DIY lawn aerator or Medieval death machine. Homemade aerator for lawn

How to Aerate Your Lawn for Healthy Grass

Keep your grass healthy and green with these tips on how and when to aerate your lawn.

Michelle Ullman is a home décor expert and product reviewer for home and garden products. She has been writing about home décor, gardening, and related topics for over 10 years for publications like, The Spruce, and Better Homes Gardens, among others.

While just about every homeowner knows their lawn needs watering, mowing, and fertilizing to look its best, many people don’t know that aerating a lawn is also part of basic yard care. The job can be tedious, but it’s not difficult, and the benefits of aeration—green, healthy grass—make those few hours well spent.

There are several methods for how to aerate your lawn with various soil aeration tools such as aerator shoes and gas-powered machines, but whichever way you choose, your soil will be perforated with small holes to penetrate the roots.

Why Aerate Your Lawn?

Over time, soil tends to compact and harden due to foot traffic, mowing, clay soil, or poor drainage. This prevents water, oxygen, and nutrients from reaching the hungry roots. As a result, the turf becomes thin, pale, or patchy.

Lawn aeration—making holes in the turf—breaks up hard soil, so water and nutrients penetrate the grass roots more easily. There are two basic types of lawn aerators:

Both break up hardened ground, but lawn plug aerators are more effective.

When to Aerate the Lawn

The best time to use aerating lawn tools depends on your grass type. Cool-season grasses, such as fescue, bluegrass, or ryegrass, should be aerated in early spring or early fall. Warm-season turf, including Bermuda grass, zoysia, or St. Augustine, does best with aeration in the late spring. Whatever your type of grass, do not aerate the lawn within one year of planting seed or sod.

How to Aerate a Lawn by Hand (or Foot)

Large stretches of turf require gas-powered aerator tools, but if you have a fairly small patch of grass, a handheld (or worn-on-the-foot) aerator will work. There are several types of manual aerators.

  • Aerator shoes have sharp spikes on the bottom. Just strap them on over your regular shoes and walk across your grass, making multiple passes in different directions to penetrate the turf thoroughly. If you’re looking for one of the least expensive and most popular aerator tools, consider getting lawn aerator shoes with sturdy metal buckles like Punchau shoes (30, Amazon).
  • Handheld aerators come in various configurations, but most resemble a pitchfork. Most are spike aerators, but some are designed to remove plugs. Using a handheld aerator is simple but tiring: Stab the spikes deeply into the grass, pull out, and repeat, taking care to cover the entire lawn. If you have a smaller yard with tiny patches of grass, consider investing in an aerator with a foot bar for extra leverage, like the Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator (42, Amazon).
  • Manual drum aerators—sometimes called lawn spikers—are spike- or blade-covered heavy drums with long handles. To use, push a drum aerator like the Agri-Fab Push Spike Aerator (64, Amazon) across your lawn, making at least two complete circuits in different directions. Most manual drum aerators are spike lawn tools, but some are plug aerators.

Powered Types of Aerators

Gas-powered aerators make the job relatively quick and easy for more extensive lawns and are a good choice if you have concerns about hurting your back. These heavy-duty aerators usually remove plugs of soil and grass, which is the best method of lawn aeration. Lawn aerator rental is available at many garden centers or home improvement stores.

  • Pull-behind aerators look like manual drum aerators, but a riding lawn mower does the work instead of pushing or stomping the aerating tool. This means that pull-behind aerators like the Agri-Fab Tow Plug Aerator (278, Amazon) can be heavier and spikier than manual lawn aerators, which can also be more effective.
  • Gas-powered aerators look like lawnmowers, but instead of spinning blades that cut grass, they have spinning spikes that aerate the soil. Some multi-functional models like the VonHaus 2 in 1 Lawn Dethatcher Scarifier and Aerator (199, Amazon) contain an additional dethatcher drum for added convenience.

The Basics How to Aerate a Lawn

Whatever type of yard aerator you choose, the basics of how to aerate a lawn are the same.

  • A few days before you aerate the lawn, mow it to about half its usual height, and then water it well.
  • Rake up any fallen leaves or debris.
  • Mark the locations of sprinklers with marking flags or chalk.
  • Aerate the lawn using your chosen tool. If it’s a spike aerator, make at least two passes over the yard, each in a different direction. If using a plug aerator, just one pass is needed.
  • Leave any soil plugs on the lawn; they will return nutrients to the soil as they decompose.
  • Fertilize your lawn or apply a top dressing of compost. This is also a good time to reseed any bare patches.
  • Return to watering and mowing your grass on its regular schedule.

To keep your grass looking its best, make sure you aerate annually in addition to watering, fertilizing, and weeding on a regular schedule.

DIY lawn aerator or Medieval death machine

Built some strange contraptions in my time but this sucker looks really scary to me. 40 gallon hot water heater tank = DIY lawn aerator it should weigh 400 lbs when full of H2O. Need square tube to build the 3 point hitch for the diesel tractor. New over the counter cost is 5 bills, my cost = one 20′ stick of 2×2 tube, mig wire some time the rest of it is miss shop scrap I have laying around.

carls 56



You should be channeling your thoughts, energy, skill, and talent on something more useful.

I could have donated a hot water heater tank today but it wasn’t holding water. :sign0020:


I think you’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones.

1957 BelAir Conv. GMPP LSX-L92 440/T56 (almost. ) 1974 K5 4×4 Blazer 2017 Ram Rebel Flower Mound, TX


I think you’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones.


