Aerator Buying Guide

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Aerator Buying Guide

Aerators are tools used to make holes in the lawn surface to aerate the soil underneath so that it can breathe. Air spaces hold air and water that is taken up by the grass roots. Good air flow encourages new root growth and helps the lawn to grow healthily. It also encourages microflora and fauna that are essential for a healthy lawn ecosystem. Regular aeration is necessary because soil compacts over time, closing the air spaces. Lawns that are not regularly aerated may be more prone to uneven turf growth and weed and moss growth. Aeration is also a method of removing thatch, a layer of organic debris that prevents oxygen and nutrient flow through the lawn.

Choosing an Aerator

Choosing an aerator is a decision process affected by various factors. These include lawn size, lawn condition, soil type, turf type, the amount of traffic the lawn receives and how regularly it needs aerating, physical ability, storage, and budget. There are different types of aerator available, from aeration shoes and smaller hand held models to large plug or coring aerators. They vary in operation, efficiency, and cost.

Factors Affecting Aerator Choice

There are numerous factors to consider before purchasing any aerator shoes.

Type of Soil and Turf

The type of soil will affect how often it compacts and how often the lawn will need aerating. Clay soils in particular are heavy and prone to compacting tightly with poor drainage. Sandy soils have larger particles and are less prone to compaction. Silt soil is inbetween the two. The type of grass can also affect how often the lawn needs aerating. Some types of grass stick together more easily than others, which can affect water transport.

Lawn Size and Condition

Lawn condition is a factor in how much aeration is required. If the lawn is in bad condition, then it probably needs more serious aeration. For lawns in generally healthy condition, the need is not as urgent and smaller tools may suffice. Smaller lawns are also candidates for simple methods of aeration, unless they are in very bad condition. Large lawns may require more powerful or automated tools simply because of the amount of work involved in aerating them with hand held tools.

Amount of Traffic

If the lawn is a general purpose lawn receiving moderate traffic, it will not require as regular aeration as a lawn receiving heavy traffic.

Physical Ability

Aeration tools such as spiked shoes do not require any physical ability other than walking around, but hand held tools such as forks require a certain amount of strength and stamina to use effectively. Rotary and powered aerators are easier to operate.

Types of Aerator

Types of aerator include aeration shoes, forks, hand held spiked and hollowed tine aerators, rotary aerators and automated plug or coring aerators.

Aeration Shoes

Aeration shoes strap onto the soles of boots and have spikes on the base. They are easy to use and good for those out and about in the garden on a regular basis. However, they are not as effective as some other types of aerator, especially for hard soils and tough conditions. They should also be worn with care on slopes and avoided on hard surfaces.

Forks and Hand Held Spiked Aerators

Small lawns can be aerated by spiking it with a hand held fork and this is an option if there is a tight budget. It is, however, a time consuming and labour intensive method. For larger lawns it can be better to work round the lawn aerating a section at different times. Hand held spiked aerators also have spikes that make holes in the lawn. They come in slightly different designs, but usually resemble a fork and have a flat bar where the foot is placed before firmly pushing it into the ground. Forks and spiked aerators create holes by pushing the soil down and away to create a hole. This means they are not removing soil and actually compact it in other areas. The holes also tend to be relatively small and shallow compared to the holes left by other aerators. However spike aeration can be of benefit for healthy lawns and looser soils, especially if it is primarily used to remove thatch.

Hand Held Hollowed Tine Aerators

Hollowed tine aerators have a similar design to hand held spiked aerators and are operated in a similar way. However the type of holes created is different. Instead of pushing the soil to the side, it is removed in cores. This means that no soil is compacted and a larger space is left for air and water circulation. The tines usually push down to about 125 mm. Some are sprung which aids their operation. This type of aerator is preferable to spiked aerators for clay and other heavy, compacted soils, as well as soils in poor condition. Autumn is generally the best time of year to use them. Hand aerators in general are most useful for small lawns, difficult to reach areas and small spots that are in bad condition. Disadvantages include that the soil cores need to be cleaned away afterwards for the lawn to look good. Also the hollow tines require cleaning out on a regular basis. Like other hand held aerators, they require force to push the aerator into the ground and are not always suitable for people with back problems or similar conditions, or for larger lawns.

Rotary Spike Lawn Aerators

Rotary aerators, also known as push or wheeled aerators, are an alternative to hand held models. They are easier to operate as they are simply pushed around the lawn, and have spikes on the wheel which dig into the lawn as it is turned. Some have springs which may be easier to use and there are also electric models available. Rotary aerators may not be able to handle very compacted or hard soil well, but can deal with most soils as well as slopes. They are much faster and more efficient for large areas. They are a good compromise budget wise and are also easily stored.

Plug or Coring Aerators

As well as the smaller electric rotary aerator, there are larger and more powerful models that are generally petrol powered. They have multiple tines and are heavyweight but self propelled. These core the lawn and remove the plugs. They are suitable for large lawns and tough conditions, but are very expensive. They also require a decent area for storage.

Other Tools

Some other tools, such as cultivators or even lawnmowers, may come with aerator attachments or it may be possible to purchase attachments separately.

When to Aerate the Soil

Autumn is usually the best time to use hollowed tine or coring aerators as this is quite an invasive treatment and the soil will have time to recover in the moist conditions. Avoid aerating in very cold or wet conditions. Hard frozen ground is difficult to work and heavy rainfall will cause waterlogged soil to stick in the hollow tines. Aeration shoes, hand held spiked aerators and rotary spiked aerators can be used throughout the spring and summer. It is useful to carry out shallow spiking before seeding, fertilising, and watering.

Find an Aerator on eBay

To find an aerator on eBay, go to the home page and select Home & Garden. From the Home & Garden page, go to the Garden tab and select Power Tools & Equipment. Then select Rotovators/Aerators. The listings can be browsed or to select just aerators type “aerator” into the search bar. Options under categories including Brand, Power Source, Condition, Price and Power can then be chosen. Alternatively, type terms such as “aerator”, “aeration shoes”, “rotary aerator” or “petrol aerator” directly into the search bar at the top of the eBay home page. Listings can then be narrowed in the same way if required.


Aerators are used to aerate the soil in lawns and encourage healthy turf growth. There are various factors that influence the type of aerator required, including lawn size and condition, type of soil and turf, physical ability, budget and available storage space. The types of aerator include aeration shoes, hand held spiked and hollowed tined aerators, rotary spiked aerators and powered plug or coring aerators. Spike aerators push the soil to the side whereas hollowed tined or coring aerators actually remove plugs of soil. This is generally a more effective method of aerating the soil and advised for heavier or compacted soils. Hand held aerators can be labour intensive and are not generally advised for aerating large areas. Plus or coring aerators are the most powerful and effective type but are heavyweight and expensive. Whichever type of aerator is used, aeration will only benefit the lawn, encouraging healthy growth and contributing towards a beautiful lush green lawn.

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