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Best Plug Aerators of 2021

Looking to improve a heavily compacted lawn? A plug aerator makes quick work of hard soil. Choose the best plug aerator using our in-depth guide now.

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Best Plug Aerator Reviews of 2021

Best-in-class
Brinly PA-48BH

Brinly PA-48BH Tow Behind Plug Aerator

Best aerator for big lawns

Thirty-two steel plugging spoons can penetrate even the most compact soil, providing proper aeration.

Check price on Amazon

1 Brinly PA-48BH Review

Designed with big lawns and heavy-duty work in mind, this tow-behind plug aerator is most likely the best you can find.

The unit is designed for seamless soil penetration regardless of the ground compactness. To do that, it features 32 heat-treated steel plugging spoons and a tray that can support up to 200lbs of extra weight.

Ideal for all terrains, the Brinly PA-48BH comes with 10-inch semi-pneumatic rubber tires and features a single transport lever for easier transport. Another highlight is the tine design, which is welded for minimal turf damage – an excellent choice for large residential lawns and commercial purposes alike.

Best value
Agri-Fab 45-0299

Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

Best heavy-duty plug aerator

Self-sharpening plug aerator knives and a weight tray ensure seamless soil penetration.

Check price on Amazon

2 Agri-Fab 45-0299 Review

Aerating tough soils and big lawns is far from easy, but the Agri-Fab 45-0299 can make your task much more manageable. This heavy-duty plug aerator comes with a universal hitch coupler that makes it perfect to use with most zero turn mowers and all lawn tractors.

It has a tow-behind design, and its 48-inch swath is ideal for big lawns of over ½ acres. Equipped with 32 self-sharpening knives, it can penetrate and pull up to 3 inches of soil out.

If your soil is harder or you want to aerate deeper, know that the attachment can hold up to 175 pounds of extra weight for enhanced penetration.

Raising and lowering this machine is also easy, thanks to the convenient transport handle. Capable of tackling all jobs and coming at an excellent price point, this is our favorite plug aerator for big lawns.

Also great
Brinly PA-40BH

Brinly PA-40BH Tow Behind Plug Aerator

Best for smaller lawns

Heat-treated tines and steel design ensure durability and reliability season after season.

Check price on Amazon

3 Brinly PA-40BH Review

Combining best-in-class with best-value features, the Brinly PA-40BH comes as a great alternative to either of the two machines, and it could be just perfect for those with a smaller lawn or lower budget. It has a 40-inch swath, like our premium pick, but it can penetrate the soil up to 3 inches deep.

Its long-lasting all steel construction and fully-enclosed weight tray ensure durability and enhance penetration, holding up to 150 pounds of extra weight.

It also comes with 24 heat-treated tines that can deal with all compacted soil types. Thanks to its smaller size, it’s also easier to turn around obstacles or to maneuver on uneven terrains.

Engaging and disengaging the tines could be frustrating though, especially because you can’t reach the lever from the tractor. At least you can attach this tow behind plug aerator to most zero turn mowers, ATVs, and all lawn tractors.

Working like a wonder on smaller lawns with few obstacles, this is undoubtedly a great plug aerator.

Best budget
Step ‘N Tilt

Step ‘N Tilt Core Lawn Aerator (with Container)

Ideal for small yards

The step-n-tilt system is ridiculously easy and incredibly fun to use.

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4 Step ‘N Tilt Review

The Step’ N Tilt might not suit heavy-duty purposes, but it’s perfect for homeowners who want to keep their front lawn pristine. Four tines and a patented step-and-tilt system allow for a quick aeration of your soft ground.

This system isn’t suitable to use on compacted soil, as the tines might clog if the soil isn’t moist. That said, using it can help you skip the gym, and even your kids or grandkids can have loads of fun using it under an adult’s supervision.

An excellent choice for your smaller yard or garden, this plug aerator will also suit homeowners on a budget.

Types of lawn aerators

Lawn aeration is essential if you want to have a picture-perfect manicured lawn. Depending on the size of your yard and type of soil in your area, you can choose from the following types of lawn aerators.

  • Manual lawn aerator: Looks more or less like a pitchfork but has thicker spikes designed to penetrate and create holes into your soil. This yard aerator is ideal for small backyards, where a walk-behind or tow-behind machine could be too cumbersome. However, they would be a bit too laborious to use on lawns bigger than ¼ yards.
  • Walk behind aerator: Similar to the walk-behind lawn mower and walk behind lawn trimmer, a walk-behind aerator can be of two types. There are push aerators – the equivalent of a push mower – that have a roll with spikes that create holes into the ground, and self-propelled aerators – similar to the self-propelled lawn mowers – that are more appropriate to use on larger terrains.
  • Tow behind aerator: If you have a large lawn that you mow with a lawn tractor or zero turn mower, a pull behind aerator could be your best bet. This attachment connects to the hitch of your riding mower (just like a lawn tractor dump cart), lawn tractor, or ATV and will aerate the soil with little effort from your side.

Spike vs. plug aerator

Buying a tow behind aerator starts with deciding which type you need. There are two types, spike and plug aerators.

