rental.
Tow Behind Aerator: Advantages Options
As aerating turf becomes more and more recognized as a necessary part of turf or grass maintenance, every grounds crew and landscaping company is going to be looking for a piece of equipment to invest in. There are two primary options right now: a tow behind aerator and a walk behind aerator. Similar names, similar uses — but VERY different ways of getting the job done. A tow behind unit (also called a pull behind aerator) must be towed by a lawn tractor but offers an unbeatable range of benefits. However, a self-propelled, walk behind unit has the engine included with the aerator and is more like a snow blower.
At TurfTime Equipment, we build a wide range of ground maintenance equipment that professionals trust to work hard and efficiently. See what makes our tow behind aerators the smartest choice for almost all professionals. If you’re ready to start pricing our units, please send us a message or call today!
Pull Behind Aerators vs Walk Behind Aerators
Aerating gives a lawn added water, nutrients, and air — all of which make it more resilient and look extra lush. Experts agree that without aerating at least twice a year, you can’t achieve these results. For any serious crew that needs to cover a large amount of space, a powered aerator is a necessity. While there are pros and cons of each, pull behind aerators are the right choice for most professionals — see the advantages right here:
You’re comparing the engine on your trusty lawn tractor against the built-in gas or electric engine of a walk behind aerator. Your tractor will be faster by a long shot, and that will pay you back in the time it takes to perform this essential turf maintenance task. It’s like comparing a top of the line zero turn mower with a self-propelled push mower — there’s no comparison!
Not only do we know that a pull behind aerator is backed by the engine on your tractor, but the efficiency doesn’t stop there. One of our tow behind units tends to be at least twice as wide with twice as many spoons or tines as your average walk behind unit. This means that our pull behind aerator makes the job go twice as fast as the competition (walk behind aerators). Because you’re letting the tractor do all the work, you reap the rewards when it comes to efficiency.
This question is more complicated than you might think. Our entry-level aerator costs around 1,155 — and costs far less than a basic self-propelled aerator. Even our more expensive options meant for huge fields are comparable in price, if not slightly less than most other commercial aerators. However, the difference is that you need a lawn tractor in order to be able to use a pull behind aerator. For most professionals that’s not an issue, though, as they already have at least one in their equipment fleet.
Not only does the tow behind aerator save you about half the time, but it makes the minutes and hours using it easier, too. All you need to do is drive the tractor up and down your field or grounds and our machine handles most of the work. While a professional walk behind aerator is self-propelled, you’re still expending a lot of effort and breaking a serious sweat.
It’s only fair to include the primary advantage of a walk behind aerator — it is a fully self-sufficient machine. This actually makes it more popular with homeowners than most commercial landscapers or groundskeepers, though, since a quality tractor is almost always on hand.
Ready to invest in a tow behind unit? start around 1,155!
The TurfTime Difference
While our equipment may be used on some of the largest professional sports fields, we’re a fairly small company that still believes in doing things the right way. For example, if you want to ask questions or place an order, simply call our headquarters. You won’t have to wait on hold, and you won’t have to navigate through a call center — you’ll talk to someone knowledgeable.
Plus, all of our units are built in the United States, which means a higher-durability product. This is why we confidently say that the frames of our aerators will last a lifetime, while other brand name options may fall apart after a few years.
Get on a Tow Behind Aerator
If you’re looking to make aerating a part of your turf maintenance services, this is the key to making it efficient. The first step is to reach out to our team to get answers and on the tow behind aerator you want.
We encourage you to reach out to ask questions and to get your price quotes!
Why, When and How to Aerate Your Lawn
Simple, regular maintenance tasks go a long way in creating a thicker, healthier lawn. But jobs typically reserved for once a year can play a significant role in supporting smaller steps taken across the months. For many homeowners, aerating lawns to relieve soil compaction and enhance grass growth is a regular annual task. Almost any lawn can benefit from aeration when it’s timed well and done properly.
Why Aerating Helps Lawns
Grass roots need air, water and nutrients to grow thick, deep and strong. When soil becomes compacted, even slightly, it inhibit the flow of the essentials that support thicker, healthier turf growth. A layer of compacted soil just 1/4 to 1/2 inches thick can make a significant difference in the health and beauty of your lawn.1 Aeration creates holes down into the soil to alleviate compaction so air, water and nutrients can reach grass roots.