I do not expect ANY of you that can hear your neighbor flush his toilet can mow your lawn in 15 minutes with a push mower to understand. My closest neighbor is 1/4 mile away I cannot see his house, it takes me 2-3 hours to mow one field with my rig that cuts 9′ in one pass then the rest of the day is spent on a zero turn dodging trees boulders around the home. Heck, my dog run is close to a 1/2 acre in size, do you get the picture community dwellers? I have some property in rural country I call it Mayberry.

Soil here is hard clay I built that device to AERATE it for fertilization seeding in the fall the saved constructing the device will pay for that seed fertilizer this year.

The device will serve a dual purpose I left the pipe thread bungs in what was the top of the tank can connect a hose there to discharge water from the tank. I will transport water down to my driveway entrance to give the flower beds that I will plant a drink. Never had flowers there before dealing with 900 to 1000′ of garden hose to water them = a PITA.


I do not expect ANY of you that can hear your neighbor flush his toilet can mow your lawn in 15 minutes with a push mower to understand. My closest neighbor is 1/4 mile away I cannot see his house, it takes me 2-3 hours to mow one field with my rig that cuts 9′ in one pass then the rest of the day is spent on a zero turn dodging trees boulders around the home. Heck, my dog run is close to a 1/2 acre in size, do you get the picture community dwellers? I have some property in rural country I call it Mayberry.

Soil here is hard clay I built that device to AERATE it for fertilization seeding in the fall the saved constructing the device will pay for that seed fertilizer this year.

The device will serve a dual purpose I left the pipe thread bungs in what was the top of the tank can connect a hose there to discharge water from the tank. I will transport water down to my driveway entrance to give the flower beds that I will plant a drink. Never had flowers there before dealing with 900 to 1000′ of garden hose to water them = a PITA.

Well,I like it! Over the years,I’ve built a lot of “things” to help out on my 12 acres. The reason I do it is because I like doing it and it saves me money and time. I’m about to do the hose thing myself.I’ll run a water line from my pond to the garden because of the chlorine in our community water system. And,I mow everyday most of the year too. Mike.:bowtieb:

Homemade Aerator

Well, mostly homemade. After thinking about over 3k for a JD plug aerator or a little over 2k coast-to-coast shipping for one from EA, I looked at the 48″ tow behind I have had for years. I didn’t use it a lot because it was too flimsy to carry enough weight on top and it was a pain to lift the spoons out of the ground every time I needed to cross a sidewalk or make a sharp turn.

So, I tore it apart saving only the spoon wheels and with a little over 300 worth of steel, parts and paint I made it hang on the 3pt hitch. The shaft for the spoon carriers is only 3/4″ and has nylon bushings so I added extra shaft supports and put grease zerks on the carrier sleeves so it should go a season without wearing out the bushings. I actually got the shaft alignment close enough that I can slide it out to replace the bushings. I got two sets of the things for under ten bucks including shipping so they are cheap and easy to replace.

It doesn’t go as deep as the fancy ones but it pulls out 3″ plugs pretty good. According to my calculations, the concrete blocks total 495 pounds and the frame is a little over 100 pounds. It ain’t really nothing to look at, but it fits my mantra of “Practical not pretty; functional not fancy. Looks bad works damn good“.

Mike. NW Oregon. 2020 JD 2025R TLB, 2013 JD X754; Previous: 855, 3203, 3320, LX176, X324, Takeuchi TB035 Mini ex John Deere on the turf, Chevy on the road, and C-Dory on the water


2019 1025R TLB w/ 60D, Forks, 4′ BB, Ballast Box, 60″ Rake, 4′ Tiller, and lots of KBOH accessories 1987 JD 318 w/ 50″ deck, she burns some oil 1976 Ariens S16 w/ Cat 0 3 pt and tiller, slowly becoming a barn queen. 1966 JD 112H Round Fender, future project


Looks great! Length of the plugs it pulls speaks volumes!

1986 John Deere 655 MFWD, 54-Inch Mid-Mount Mower, 47-Inch Two-Stage Snowblower

2019 John Deere 2025R, 120R Loader, 54-Inch AutoConnect Mower, 54-Inch Two-Stage Snowblower, iMatch Ballast Box

MattL is my cigar accessories side hustle when I’m not engineering a computer network or smoking a cigar on my early version 2017 1025R TLB.


2017 1025R | 120R w/ SPHC, KBOH grab handles, BXpanded piranha tooth bar, R2 edge tamers extenders, JU Fab works bolt on grab hooks D ring plates | 54Dmmm | Frontier 6ft rear blade | JD 10P cart | Titan 36 in pallet forks, single weight bracket cart | HH duel weight bracket cat 1 bushings | Harbor Freight quick hitch w/ KBOH chain boxes lids, extended hook, adjustable hook pins | Carlisle Versa Turfs | Bro-Tek 1.50 in spacers | JD 50lb wheel weights | Sloan Implement suitcase weights (8-42lb, 4-70lb) | JD suitcase weights (4-42lb) | KBOH goodies-warning stickers, ROPs clamps, right left steps, seat spring upgrade, diff pedal extender, cat 1 bushings | Otis diff vent kit | Omni mfg receiver hitch plate | updated air cleaner kit | modified exhaust to an upright stack | moved taillights to inside | installed fuel shutoff for baby filter | installed led lights | custom made brush guard | upgraded fender kit


Nice. Looks good and like it will do a good job. I had thought about building one for my zero turn but realized transport, turning etc would be a problem so now that I have the 1025R I need to think about one for it. Have to consider plugs vs spikes. Some say spikes are bad but the way they rotate around they seem to rip out a small gash so they don’t just poke a hole and pack as some claim. I see a lot of home made ones with the spikes in straight rows across so it goes thump thump thump as it rolls. Spikes need to be positioned in a spiral I think. I thought I might use an old water heater tank if I decide it would be thick enough and weld rebar spikes or even sickle bar mower sections to it. The tank could be filled with water or sand or concrete.

