After a while your lawn is bound to become compacted due to heavy foot traffic and the pounding of heavy rains. The compacted soil makes it challenging for water, nutrients, and air to reach the root systems of your lawn.
The solution to relieve this soil compaction is to aerate your lawn. This allows the grass to get the nutrients it needs, grow deeper roots and make the best use of water and fertilizer.
A key gardening tool to help you aerate your lawn properly is a pull-behind plug aerator. In this post, we’ll review the different types of aerating equipment and recommend the best tow behind plug aerators as well as some of the best pull behind spike aerators.
Best Pull Behind Plug Aerators
The Agri-Fab Tow Plug Aerator is an excellent plug aerator that strikes a good balance between pricing and features. It has a mid-range price point, and is equipped with most of the features you’d want for a pull behind aerator.
It comes with 32 galvanized steel razor sharp blades. These blades are also replaceable, making it easy to replace in case one breaks. Each plugging spoon is long enough to extract up to 3-inch plugs of soil.
Another handy feature of the Agri Fab 45-0299 is its 48-inch tray. According to Agrifab this can accommodate up to 140 pounds for increased soil penetration.
Equipped with 10-inch flat-proof tires, this plug aerator is perfect to navigating your way through rugged terrains.
The cantilever handle also contributes to easy handling as it provides an efficient way of lowering and raising the blade. To sweeten the deal, Agri-Fab backs this product with a 3-year limited consumer warranty.
What We Like
If you're looking for a slightly smaller aerator this is a great option. At 40" it's on the smaller side, which means it cannot handle as much weight. It has a load capacity of 120lb.
This is a good option if you're looking for an aerator that is more maneuverable to be used on medium to softer soil. The smaller size also makes it easier to store.
The 40-inch tow-behind has 24 plugging spoons. These blades can remove up to 2.5-inch plugs of soil, enabling fertilizer and nutrients to reach the root system.
The Yard Tuff AE-40T sports an all-steel build with a heavy-duty powder coated finish. Yard Tuff make really good quality products and this is one of the most durable aerators in our review.
It’s equipped with a 2-piece steel drawbar, which has a universal pin. This design makes for easy attachment to lawn tractors and ATV's.
We really liked the 10" pneumatic tires and the easy maneuverability of this aerator.
The assembly instructions really aren't great but it's fairly simple to put together in about an hour.
What We Like
This aerator is on the smaller side, which means it cannot handle as much weight. However, it’s a good option for a homeowner who’s not looking to spend too much on this gardening tool. It’s also great if you want to save on storage space.
The 40-inch tow-behind has 24 plugging spoons made of 16-gauge steel. They have also been heat-treated to enhance durability. These blades can remove at least 3-inch plugs of soil, enabling fertilizer and nutrients to reach the root system.
The Brinly PA-40BH sports an all-steel build, making it one of the most durable in our review. Despite its small size, it can hold up to 150 pounds of weight. This enables it to penetrate deeper and through harder surfaces.
Also important to note is that the tray on this aerator is closed. This prevents waste from falling out when you’re navigating it on uneven terrain or at high speeds. This feature also makes it possible to aerate lawns that are full of deep thatch or hard clay.
You will love the seamless operation of this pull behind aerator. It’s equipped with a 2-piece steel drawbar, which has a universal pin. This design makes for easy attachment to lawn tractors, helping you navigate the machine from the comfort of your seat.
Finally, this is a low-maintenance plug aerator. This is made possible by the fact that each of the 24 plugging spoons can be serviced independently, which facilitates quick and simple replacements.
What We Like
If you’re big on brands and would like to buy specifically from the trusted Agri-Fab, this is a more economical option compared to the Agri-Fab 48-inch. Other than the price though, this aerator is almost identical to the top pick.
It comes with 24 plugging spoons that are galvanized to prevent corrosion and rusting. This enables the blades to work effectively to aerate the soil. It also has a 40-inch working width. While this may not be as big as our top pick, it still gets the job done fairly quickly.
For easy maneuverability this aerator is equipped with 10-inch flat-proof wheels. Not only do these provide an easy navigation but they also don’t require much in the way of maintenance. Also, this aerator use a universal hitch, which attaches seamlessly to any kind of tractor regardless of the brand.
Another unique feature of the 40-inch is that it has a foldable transport handle for convenient storage. Also, the blades arrive when they’re pre-assembled to save you valuable assembly time.
What We Like
When it comes to gardening tools, only a few manufacturer pay attention to the design or color of their tools.
