7 DIY Aerators That Will Make Your Lawn Lush And Beautiful. Aerator for riding mower

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 BobVila.com, 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.

aerators, make, your, lawn, lush, beautiful

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 Aerators That Will Make Your Lawn Lush And Beautiful

Do you aerate your lawn? I recently started looking into ways of making my lawn more lush and healthy and what I learned is that aerating your lawn if really good for it.

Aeration helps to create openings in the turf and soil that allows water and air to penetrate the roots of your grass and makes them healthier.

This in turn, turns your lawn into a lush, beautiful green blanket that would rival any golf course.

So, when I found out how good aeration is for my lawn, I started looking into aerators.

Let me tell you, a lawn aerator is not cheap. Even the seemingly cheaper ones are pretty costly, so what did I do?

I started looking for DIY lawn aerators. I found seven great DIY aerators that all work perfectly to make your lawn lush and beautiful.

Repurposed Oil Drum Aerator

This DIY aerator is made from a five gallon oil drum and it’s pretty simple to put together. Once the spikes are in place, you add a handle and wheels and then just push the aerator through your yard to keep your soil and grass healthy. This one is so simple and can be really cheap if you have an old oil drum that you can use as the base.

LawnPecker is the BEST Manual Lawn Aeration Tool That I Have Used

Cheap And Easy DIY Concrete Aerator

This DIY lawn aerator is very cheap and easy to make. The spikes are made from nails, which are perfect for creating the aeration that your lawn needs to make it grow lush and healthy. This one is also a push aerator so you add a handle and then just push it throughout your lawn to help it to grow. It will only take you a couple of hours to put together and begin using it. I really love creative DIY concrete projects!

Why spend hours pushing a lawn aerator when you can simply walk around your lawn and get the same result? These DIY lawn aerator shoes are honestly the easiest things you will ever see. You just need a couple of pretty thick boards and some nails as well as something to secure your aerators to your shoes. You could do a few of these in different sizes and have the entire family walking through the yard to aerate it.

DIY Plexiglass Lawn Aerator Sandals

Here is another quick and easy take on lawn aerator shoes. These little sandals are made from plexiglass and they are super easy to put together. They work just like you would imagine…you strap them to your feet and then walk your way to a beautiful lawn. Make a few pairs and let your family or friends help you to make your lawn healthy and lush. These are also really cheap to DIY.

DIY Repurposed Rake Lawn Aerator

You don’t need any fancy equipment to aerate your lawn. You can make a simple DIY lawn aerator out of an old garden rake and a 2X4. I do love good 2X4 DIY projects and this one is fabulous. You just use the rake to steady your aerator and give yourself a brace for pushing it into the ground. This one honestly will only take you an hour or so to make and it is really easy to use, too. What a great way to make use of old gardening tools!

Upcycled Five Gallon Plastic Bucket Lawn Aerator

This homemade lawn aerator is made from an empty five gallon bucket and it is really simple to put together. This is a great upcycling project for those empty buckets. You just need the bucket, a few nails and something to use as a handle – an old handle from a push lawn mower would be perfect. You just assemble and then push the aerator around your lawn to give it that great lush look.

Reclaimed Wood Lawn Aerator

You can make this simple DIY lawn aerator with strips of reclaimed wood. You just have to find a base – PVC pipe filled with sand or concrete works well – and then add your strips of wood. The wood houses the nails that you use to aerate the lawn.

You can add a handle from an old lawn mower or something similar to make pushing it through the yard simple. This one only takes a couple of hours to make and it works like a charm.

aerators, make, your, lawn, lush, beautiful

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Aerator for riding mower

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AERA-vator Coreless Aerator

The PTO-driven AERA-vator is a coreless lawn aerator for Grasshopper FrontMount zero-turn mowers. Available in 40- and 60-inch models, front-mounted aerators help to aerate lawns, turf and compacted soil in hard-to-reach areas previously accessible only to walk-behind aerators. By eliminating unsightly cores left behind by plug and core aerators, the AERA-vator completes aerating jobs easier and faster – reducing time and labor up to 75 percent.

See the AERA-vator in action.

See the AERA-vator in action.

Oscillating and vibrating steel tines deep-fracture hard, dry soils, improving permeability, drainage, water infiltration and nutrient absorption in the root zone by four times that of other turf and soil aerators, which helps create more resilient turf on playing fields, high-traffic areas and commercial and residential lawns.

  • 1 Tines fracture soil to relieve compaction between holes both sideways and downward.
  • 2 Additional pore space under surface provides enhanced root growth. Variable depth control ensures aeration at all levels of root zone.
  • 3 Effective aeration with minimal surface disruption, leaves no cores to clean up and turf is ready for use immediately.
  • 4 No slicing or cutting action to preserve delicate turf grass roots and stimulate future growth.

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John Deere Plug Aerator – 40″ Tow Behind Model

I recently purchased a John Deere 40-Inch Plug Aerator to tow behind my John Deere X300 riding mower. Lawn Core Aeration is an important lawn care process which removes small plugs of grass, roots and soil. By removing the small plugs oxygen, water and nutrients are allowed to reach the root zone better and promote healthier grass growth.

Here in the northeast the best time to aerate your lawn is late summer / early fall. I plan on aerating the lawn, applying some over seeding, applying the remaining lime that was required from my soil test and finally applying my fall fertilizer.

The 40-inch plug aerator came shipped in a box which required assembly. Putting together the plug aerator was really quite easy. You can read all about how I assembled it if you’re curious about the steps.

I took a picture of an area of my lawn that has almost no grass so you could see what the plug aerator does. As you can see the “spoons” remove small diameter plugs of soil and grass. Everything I’ve read about aerating lawns says that it works best when the soil is damp (after a mild rain or watering your lawn).

Supplemental Weight

The plug aerator is built to hold six 8″x8″x16″ concrete masonry unit (CMU) blocks. They are really cheap and readily available at your local hardware store. The aerator can hold up to 175 lbs of additional weight to help it force the plugging spoons into the soil up to a depth of 3 inches. I had one small problem trying to insert all 6 blocks into the holding bin. There are two bolts in each corner of the holding bin. The installation instructions tell you to put the head of the bolt on the outside, when you do this the longer end of the bolt hits the CMU blocks. All I had to do was reverse the bolts so the heads were on the inside and the blocks fit snugly.


Overall this aerator seems to work quite well. It has a control lever (see photo) that allows you to drop the unit down and lift up the wheels when you’re aerating the lawn. The only problem with it is you have to stop the mower, get off and use the arm because you can’t reach it from the mower.

I definitely noticed a difference in using the aerator on a dry lawn versus a damp one. I first tried the aerator on our dry lawn and it didn’t work that great. Then I watered the lawn for about 30 minutes and tried it again. That made a huge difference and the aerator did a great job getting between 2 inches and 3 inches of penetration.

I’m quite satisfied with this product. As usual John Deere makes really great stuff. The quality is really good, the directions were easy to follow and the aerator does what they said it would do. I’m hoping the aeration project will pay dividends next season!

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:

aerators, make, your, lawn, lush, beautiful

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.

DIY. Homemade Lawn Aerator. Updating my Old Aerator

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.