2021 1025R TLB, 120 R Loader with Piranha Tooth Bar. 260B Back Hoe. Frontier RT3049 Tiller. BB1060 5′ Frontier box blade. TSC County Line single shank subsoiler. Titan 42″ pallet forks with QA frame. 2″ Bro-tek spacers. Counterweight Blue tire ballast. BM17975 Wheel weights.


Looks like you got a lot of weight on there. I’ve been really unhappy with my JD aerator. I just can’t get it to pull plugs. Posted about that issue here and general consensus is that the soil conditions need to be just right, but I haven’t figured out what “just right” is yet. I may try adding more weight after seeing your pic. Looks like you have a lot more than the (3) 42 lb suitcase weights I usually put on mine.

2025R Gen 2, 60D MMM with Load-n-Go. 120R FEL, Z535R, Frontier RT1149 Tiller, Frontier CA2048E Aerator, Frontier BB2048L Box Blade, Artillian Diverter, EA Wicked 55″ Grapple Heavy Hitch Front/Rear weight bracket, Incredibly supportive wife (items not listed in priority order)


Now I know how to make this worthless thing of mine work.

lawn, aerator, medieval, death

JD 955 ,70A loader, 60″ mmm. Original I-match ,4′ woods B hog. 5′ Box blade. 12′ orchard plane/driveway grader ,various other doo-dads homebuilt implements. Goossen BFBlower, JakeRake.this thing is different. Kubota U-15 Kubota RTV 900

47 8n. good times.V8 in my future possibly


Thanks for the Комментарии и мнения владельцев, gentlemen. It has been a while since I cobbled together any steel and this was kind of fun.

Looking at those plugs and the spots where the grass is in the last picture I see that maybe the shorter one is actually pieces of two plugs that are considerably shorter than three inches, so maybe it isn’t plugging that great all the time after all. Nevertheless, it is still better than nothing and still 2500 bucks cheaper.

I also have a knife type aerator that is made from all 316 stainless steel. Even the Ninja death star blades are cut out of 10ga stainless. A late friend (Tyler. the guy my screen name is for!) and I spent all of a night shift during a maintenance shutdown at work building the thing and then I bought the parts for scrap at two bits a pound. He plasma cut the stars at work and I welded the pieces together at home. That was about 25 years ago. I was going to put the knife wheels along with the pluggers on the deal I just built but didn’t want to take the SS contraption apart because it’s kind of cool and nostalgic. The new plan is to replace the screw jack used to lift the cutters with a hydraulic cylinder and plug it into the unused control valve ports on my X754. Then I can use it as a lawn slicer and clod buster disc. I am going to go drag it out of the woods and get a picture of it. That’ll inspire me to order the cylinder and hoses.

Mike. NW Oregon. 2020 JD 2025R TLB, 2013 JD X754; Previous: 855, 3203, 3320, LX176, X324, Takeuchi TB035 Mini ex John Deere on the turf, Chevy on the road, and C-Dory on the water


There’s the other one. I forgot how cute it was. No paint needed. If I remove that screw jack (actually an operator off a gate valve) and replace it with a small bore cylinder it can be raised and lowered from the lawnmower seat. My X754 has a two spool control with one set of ports hooked to the deck lift and the other one unused. I think a guy could do some wicked damage with this thing if it were easier to use.

The luggage rack on top holds a concrete block but I’m thinking if the 8″ schedule 80 pipe between the tires was filled with concrete the extra hundred pounds might be enough weight. The thing already weighs more than this old man can lift.

Does anyone know what the hydraulic pressure is on a 2013 X754, and also what size the quick connects are on the hydraulic valve? With that info and a buck fifty I can get the parts on the way from Surplus Center.

Mike. NW Oregon. 2020 JD 2025R TLB, 2013 JD X754; Previous: 855, 3203, 3320, LX176, X324, Takeuchi TB035 Mini ex John Deere on the turf, Chevy on the road, and C-Dory on the water


Looks really nice and seems to work great too! Paint your concrete blocks green and add some Deere decals for over the top greatness!


I can’t justify the cost of a new 3 pt aerator and haven’t yet found a suitable used one at a reasonable price.

I did order a new Brinly 48” tow behind aerator in case I don’t find the unicorn 3 pt I hope for. Might end up attaching it to a carry all frame or something like you’ve assembled. Great idea.

Beware of new Amazon scam. I ordered expensive jewelry for my wife and tractor parts showed up instead. Fortunately they fit.

2021 1025R; 60D MMM with Load-N-Go’s; iMatch quick hitch; Frontier RC2048 AV-20F; JD 3rd function; HLA forks; Heavy Hitch toothbar; Titan ballast box; EA Land Shark 5.1 48″ land leveler; R2 Edge Tamers


Nice werk on the slice dice machine. Thats awesome

JD 955 ,70A loader, 60″ mmm. Original I-match ,4′ woods B hog. 5′ Box blade. 12′ orchard plane/driveway grader ,various other doo-dads homebuilt implements. Goossen BFBlower, JakeRake.this thing is different. Kubota U-15 Kubota RTV 900

47 8n. good times.V8 in my future possibly


I thought the same thing it looked pretty dang good.

