Three best lawn aerators

By
tech-spanfeller
BestReviews

One simple way to find out if you need to aerate is to use the screwdriver test. Push a regular screwdriver into your lawn. If it doesn’t push in easily, your soil is too compacted and you need to aerate.

Is it a lawn or a vacant lot? Despite your best mowing, watering, and fertilizing efforts, sometimes your lawn needs a little more help to really thrive. This is where aerators come in.

Your lawn is a living organism. When the soil becomes too compacted or the thatch gets too thick, elements vital to the health of the lawn -- water, air, nutrients -- can't get to the roots. When this happens, the roots become stunted and fall prey to high heat, drought, or insects, and before you know it, hello, vacant lot. Aerators work by putting holes in your lawn, which then make it possible for vital elements like water and air to break through the thatch and compacted soil.

If you're in the market for a lawn aerator, our guide has some helpful tips and a few recommendations.

Considerations when choosing lawn aerators

Spike or plug

While you can certainly go old-school and use something like a pitchfork to aerate your lawn, there are much easier routes to a beautiful lawn. When it comes to aerators, you have two basic types to choose from: spike and plug. Both types are available in options that can be manually operated or towed.

Spike aerator: You roll this spike-covered drum or wheel over your lawn and the spikes poke holes in the ground.

Plug aerator: You use this to remove small cores, or plugs, of lawn. Of the two types, plug aerators are the more effective way to break up thatch and compacted soil.

When to aerate

Aerating works best when you do it to a freshly mowed and moistened lawn, so you should definitely plan ahead.

Two days before you're going to aerate, mow your lawn.

The day before, water the lawn well, or plan it so that you take advantage of a rainy day.

On the day you aerate, make multiple passes over the area you want to treat. Only target those areas that really need it It's better to aerate problem areas well than do a mediocre job on the whole lawn.

If you use a plug aerator, wait a couple of days after you aerate for the plugs to fully dry, then break them up by hand or with your lawn mower to help them work their way back into the lawn.

Continue to mow, water, and fertilize your lawn on a regular schedule and re-aerate as needed.

FAQ

Q. When is the best time of year to aerate?

A. The best time to aerate is when the grass is growing, although this can vary by type of grass. Cool season grasses like bluegrass should be aerated in early fall or early spring, while warm-season grasses like Bermuda should be aerated in late spring.

Q. How does a lawn get to the point where it needs to be aerated?

A. Any activity will compact the soil, including kids and pets running around, as well as vehicle traffic if you frequently park or drive on your lawn. Too thick a layer of thatch will also make it necessary to aerate, as will too much clay in the soil.

Q. What are some of the signs that I need to aerate?

A. Thin, patchy grass is a clear sign your grassroots aren't getting what they need. Other signs include brown spots after a few sunny days or pooling water on your lawn after a storm. You can also cut a small five- to six-inch swatch from your lawn and flip it over. If the roots are less than two inches long, it's time to aerate.

Lawn aerators we recommend

Best of the best: Brinly Tow-Behind Plug Aerator

Our take: This towable plug aerator has a 40-inch deck and works well for those with larger yards.

What we like: You can easily attach it to either a riding lawn mower or an ATV, and it aerates in forward or reverse.

What we dislike: The only downside is that the assembly can be a little time-consuming.

Best bang for your buck: Yard Butler Lawn Spike Aerator

Our take: If your lawn is smaller, this affordable spike aerator may be more what you're looking for.

What we like: The rugged spikes on this model are particularly well suited for busting up harder, clay-rich soils.

What we dislike: It's a bit smaller and harder to use than other options, so you definitely wouldn't want to break it out for large aerating jobs.

Choice 3: Garden Weasel Core Aerator

Our take: This simple-to-use aerator can be used to manually plug aerate your lawn.

What we like: It features a sturdy build and is operated by driving it into the ground shovel-like with your foot, which then forces the plugs out of the top of the tubes.

What we dislike: Since you're limited to two plugs at a time, this is really best for smaller lawns.

Rich Gray is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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