You may have noticed that the majority of aerators come in black. If you prefer a machine that manages to look good while providing utmost efficiency, the red-colored Craftsman CMXGZBF7 is your best bet.
This aerator boasts a working width of 40 inches, which is enough to cover a standard size lawn within a short time.
It’s equipped with 24 steel coring pull plugs that aerate up to 3 inches deep. Better yet, these blades have been galvanized to prevent corrosion and rusting; hence, provide service for longer.
The Tow Plug Aerator comes with a cantilever handle, which makes it easy to lower and raise the plugging spoons. There’s also a wide weight tray with capacity to hold up to 140 pounds of weight.
What We Like
A lush lawn significantly improves the curb appeal of your home, and the Master Rancher Plug Aerator can help you achieve just that.
This tow behind machine has a working width of 48 inches, enabling you to cover a large area with fewer passes. This aeration process paves the way for growth of healthy grass.
The tines that aerate have been heat treated to provide a tougher build that can handle heavy-duty aeration. This makes them far more resistant to damage from rocks or really hard ground.
This aerator is also equipped with 10-inch pneumatic tires for a smooth navigation.
Also included in the aerator is a single hand lift lever. This enables you to engage and disengage the wheels without getting off from the driver’s seat.
What We Like
Manufactured in the United States, the Ohio Steel Core Plugger is a high-end tool that will help you aerate your lawn.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice that it’s pricier than other spike and plug aerators. The reason for this is that it uses an entirely different mechanism from the two.
More specifically, it uses a patented spring-assisted system that provides better aeration results. The included springs enable the aerator’s tines to articulate, leading to precisely-defined holes. As a result the aerator pulls out a perfectly-sized plug each time.
Another feature you’ll like about this aerator is that it does not require much preparation. With other models, you’re advised to water your lawn two days before. But according to Ohio Steel, you can water 1 to 2 hours before aerating.
Also, you only need to water if the lawn is very hard or dry.
What We Like
Best Pull Behind Spike Aerators
As we mentioned earlier, there are instances where a spike aerator comes in handy. For instance, if the soil is just lightly compacted, this type of aerator is the better option. Among spike aerators, the Agri-Fab 45-0544 has proven to be a worthy buy. (Agri-Fab also make some of the best lawn sweepers.)
It’s 40-inch weight tray is designed to accommodate upto 100 pounds of weight for efficient soil penetration. It’s also equipped with a folding hitch, which helps to save on storage space.
And like most aerators made by this brand, this one also comes with a 3-year limited warranty. Essentially, what this means is that they provide coverage for any manufacturing defects in either workmanship or materials.
That said, it’s important to note that the aerator uses 7-inch semi-pneumatic flat-free tires for navigation. While this ensures that you can move smoothly on even terrain, it might not be able to move with ease on rugged areas.
What We Like
Have you been looking for a multipurpose spike aerator? If you have, this Spike Aerator by Brinly is a great option.
With this machine, you’re able to spread granular material as you aerate your lawn. It comprises of an aerator and a drop spreader. So while the aerator penetrates the lawn, you can program the spreader to distribute fertilizer for nourishment.
One feature that makes this aerator unique is the fact that it’s made of tubular steel. The benefit of using this type of steel is that it provides better resistance to corrosion and rusting.
The Brinly Spike Aerator comes outfitted with a 100-pound capacity tray. 18-gauge of welded material has been used to make this tray so as to reduce flexing and twisting when it’s loaded. However, the plugging spoons are made of 8-inch galvanized steel.
What I like most about these tine stars is that each one rotates independently of the other. Also, these blades are razor-sharp and they penetrate up to 2-inches to facilitate seamless passage and distribution of air and fertilizer.
What We Like
A drum spike aerator like this unit by Strongway is a great way to aerate your lawn. Equipped with three-inch long spikes, this machine creates small slits on the surface as the aerator is navigated across your lawn.
This spike aerator is 36 inches wide with a diameter of 14 inches. Given these dimensions, it can hold up to 24 gallons of water for at least 299 pounds of weight. This results in a deeper and more uniform penetration.
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Types of Lawn Aeration
There are two main kinds of aeration: core aeration and spike aeration. Core aeration involves the use of a core or plug aerator to remove plugs of soil. This process leaves tiny gaps in the soil, through which water and other nutrients can penetrate.
Spike aeration, on the other hand, involves the use of a roller machine that has solid spikes. The spikes are used to puncture the soil, creating spaces where water and air can pass through and reach the root systems.
There are several factors you should take into account when deciding whether to use a spike or plug aerator. These are:
Both plug and spike aerators are used to mitigate the effects of compacted soil on your lawn. But for lawns that have a high content of clay soil, a plug aerator is the best choice.