It depends on your soil type but I get some plugs like that as well with mine that are just short ones stacked. I don’t think it’s a weakness of your aerator it’s just a soil type.[/QUOTE]

Welcome to Intermission. Northern Illinois. #compactfarmer 2017 2038R or Fully Functional 1/8 scale 7R310 if you prefer. 2017 X570, 1999 445aws, 1982 400, 1976 Cub 1250, 1964 3020, 2005 HPX Gator and thingies to hook to them.


1025R, JD 647 Tiller, JD 120R front end loader, 12 JD suitcase weights (42 lbs), Terra-Grip Chains Heavy Hitch Super Duty single weight rack with cart, Heavy Hitch bucket tooth bar, 2 of Ken’s bolt on chain boxes Ken’s hooks, 2′ receiver, seat springs, chain shortener and handle on the left loader mast RB 2060 rear blade, 54″ front quick mount snow blower, Electric Linear Actuator for snow chute


Well He ( Tyboo) is close to the beech. Nice soil there. I’m inland 60 Mi.

My field is like a rock. I expect less than desireable results. If I can just poke holes I’d be happy.

The possibility of plugs. If I see one ,I’ll go to town and buy some lottery tickets

JD 955 ,70A loader, 60″ mmm. Original I-match ,4′ woods B hog. 5′ Box blade. 12′ orchard plane/driveway grader ,various other doo-dads homebuilt implements. Goossen BFBlower, JakeRake.this thing is different. Kubota U-15 Kubota RTV 900

47 8n. good times.V8 in my future possibly


I’m a HUGE fan of trouble shooting a problem with materials you already had and applying the years of fabrication skills to develop a solution without paying the piper!! There’s something to be said about 3PT hitch aerating, while cutting the lawn and keeping straight lines. I hope that’s just not me ! lol On a very similar approach, (picture below) This was my last cut of the year, Thatched, High cut mulch and Spike Aeration. With the warmer sun now radiating later in the afternoons, and after seeing this post, I’m now excited and looking forward to the spring !

Matt 2015 1025R. Single Point Hydraulics. Canopy with LED, iMatch Cat1, Rear Wheel Ballast, 120R, 60D with Mulch kit/LoadnGo, 54″ 3Pt Blower, 54″ FEL Straight Plow, 54″ FEL Box Plow with back drag, PTO Spreader, 3Pt 54″ Cat1/2 (Tine Rake, Land Plane, Box Blade, Aerator, Roller, 4 Shank Cultivator, 8 x 42lb Ballast with Class II and lawn striper)


I found the answers to my questions about quick connector size and hydraulic pressure for the X754. The first answer came from looking at and ordering the connectors from BoltOnHooks. My goodness he sure gets after those orders quick! Even refunded part of the cost because of reduced shipping fees or something. Very refreshing to see that kind of service nowadays.

The second answer (1000 PSI) I got from using one of the connectors I got along with a hose and gauge I already had to make a tester. Kenny’s site listed them as out of stock or I would have simply ordered one. Now I need to get one more connector for the project and something else to put in the box to get full value on the flat rate shipping. I actually meant to get three connectors, and even thought to get three covers for them, but screwed up.

I ordered the parts from Surplus Center the same day and it hasn’t even shown up in my order history on their site yet or been billed from PayPal. I did get a notice from them this morning that the order had shipped but the tracking number isn’t valid yet. I haven’t bought anything from them since many years ago so I don’t know if it is typical but I am not too worried. The cylinder was one of their surplus new items and was less than half the cost it should go for.

I dug around and found enough stainless steel scrap pieces to make the modifications to the smaller aerator so it can stay shiny and not need paint. It is ready for the hydraulic parts that are on order. There’s a pretty good chance that the other stuff I am ordering today from BoltOnHooks will get here first.

Mike. NW Oregon. 2020 JD 2025R TLB, 2013 JD X754; Previous: 855, 3203, 3320, LX176, X324, Takeuchi TB035 Mini ex John Deere on the turf, Chevy on the road, and C-Dory on the water

To find the best lawn aerator for your lawn-care needs and budget, start with our top tips and recommendations.

By Tom Scalisi and Heather Blackmore and Mark Wolfe | Updated Sep 2, 2022 11:51 AM

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

Maintaining a lawn is demanding—there’s no question about it. Grass requires regular watering, mowing, and weeding to stay verdant and lush. If bare patches persist despite your best efforts, compacted soil is the likely culprit. Compaction is when the space between soil particles becomes so tight that air, water, and nutrients can no longer circulate around the roots.

Soil compaction often occurs in lawns with heavy clay soil that receive a lot of foot or wheeled traffic. Drainage suffers, and a thick thatch layer—a mix of dead stems, leaves, and roots—may develop between the soil and the grass. A yearly pass with a lawn aerator opens space for air and water to reach your lawn’s roots. This could be the key that unlocks the gate to greener pastures.

We scoured the market to present a list of top picks in a variety of categories. After reviewing the specifications, features, and customer reviews for each of the products below, we tested them in our own backyard. Read on to learn more about our shopping considerations, how each aerator performed, and why we believe these are some of the best lawn aerators available.