Deprived of their basic needs by compacted soil, lawn grasses struggle in stressful situations, such as heat and low rainfall, and lose their healthy, rich color. Grasses gradually thin and eventually die out completely, for lack of the oxygen, water and nutrients available just inches away. Even a single aeration session can open the avenue for these essentials to reach their mark and put your lawn back on an upward trend.
Core aerators pull small plugs of soil to the surface.
When Lawns Need Aeration
It may not seem your lawn could get compacted, but it happens easier than you may think. Vehicles or small equipment driven on lawns are more obvious offenders, but even outdoor entertaining or yard play by kids and pets can leave all or part of your lawn compacted. If you live where heavy clay soil is the norm, annual aeration is probably needed to keep your lawn from becoming thin and weak.
Dethatching and aerating are two different tasks, but they often go hand in hand. Thatch is the layer of decomposing organic matter that forms right at the lawn surface, between soil and grass. When thatch gets more than 1/2 inch thick, it works like compaction to prevent the flow of air, water and nutrients grasses need. Aggressive spreading grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass in northern lawns and Bermudagrass down south, form more thatch than many other grass types. Aeration helps penetrate and reduce thatch buildup or prep it for removal through dethatching.
If your grass often looks stressed and your soil is hard to the touch or rainwater puddles up where it used to be absorbed, you may have compaction problems. Confirm your suspicions with a simple “screwdriver test.” Take a regular screwdriver and stick it into your lawn’s soil by hand. It should slide in fairly easily. If you meet resistance, your soil is compacted, and aeration can help.
When to Aerate Your Lawn
As with most larger lawn projects, such as planting grass seed, it’s best to aerate during or right before the time your grasses reach their peak time for natural growth. Aeration is good for lawns, but it can stress grass if timed improperly. Never aerate dormant lawns.
For cool-season grasses common in northern lawns, early fall or early spring are the best times for aerating. For warm-season grasses common to southern lawns, the best time for aerating is late spring or very early summer. When aeration coincides with active growth, grasses recover quickly and fill in areas where aerator equipment exposes soil.
Aerating is easiest on you (or your equipment operator) and your lawn when your soil is moist from irrigation or rainfall the day before. Overly dry soil can be tough to aerate, so moisture eases the process. Never aerate overly wet lawns; wait a few days instead.
Slicing aerators slice through lawns and leave soil in place.
How to Aerate Your Lawn
Aerating equipment comes in three main types, from small manual versions to larger tractor-like or pull-behind machinery:
- Spike aerators simply poke a hole down into the soil with a solid, spike-like tine. Some homeowners wear spiked aerator “sandals” strapped to their shoes to aerate as they do yard work. While these can help on a small scale, spike machines can make compaction worse by pressing soil together around the holes. 1
- Slicing aerators have rotating blades that cut or slice through grass and thatch and down into soil. Like spike aerators, slicing aerators leave soil in the ground, but they create pathways for air, water and nutrients without causing more compaction.
- Core or plug aerators, typically preferred by lawn professionals, use rows of hollow tines that remove plugs of soil from your lawn and deposit them on top, where they break down. The size of the plugs and the holes they create vary in width and depth, depending on the machine used.
You can hire a lawn service to aerate for you or do it yourself like a pro. Equipment rental companies and lawn and garden stores often rent aerator machines and provide basic operating instructions for the model you choose. Aerating is a lot like mowing as you work back and forth across your lawn. Concentrate on any known problem areas, like pet runs or backyard baseball diamonds. Make several passes in different directions to help ensure optimal coverage and benefits.
What to Do After Aeration
After you finish aerating your lawn, let soil plugs or extra soil dry where they fall. They’ll break down in rain or crumble the next time you mow, adding beneficial soil and organic matter to your lawn surface.
Right after aeration is a perfect time to overseed with premium Pennington Smart Seed and fertilize your lawn or do simple lawn repairs. Seeds and nutrients have direct contact with soil through the openings your aerator created and roots have fresh pathways for the things they need. The combination can help put your lawn on the fast track for quick seed establishment and thicker, lusher growth.
By adding aeration to your annual task list or doing regular compaction tests to check for need, you help ensure your lawn can reach its full potential for thickness, health and beauty. Pennington is committed to providing you with the finest in grass seed and lawn care products to help you achieve your lawn goals.
Pennington and Smart Seed are trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.