Compared to the other kinds of soil- loam, and sand- clay is the most likely to become compacted.
When this happens, it restricts the capability of the roots to access oxygen. The reason a spike aerator is not recommended for this type of soil is because the solid tines that perforate the soil only compact the clay further.
A spike aerator is more efficient when used on loam and sand, as these soils crumble with ease.
Apart from the type of soil, the soil conditions also dictate the type of aerator you can use. To be specific, a plug aerator should be used when the soil is moist but not to the point that it’s saturated.
If it’s too dry, the soil crumbles within the tines, and this hinders the aerator from removing the “cores” of soil. And if it’s too wet, the soil will lodge on the tines. This will have the same effect of preventing the aerator from removing plugs of soil. The aerator will only compact the soil further instead of loosening it.
Plug aerators are designed to remove a portion of soil from the root system of your lawn. Although this procedure enhances soil composition in the long-term, it also exerts too much stress on your grass in the short-term. To avoid the short-term effects, experts recommend aerating lawns during the active growing season.
For cool season grasses like fescue, bluegrass and ryegrass, this growing season is during early spring or fall. In contrast, warm season grasses like buffalo, zoysia and bermuda, fare best when they’re aerated during late spring or early summer.
What to Look for When Purchasing a Tow Behind Plug Aerator or Spike Aerator
Pull behind plug aerators have very simple working mechanisms. In spite of this, there’s a lot that goes into this tool.
Here are some of the things you should take into account when buying this gardening tool:
Size of the Lawn
Ideally, the bigger the lawn, the larger the aerator you’ll need to handle the tasks at hand. So if you own a big lot or have several plots of land, consider purchasing a bigger aerator.
An important point to note about pull-behind aerators is that they need a vehicle to tow them.
You'll need to make sure that the tow-along fixture in the aerator is compatible with your tractor.
Alternatively, you can look for aerators compatible with all tractor brands like the Agri-Fab Tow Behind Plug Aerator 40-Inch.
Width of the Aerator
Another vital aspect to consider is the width of the plug aerator. The rule of thumb is that the wider the aerator, the higher the amount of soil that can be removed in a single pass.
An aerator’s width is measured in inches. A unit that is 48 inches wide will be able to aerate 33% more soil in a single pass than a unit that is 36 inches wide.
If you have a larger lawn, a wider aerator is better as it will help you complete aerating in a shorter time.
Wider aerators also have a higher weight carrying capacity and this will also have an effect on how deep the plugging spoons penetrate.
If you're trying to aerate hard soil you'll need a fair amount of space to pack a few cinder bricks or other weight. Be sure to check the maximum load capacity the manufacturer recommends.
Plug Aerator vs Spike Aerator
Plug aerators will generally cost you more and you'll probably only end up using your around once a year. They're a lot more effective than spike aerators as they remove a plug of soil from the ground, leaving a gap for the water and nutrients to filter down into.
Spike aerators are generally cheaper but need to be used more often to get the desired results. The spikes pierce the ground to make holes for air and water to enter. Because they don't remove soil there is actually some additional sideways compacting around the spike holes.
Aeration gaps produced by spike aerators tend to close up sooner, hence the need for more frequent aeration.
If your soil is quite wet or very dry then a spike aerator may be a better choice though. Wet soil isn't ejected from plugging spoons very well while very dry soil just crumbles and doesn't get pulled out by the plugging spoons.
Signs that Your Lawn Needs Aeration
Aeration plays a vital role in the health of your lawn. Best part is, it’s not an activity that you need to do every other day. So how do you establish that your lawn needs aeration?
It’s Growing Season
You will get the most out of this activity if you aerate your land at the beginning of the growing season. This will help the grass to absorb nutrients efficiently; hence, thrive.
Grass is Growing Thin
If you’ve started noticing bald patches in your lawn or if the grass is growing at a very slow pace in some sections, reseeding is not enough. The best way to go about this is to address the issue from its roots, literally.
Chances are, the root systems in those bald patches aren’t getting adequate water and nutrients because the soil is heavily compacted.
Another sign that you should aerate your lawn is discoloration. If you’re starting to see some sections where the grass has turned yellow or brown, it’s likely that it’s being caused by a deficiency of nutrients.
There could be several factors causing this situation, but if you’ve already noticed other signs of compacted soil, you should start by aerating.
Formation of Puddles
When you water your lawn, the water should get drained quickly. But if the water tends to accumulate on the top layer of the soil and form a puddle, it could be that the soil is too compacted.