  • BEST OVERALL:Brinly-Hardy 40-Inch Tow-Behind Plug Aerator
  • BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK:Corona YardBreather Aerator
  • UPGRADE PICK:John Deere 48-Inch Tow-Behind Plug Aerator
  • BEST MANUAL:Yard Butler Manual Lawn Coring Aerator
  • BEST HEAVY-DUTY:Agri-Fab 48-Inch Plug Aerator
  • BEST WALK-BEHIND:Ryan Lawnaire IV Aerator
  • BEST LIQUID:Covington Liquid Aerator

Who Should Aerate Their Lawn

Before you run out and poke holes in your lawn, understand that not all lawns require aeration. But if one of the following scenarios applies to your lawn, you should consider it. Otherwise, let the green be.

  • For newly constructed homes, aeration is almost always a good idea. Between the work crew’s trucks and heavy equipment passing over the soil, there’s a good chance you need to aerate your lawn.
  • Is your lawn the neighborhood ball field? When a yard sees a lot of use, such as children, parties, pets, and other foot traffic, you should think about lawn aeration.
  • For lawns built up from sod, a yard aerator can be a necessity. Until the sod can take root and make a connection to the rough soil underneath, it’s just a grass carpet sitting on top of the soil. Lawn aeration promotes that connection.

Your soil may not be breathing because there’s a thick layer of thatch on top. Thatch is made up of living and dead grass stems and roots that form at the soil surface, usually in response to poor drainage. In that case, a lawn dethatcher will help to remove the thatch layer. These tools simply scrape and remove the thatch without digging into the surface. After removing the thatch, aerate the lawn to repair the soil structure.

Should You Buy or Rent a Lawn Aerator?

It doesn’t always make good financial sense to purchase lawn equipment that you will rarely need. In fact, many homeowners grow gorgeous lawns without aerating. If you are new to your home and not sure whether aerating will be a one-time task or a recurring chore, your best bet might be to borrow or rent a lawn aerator. Most tool rental companies offer both walk-behind and towable lawn aerators for rent by the hour, half day, full day, or week.

On the other hand, some homeowners have problem areas that need yearly aerating. For them, dealing with the hassle of coordinating a rental pickup and return every year, and paying the fee over and over, makes owning an aerator much more cost-effective.

Aeration Methods

Depending on the method of aeration that’s best for your lawn, you may use one of two types of tools: a spike or a plug (also called a “core”).

Plug Aerators

A lawn plug aerator penetrates the lawn with hollow tines that remove plugs of soil. Home landscapers can either leave these plugs in place to decompose or collect them with a rake or lawn mower.

Candidates for plug aeration include lawns where:

  • Water pools in the grass or runs off onto sidewalks after a rainfall.
  • Soil is difficult to dig into.
  • Frequent foot traffic has hardened the soil.

Whether your lawn has all or just one of these indicators, it will benefit from a plug aerator. The holes create spaces in the soil that allow roots to expand, water to soak in deeper, and air to circulate. The result is a healthy root system below and a lush lawn above.

Spike Aerators

Spike aerators don’t remove soil from the yard. Instead, they puncture the soil with long spikes and allow air and water to reach the roots. They typically work well on less compacted soil and sod. They might not do the trick for dense soil.

Spike aerators tend to work best with looser soil, especially if the goal is to increase root exposure to fertilizer or create spaces for grass seed to settle without running off the soil’s surface. We do not recommend using a spike aerator to repair compacted soil. Although they may appear to reduce lawn stress in the short term, repeated use of a spike aerator for a few successive seasons can actually exacerbate soil compaction.

Types of Lawn Aerators

The size of your lawn and the amount of physical labor you can handle will determine which type of aerator works best for you.

Push Aerators

Push aerators work best in small areas, especially those with obstacles like playsets and trees that require a little finesse to navigate. These aerators most often have spikes, not hollow tines, which make them better suited to lawns without compaction.

A bit harder to find, push aerators require more effort to force the tines into the soil. If the goal is to break down compacted soil, opt for a handheld or tow-behind plug aerator.

Handheld Aerators

Handheld aerator models typically work best on small lawns. They come in both plug and spike varieties. A dual-handle grip (placed high on the tool to prevent back pain) and a strong foot platform allow landscapers to step onto the tool to drive the hollow tines or spikes into the soil repeatedly across the entire lawn. Aeration with handheld tools takes a little more time and physical effort, but it works.

Tow-Behind Aerators

If you have a riding lawn mower, you probably have a large lawn. In this case, a tow-behind aerator might make sense. Connect the lawn aerator to the tow hitch on the mower and quickly cover a lot of ground. To dig deeper, tow-behind aerators come with a tray above the tines for adding extra weight.

Lawn Aerator Build

Walk-Behind Aerators

Professional landscapers offer aeration services, and most of them use walk-behind plug aerators. These self-propelled machines operate at variable speeds of up to 4 miles per hour to aerate lawns quickly and thoroughly in a single pass. They are extremely heavy, more maneuverable than tow-behind models, and feature densely spaced coring spikes that penetrate about twice the depth of most tow-behind models. While the cost of buying one may be prohibitive for most individuals, this is the rental tool of choice for professional-quality results.

Aerator Shoes

Lawn aerator shoes let you aerate the lawn while you walk. But they’re a good idea only for mildly compacted soil and light maintenance. The sandal-like device fits over shoes with adjustable straps and solid spikes on the soles. As with other spike aerators, regular use may make compacted soil worse.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Lawn Aerator

A nicely aerated lawn can be thick, vibrant, and the envy of the neighborhood. But there’s a lot that goes into choosing the best lawn aerator. The following sections break down the most important factors to consider.


Durability is always a factor when shopping for yard equipment. Aerators see particularly rough use as landscapers drive them deep into the ground. Therefore, the aerator’s construction materials are an essential consideration.