  • Spike aerator: Utilizes star-shapes spikes to create uniform holes into the soil. It can have either straight or curved blades, but regardless of their shape, the spike aerator doesn’t remove any soil. As a consequence, the holes will close faster, and you’ll have to aerate more frequently. Spike aerators are great for looser soils that are not too compacted.
  • Plug aerator: Is ideal to use on heavily compacted soils, including clay, due to its knives designed to create holes and remove soil at the same time. Plug aerators also have the deepest penetration, which means you won’t have to aerate too often.

Which lawn aerator do I need?

Which is the best lawn aerator for you ultimately depends on the type of size of your lawn but also type of soil in your area.

Type of aerator

Lawn size

Soil type

Manual aerator

Up to ¼ acres

Sandy, peat, loam

Push aerator

¼ – ½ acres

Sandy, silty, peat, loam

Self-propelled aerator

 ½ – 1 acre

Sandy, silty, peat, loam

Tow behind aerator

Over 1 acre

All soil types

Aerator or universal tow behind platform?

The aerator is just one of the many tools you need for garden and lawn maintenance. That’s why some brands also manufacture tow-behind platforms.

These versatile platforms are compatible with a wide range of attachments and come as a great alternative to each separate machine if you want to save some money. For proper, all-around lawn care, you will usually need the equipment below in addition to the aerator.

Lawn care tractor attachments

  • Tow-behind dethatcher: A tool utilized to remove unhealthy levels of thatch from your lawn, letting water and sunlight reach the roots of your grass.
  • Tow-behind lawn roller: Essential before sowing new grass on empty soil, this tool is used to level the surface of the ground.
  • Tow behind tiller: Help you till large plots with ease before planting.
  • Tow-behind sprayer: If you want to apply liquid fertilizer instead of granular one or for pesticides and herbicides, a tow-behind lawn sprayer is essential.
  • Tow-behind spreader: The equivalent of a sprayer, the spreader is used for sprinkling granular matter onto the soil, be it fertilizer, seeds, or lime.
  • Tow-behind lawn sweeper: A lawn tractor attachment utilized to clean your lawn from fallen leaves and small branches during fall.

Yard aerator width and penetration depth

Two essential things to consider before investing in a yard aerator are its width and penetration depth.

Regarding width, most tow behind aerators have swaths between 40 and 48 inches. A wider swath will help you finish faster, but it might be harder to turn. For a lawn with obstacles, such as flowerbeds or trees, a smaller swath could be a better choice, as it’s easier to maneuver.

Penetration depth

Depending on the type of aerator, penetration depth can vary between 1 and 3 inches. Most spike aerators can reach between 2 and 2.5 inches, but because they don’t remove the soil, water and nutrients will penetrate slower.

Plug aerators can usually remove 3 inches of soil; the holes will close slower, and water, nutrients, and light will reach the roots of your grass easier.

Other essential features

When looking for the best plug aerator, there are a few other essential features that can make or break the deal.

  • Tines: The material the tines or spikes are made from can greatly influence the durability of your attachment. Galvanized steel tines are the most durable and resistant. They also withstand rust and corrosion.
  • Weight tray: Most aerators come with weight trays that allow you to maximize the penetration by applying further weight on the attachment.
  • Wheels: If you want better traction, get an aerator with wheels of at least 7 inches. All-terrain, airless tires can also improve your overall experience by improving maneuverability on uneven soils.
  • Foldable hitch: This feature reduces the overall size of the aerator when not in use, for easier storage in a shed or garage.

When to aerate the lawn?

While all lawns need aeration, knowing when to perform this operation is essential if you want your grass to thrive. The type of grass is a good indicator of when to perform the first aeration of the season.

  • If you have cool season grass, you should aerate in early spring.
  • If you have warm season grass, you should aerate in late spring.

Besides this first aeration at the beginning of the season, you should aerate throughout the entire summer until early fall when you notice:

  • That your grass starts to look brittle or dries even though you water it regularly.
  • Excessive thatch build-up. It is usually indicated by the grass feeling spongy to the touch when you step on it with your bare feet. At this stage, you should both dethatch and aerate the soil.
  • Bald patches on the lawn. They are a clear indicator that the soil is too compacted in that area.
  • Quick-drying soil or puddles. They both show that the water is not draining into the soil.

When to fertilize the lawn?

Water, air, and light apart, your grass also needs nutrients. The best time to fertilize your lawn depends on the type of grass you have.

  • Cool season grasses, such as Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue, or Ryegrass should be fertilized four times a year; two times at the beginning of the growing season in early April and late May, then two times at the end of the season, in September and November.
  • Warm season grasses, including Bermuda, Centipede, and St. Augustine, should be fertilized three times a year; once in early spring when the grass starts to grow, once in late spring, and once in late summer.

Best Plug Aerator for the Money

Best value
Agri-Fab 45-0299

Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator

Best heavy-duty plug aerator

Self-sharpening plug aerator knives and a weight tray ensure seamless soil penetration.

Check price on Amazon

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