The puddles can form on just a few sections or on the entire lawn. The problem with these tiny water puddles is that they’re wash away any fertilizers or grass seeds that you place.
Thick Layer of Thatch
Thatch is a word that describes the layer of dead grass and other organic debris that builds up on your lawn. A tiny layer of thatch offers your lawn several benefits such as slowing down the rate of water loss and cushioning soil.
However, if you notice an ultra-thick layer of thatch, this spells trouble for your lawn. Too much thatch creates a barrier that impedes water, nutrients, and sunshine from reaching the grass.
Thankfully, a simple aeration can help to break up and redistribute the thatch.
How to Aerate Your Lawn
Many homeowners avoid aerating their lawns because they assume that it’s hard work. The truth is, it’s a really simple process that takes just a couple of hours and offers so many perks.
If you’ve never performed this process before, here’s how you should go about it:
Prepare your lawn
The first thing you should do is mow your lawn. If there’s tall grass, cut it to less than 1.5 inches. Mowing is essential because it makes getting as close to the soil incredibly easy. You could even use a weed eater if you've just got a few spots that need trimming.
Another part of aeration involves watering. This should be done at least a day or two before the day scheduled for aeration. If you water the day before, add no more than 1 inch of water to avoid saturation, which can prevent successful aeration.
As you do this, take note or mark spots where the sprinkler heads and utility lines are located. This way, you don’t end up riding over them and damaging your machine in the process.
Aerate the Lawn
The only thing left now is to aerate the lawn. The number of passes you make with this equipment will depend on the type of soil.
If the soil is just lightly compacted, a single pass over the entire lawn is enough. Consider moving in a parallel pattern to ensure total coverage.
If the soil is heavily compacted, you’ll have to make several passes over those areas. In this case, the second should be perpendicular to the first.
What to Do After Lawn Aeration
Leave the soil plugs on the lawn
The beauty about aerating is that you don’t need to clear any waste or debris. Usually, the soil plugs decompose and are filtered back to the gaps created by your aerating equipment.
Once you run a lawn mower, it will break up the soil plugs and work them back into the soil.
It’s a good idea to follow the aeration process with fertilization. The plug aerator leaves tiny gaps through which nutrients, water and air can easily pass through. This makes this one of the best times to fertilize your lawn because the nutrients will get sucked up almost instantly.
Reseed your Lawn
This is the process of planting other grass seeds into your lawn. Not only does this enhance the look and health of your lawn but it also helps to thicken grass and reduce growth of weeds.
When undertaking this process, pay special attention to those areas where the grass is too thin. The seeds will blend with soil plugs and have easy access to the non-compacted soil.
Water the aerated and seeded lawn
According to lawn care experts, you should water your lawn lightly but frequently after seeding. Water until you notice light puddles starting to form. Using sprinklers will be more convenient but you could use a good expandable hose if you don't mind standing a while.
This should be done at least twice per day. Continue watering using this technique until most of the seeds have germinated.
If there are areas that tend to dry up quickly - such as the sections near a driveway, street or slop- add considerable amounts of water to prevent dehydration.
Lawn Aeration FAQs
Should I continue using a pull behind plug aerator after my lawn improves?
Yes, you definitely should. Lawn experts recommend aerating your lawn at least once every year.
In addition, you should continue other maintenance practices such as watering, nourishing with fertilizers and exercising pest control management.
Can I use a lawn aerator on a newly-laid sod or seeded lawn?
No, you should not. For such situations, it’s better to wait at least 6 months before doing any aeration. By then the seedlings will have reached maturity.
What will happen if I never aerate my lawn?
Ultimately, your lawn will become weak and susceptible to all kinds of problems ranging from pests to disease. This will make it much harder to maintain your lawn.
You should not neglect this practice because unlike other activities- such as watering and fertilization, aeration can be done once a year.
Developing and maintaining a gorgeous and healthy lawn is no small feat. One of the greatest challenges is unpredictable weather, which brings with extreme temperatures and vicious pests.
Luckily, there’s one thing you can do to ensure your lawn continues growing healthy grass- aeration.
Aerating your lawn at least once every year provides grass with the necessary nutrients that it needs to grow healthily. To achieve this, you’ll need a high-quality aerator that matches your needs.
By this we mean, it should be capable of handling the type of soil in your garden/lawn, and the grass species in your lawn.
Our recommendation for best pull behind plug aerator is the Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator. It has a 48-inch working width, making it suitable for aerating larger or multiple lawns. It also sports a strong build and is easy to assemble.
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