In general, the best lawn aerator uses stainless, galvanized, or heat-treated steel for the spikes or knives that dig into the ground. These tough materials resist rust and stand up to rocks and other rough terrain. The same goes for shoe-style aerators: Stainless steel spikes are best.

Also consider the framework of tow-behind aerators. Powder-coated frames, trays, and other components will help resist rust and aerate your lawn for years to come.

Yard Size

When choosing the best lawn aerator, shoppers need to consider whether they’d like to power the aerator themselves or tow it behind a lawn tractor.

Manual lawn aerators, such as the shoe style and the step-on design, require users to repeatedly drive the spikes or knives into the ground and pull them out again. The manual labor may be tolerable for small yards, but large lawns likely need a tow-behind model.

Tow-behind models are by far the most convenient for large lawns, but they do take some time to set up. Users have to attach the aerator to the tractor and place the appropriate amount of weight on top to ensure the spikes penetrate the soil. The right weight varies considerably between lawns, so there are no rules of thumb to follow.

Weight and Mobility

Weight and mobility can be tricky to balance when it comes to lawn aeration. On the one hand, an aerator needs to be heavy enough to get into the soil. On the other hand, a bulky, hard-to-maneuver aerator might not be of much use.

Large tow-behind aerators can weigh more than 90 pounds. It’s important that they’re heavy so they can really dig down into the soil. However, they’re hard to maneuver around garden beds, and the setup time might not be worth it.

For smaller yards, a lighter manual option might be a better fit. These models often weigh less than 5 pounds, which makes them easier to lift out of the soil. They’re incredibly mobile, so they’ll work in the tiniest plots of grass.

Additional Features

Some of the best lawn aerators have additional features that may make them more desirable in certain scenarios.

  • Knife or spike length: The farther the spikes drive into the soil, the more air and water make it to the roots. But tines that are too long make the aerator difficult to operate. The optimal length is around 3 inches.
  • Aerator/spreader combs: These models have hoppers that carry seeds and spreaders that distribute the grass seeds while the knives are aerating the soil.
  • Handle shape: On manual models, look for an ergonomic handle design.

Our Top Picks

Whether you’re looking for a handheld aerator to work a few square feet beneath the kids’ playset or a large tow-behind model to aerate several acres, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out more about these tools, how they performed in our tests, and which one may be the best lawn aerator to care for your property.

Brinly-Hardy 40-Inch Tow-Behind Plug Aerator

DIYers who take lawn care seriously should consider Brinly-Hardy’s 40-inch tow-behind plug aerator. It features 24 individual 3-inch heat-treated plugs, all-steel construction, and a weight tray that can handle up to 150 pounds. All of these factors add up to a durable tool that provides optimal aeration.

This model features a universal hitch that can attach to ATVs, UTVs, and lawn tractors. The transport lever allows landscapers to disengage the knives to pull the aerator across sidewalks and driveways. “No-flat” tires enhance the unit’s overall durability.

In our tests, the Brinly-Hardy lawn aerator proved to be a top contender for routine maintenance applications. It was also the lowest-priced tow-behind plug aerator we tested. In average conditions with 120 pounds of weight added, it penetrated to an average of 2.75 inches deep. The steel coring spikes are strong but not sharpened, and they are rolled to a “C” shape instead of a complete circular plug shape, which helps with cleanout but might hinder penetration somewhat. Because this aerator punches only 2.5 plugs per square foot, we had to make two or three passes with it for the best results.

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

Get the Brinly-Hardy lawn aerator at The Home Depot or Walmart.

Corona YardBreather Aerator

Those with only a small patch of yard to aerate might want to consider an inexpensive, easy-to-store handheld aerator like the Corona YardBreather. The YardBreather measures 40 inches high, with plugging spikes spaced 8 inches apart, and it weighs a little more than 3.5 pounds.

This rugged tool removes two 3.5-inch soil plugs at a time with a simple stepping motion. The tool ejects soil plugs from the top of the hollow spikes with each step. The footplate and plugging spikes are made of heat-treated steel for a long working life. Thick padded handles and a wide nonslip footplate eliminate stress points and reduce user fatigue.

With a little practice, we were able to remove an average of 100 plugs per minute with the YardBreather. It worked more effectively in heavily compacted and dry soils than any of the tow-behind aerators we tested because the user’s entire weight bears down on just two spikes instead of six or eight spikes at a time. In average soil conditions, the spikes consistently penetrated to the full depth of 3.5 inches. Although it is not an ideal solution for even the smallest whole-yard treatment, this tool would make an excellent purchase for those who regularly deal with pet paths around the property border or a worn pathway from the house to the toolshed.

Get the Corona lawn aerator at Lowe’s or Tractor Supply Co.

John Deere 48-Inch Tow-Behind Plug Aerator

John Deere’s 48-inch aerator makes quick work of aerating the lawn. It boasts 12 four-way plug assemblies on the spool for a total of 48 spikes pulling 4.24 plugs per square foot. The heavy-duty body weighs in at 101 pounds and holds up to 250 pounds of additional weight for a total of about 350 pounds of downward pressure. The heat-treated plugging spoons penetrate up to 3 inches. The universal drop-pin towing hitch is compatible with most lawn tractors and riding mowers. Unlike the other towable aerators in our lineup, this one rolls gently on pneumatic tires while in transport mode.

The John Deere tow-behind plug aerator may be priced a bit higher than the other models we tested, but as they say, you get what you pay for. This one is a major upgrade. In a side-by-side comparison with the similarly sized Agri-Fab 48-inch tow-behind plug aerator, John Deere stood out immediately in terms of both material quality and overall design. The John Deere weighs 9 pounds more than the Agri-Fab model (101 vs. 92 pounds), and it can hold 250 pounds of added weight compared to 140 pounds for Agri-Fab. Not only that, but with 4.24 plugs per square foot, the John Deere works about 50 percent more efficiently.

With 120 pounds of added weight, this aerator penetrated the soil an average of 2.5 inches. It continued to penetrate well even while making 180-degree end turns. We especially liked that this model rides on inflated tires that distribute the weight better on soft ground instead of causing ruts as hard wheels do. If we could have operated the transport lever from the driver’s seat, this would have been a nearly perfect implement. This aerator’s size and heavy-duty build make it an ideal choice for larger properties with lots of open lawn space.

Get the John Deere lawn aerator at The Home Depot, Green Part Store, or The Build Club.

Yard Butler Manual Lawn Coring Aerator

DIY lawn-care experts know the value of a quality manual aerator. Whether it’s for a small yard or tight grass pathways, the Yard Butler manual lawn coring aerator is up to the task. With a durable all-steel one-piece construction, it’s strong enough to sink the 3.5-inch tines into tough, compacted soil while the wide footplate provides plenty of leverage.

The Yard Butler measures 37 inches high, so users can maintain a comfortable posture while they work. At just over 3.5 pounds, it’s also easy to lift with the padded T-shaped handles.

While both are capable tools with nearly identical designs that easily remove two 3.5-inch soil plugs at a time, Yard Butler surpassed the YardBreather in a couple of key testing metrics. Their weights are nearly identical, at just over 3.5 pounds, but the Yard Butler is more compact: It is 0.25 inch thinner, 3.5 inches shorter, and the spikes are spaced 0.5 inch closer together.

The shorter height made the Yard Butler easier to pull out of the soil when we were working with it, while the narrow spike spacing increased overall plug density for more thorough aeration. Interestingly, even with the 0.5-inch reduction in spike spacing, Yard Butler’s footplate is just 0.25 inch narrower than the competition (4.75 inches vs. 5 inches), so those of us with big feet could still use it. Although the competition offered a more comfortable handle and nonslip footplate, we preferred the sleek dimensions of the Yard Butler for both working comfort and storage.

Get the Yard Butler lawn aerator on Amazon or at Walmart.

Simple homemade lawn aerator on a budget

Agri-Fab 48-Inch Plug Aerator

For large yards or those with extremely compacted soil, a heavy-duty aerator like this model from Agri-Fab might be the best bet. The 48-inch-wide path on this tow-behind plug aerator makes quicker work of expansive lawns. Heavy-gauge galvanized steel knives with 32 spikes get the job done.

A 175-pound weight tray pulls enough weight for some of the most stubborn soil. A pair of 9.75-inch flat-free tires supports travel over rough terrain, and a transportation lever lifts the knives clear of sidewalks and driveways. The universal hitch fits ATVs, UTVs, and lawn tractors as well.

In our tests, the Agri-Fab 48-inch tow-behind plug aerator delivered stronger, more efficient penetration than the smaller Brinly-Hardy model, thanks to its heavier build and relatively low density of sharpened plugging spikes. Fewer spikes meant that each one bore more downward pressure, and the heavier frame produced more pressure than the lighter model. The spikes penetrated to an average depth of about 2.5 inches.

However, punching only 2.67 plugs per square foot, we had to make two passes for thorough results. Like the other tow-behind aerators we tested, the rolled steel spikes were “C” shaped, not completely round, which meant that most soil plugs were not fully extracted from the ground. But cleanup was easy since very few plugs stuck inside the coring spikes. The Agri-Fab lawn aerator makes an affordable choice for maintaining larger properties.

Get the Agri-Fab lawn aerator at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.

Ryan Lawnaire IV Aerator

When professional groundskeepers and landscapers perform lawn aeration services, Ryan aerators are commonly the machines of choice. The self-propelled Lawnaire IV walk-behind aerator covers a 19-inch-wide path with 5.63 coring spikes per square foot. A single pass with this machine is equivalent to two or more passes with most tow-behind units.

Traveling at speeds of up to 4 miles per hour, it aerates up to 0.67 acres (29,000 square feet) per hour. With two removable 25-pound weight cylinders and a fillable water drum, this aerator provides a maximum of 304 pounds of downward pressure to penetrate up to 3.5 inches despite the 2.75-inch spike length.

In our tests, the Ryan Lawnaire IV easily outperformed the rest of our lineup in terms of pure results, with the possible exception of the John Deere on flat straightaways. John Deere covered ground faster, but Lawnaire IV penetrated deeper with greater spike density. The Honda engine started with a single pull. The controls were well-placed and easy to operate. The machine moved quickly, aerated thoroughly, and was surprisingly easy to maneuver around curves and across moderate slopes.

We were easily able to maneuver the machine along a narrow grass corridor between two landscape beds where the lawn tractor could not drive, and this self-propelled machine had no difficulty moving up one short but particularly steep slope where the lawn tractor bogged down pulling the heavily weighted tow-behind models.

The coring spikes consistently penetrated 2.75 inches into the soil with only the cylinder weights installed. Although most homeowners won’t spend this much to buy a professional-grade machine, renting one could be a great option. It is amazingly effective at fast, thorough aeration and may be one of the best tools to prepare a lawn for overseeding.

  • Spike length: 2.75 inches
  • Spikes per square foot: 5.63
  • Weight tray included: Removable weights and a water weight included
  • Self-propelled up to 4 mph
  • Closely spaced coring spikes
  • Easily navigates curves, slopes, and narrow corridors
  • Fast, professional results

Get the Ryan lawn aerator on Mowers at Jack’s.

Covington Liquid Aerator

Before we dive into this one, it is important to note that we could find no scientific data on the efficacy of liquid lawn aerators. Internet search volume indicates increasing consumer interest in these products, so we decided to test the Covington Liquid Aerator because of its strong customer reviews and our own curiosity.

The concentrated product contains low levels of manganese, sulfur, iron, and amino acid complexes to support plant growth along with microorganisms (20 percent), molasses (10 percent), humate (10 percent), and kelp (5 percent). Users are instructed to apply 2, 4, or 8 ounces of the product, depending on the severity of soil compaction, for every 1,000 square feet of lawn, every 45 to 60 days. The company recommends deep watering every 3 to 4 days following application. Presumably, the microorganisms (the “active ingredient”) include soil-building bacteria, but the label provides no further details.

We applied Covington Liquid Aerator on a 500-square-foot compacted pathway area as directed for moderate compaction. We also left an adjacent area untreated and watered both areas according to the prescribed follow-up schedule. After a 30-day testing period, our results were inconclusive. The area looked great, but then it didn’t look horrible before. It was difficult to parse the effects of the plant food versus any actual improvement in soil compaction, which would likely require significantly more time to develop anyway.

We found no noticeable difference in the physical appearance of either area beyond the lush green grass, which we would have anticipated from the added water. The good news is that it didn’t harm the lawn, and we did see improvement to grass health.

Get the Covington liquid lawn aerator on Amazon or Covington Naturals.


We also tested the following products, but they did not meet our criteria.

The positive effects of spike aerating are short-lived—a month or so at best—but frequent spike aerating actually compresses the soil over time. So we are generally opposed to spike aerating on the principle that this equipment often causes more harm than good. The argument in favor of spike aerators is that they do not leave unsightly soil plugs lying on the grass.

For those who prefer spike aerating, this may not be the best tool for the job. While the frame is adequately constructed to carry 100 pounds of added weight, we found the 7-pointed star-shaped spike rollers lacking. They are made of thin galvanized steel, approximately 0.06-inch thick, and only penetrate to a maximum depth of 2 inches at the apex of each point. Because of the triangular blade shape, very little soil is disturbed below a typical 0.5-inch thatch layer. A better spike aerator design would use nail-shaped spikes that penetrate at least 3 inches.

To reiterate, spike aerating is less than ideal because the benefits are short-term and because they can exacerbate soil compaction. But some gardeners prefer to use spike aerators to avoid leaving unsightly soil plugs on the yard from plug aeration.

These aerator shoes seemed like a handy design, but the effect was negligible at best. They fit size 10 (men’s shoes, not work boots) or smaller, and even then the strap system was not secure on our tester’s feet. The spikes sometimes grabbed chunks of grass and tore them out of the lawn. It was difficult at times to stay balanced while wearing them. Also, the nail-shaped spikes are only 2 inches long. Even if the soil is soft enough for them to penetrate to the maximum depth, they hardly reach to the base of the root zone. If these work on a particular lawn, then it probably doesn’t need to be aerated.

Our Verdict

For pulling behind a lawn mower or tractor, the Brinly-Hardy lawn aerator is the best overall. Although it requires two passes for thorough aeration, it is lightweight, maneuverable, and does not require much weight for deep penetration. Those looking for a manual solution for small yards should consider the Yard Butler lawn aerator. It’s compact, easy to use, and tucks away in minimal space when not in use.

How We Tested the Best Lawn Aerators

Our lawn aerator tests consisted of 2 days of product assembly, application, measurement, and observation. We marked out 5,000 square feet of lawn for each of the tow-behind and walk-behind models. For the shoes and handheld models, we marked out 100-square-foot test plots. The liquid lawn aerator required an A/B test of two identical 500-square-foot plots to compare the treated area with a nontreated area, with a monthlong care and observation period.

After assembly, we calculated the number of spikes per square foot for every model by dividing the area covered with one full turn of the reel assembly (width times circumference in inches, divided by 144) by the total number of aerating spikes. Aerators with fewer spikes per square foot penetrated deeper with less weight but required more passes for equal effect. Conversely, models with a higher number of spikes per square foot required more weight for equal penetration, but aerated thoroughly in a single pass.

We prepared the lawn for the aerator tests by mowing a notch lower than the normal maintenance height, then watered deeply to promote deep spike penetration. After 24 hours, we tested each aerator, adding a moderate amount of weight to the tow-behind models. After aerating, we randomly collected 50 extracted plugs from each plug aerator to calculate their average penetration depths. Our favorite models were plug aerators that penetrated at least 2.5 inches on average, and pulled at least 2.25 plugs per square foot.

The Benefits of Aerating Your Lawn

Aeration can bring big benefits to lawns where:

  • Pets tend to relieve themselves in the same spot.
  • Thatch is thick and keeps water from absorbing into the soil.
  • Soil can’t soak up water after heavy rains.

By loosening the dirt around pets’ go-to spots, the grass will get the nutrients, air, and water it needs to fight back against pet urine. The tines or spikes on an aerator dig through thatch and help it break down more quickly.

Plug aerators create air s and loosen the dirt around the hole. This allows water to drain quickly and efficiently instead of forming puddles after heavy rains.


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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