A lot of us treat our lawns the way we treat our cars. With vehicles, we figure if we just put petrol in the tank, we’re fine. With lawns, we assume watering and mowing is all the lawn needs. We may even occasionally weed the grass or seed the soil with fertilizers.
But aeration is a key component of lawn care. It breaks soil clumps, allowing the grass the absorb nutrients more efficiently. You only need to do it every other year, but some of us don’t aerate at all! So let’s identify the best lawn aerator for your needs.
The Best Lawn Aerator on UK Market 2023
1. Yard Butler Coring Aerator (Our Top Pick)
Some aerators poke holes in the soil that are soon refilled with dust and moisture. These include aeration sandals and garden forks. These devices will often have a nail or a sharpened metal stake. So the ‘holes’ they create are a few millimetres at best. But some aerators will dig a hole and pull out compacted organic materials called cores or plugs.
These plugs are a mixture of soil, humus, thatch, insect matter, and more. And this type of aerator is called a corer or a plug aerator. The Yard Butler falls into this category. It pulls out cores that are 12.7mm in diameter (half an inch) and 88.8 inches deep (3.5 inches). These provide the perfect soil sample if you’re into testing and research. They’re good for seeding.
If you’re reviving the lawn, don’t use back-fill or sand for those holes. Instead, place seeds in each hole, following with a fertiliser of your choice. Water the lawn to seal the seeds in. This way, you ensure even, controlled growth for your new crop of grass. As for the extracted plugs, just leave them be. They’ll decompose on the ground, enriching the garden.
The Yard Butler has two hollow tines so it will take time and effort to aerate the whole garden. Especially in clay soils which easily back-fill. Do your aeration on a day when the soil is damp but not wet. The aerator – including its tines and handle – is 37 inches tall. That’s a comfortable height for most people. You won’t have to bend too far so it’s kind on your back.
The tool’s hand grips are padded so you’ll get fewer blisters. And it has a foot bar you can step on to help you push the aerator into the soil. This lessens the strain and labour involves so you won’t tire as quickly. Still, this is best for small, domestic yards. This is an imported model though. It comes from the US so plan accordingly (timing, taxes, warranties etc.)
This hand-held aerator is great if you wait a day or two after it rains. It works well even with the dense UK clay. But keep a stick handy to wedge out gravel that gets caught in the tine.
- It’s easy to use, even for novices.
- The height is just right for average gardeners.
- The foot bar makes coring easier.
- It’s an imported tool … so prepare to deal with all that comes with it.
2. Eeieer Aerator Sandals
Aerator sandals seem fun. Especially for domestic users that just want to stomp around the yard. It’s a sneaky gateway tool to get your kids and teens into gardening. But you can’t use them commercially or try them for larger gardens. Unless of course you aerate as a relay and take turns using these spiked shoes. The shoes are one-size-fits-all so it’s certainly feasible.
The shoes have 26 spikes sunk into a solid plastic heel and accompanied by nylon laces and elastic straps. The front of the shoe has 8 nylon laces while the back has two elastic ones. The ten loops combine to hold your feet in place as you step about and aerate. The durable plastic sole is about a foot long, no pun intended, and 5.1 inches wide. It offers added heel support.
The shoes come in separate pieces so you have to bolt the spikes onto the sole and set up the zinc buckles. The shipping box includes a small spanner of the right size, nuts, bolts, and instructions. The stakes are made of stainless steel 2-inch nails and they can sink through damp clay. You’re meant to wear the sandals on top of your garden shoes or gumboots.
Boots will give you extra leverage, but they’ll also tire you quicker and work your calves. And if you’re above size 12, that ‘one-size-fits-all’ is a rumour for you. The heel plate will leave your toes hanging off the sole so you may hurt yourself as you pull the shoes out of that compacted soil. The nails have hexagonal heads and are 5mm thick and 55mm long.
These aerator shoes have a non-slip surface to stop your shoes from sliding off. But they’re more labour-intensive than you realise, so test a friend’s pair before you buy. Or let the teens do it.
- The sturdy base supports your heels.
- The sandals have 26 spikes (13 per shoe).
- The shoe straps offer added leverage.
- You can only wear these for so long …
3. Kingfisher Hollow Tine Aerator
They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. That’s not what you want to hear when shopping online. But the truth is … the more beloved a product is, the more likely someone will fake it. That’s the case with this Kingfisher aerator. Its bright red tone and effectively shaped tine seem to beg for mimicry. So when you order, check the logo twice to be sure.
Many Kingfisher orders end up being a sub-par simulation marketed as GardenPro. So confirm that you got a Kingfisher and send it back if you need to. With the genuine product, you’ll get a sturdy hand-held aerator with 5 hollow spikes and two-foot bars. The handle is wide and cushioned to reduce the bruising on your fingers. The fork weighs 1.8kg.
This aerator is effective enough that it’s recommended for professional use. But it’s a manual tool so you’d quickly exhaust yourself coring a big garden. The tines are long with sharpened ends that have acute angles. So the plugs push themselves out without you have to ‘unpack’ them. They slip out of the top and fall to the sides, adding organic manure to your topsoil.
The tines are 10 to 12 cm long and the base is 30cm wide so you get decent penetration. They push through thatch, roots, and soil. And the sharpened edges will slice through top roots as well, pruning them and catalysing healthy anchoring. Meanwhile, the tool is just shy of a metre from spike to handle. So you won’t have to slouch too low and risk hurting your back.
Remember though, soil in the UK is largely clay. So if it’s raining or you’re using a hose, wait two or three days before using the tine. This will make the soil less sticky. If the tines clog, use a stick to dislodge the jamming. You can clean the tines with a bottle brush or wire brush. Use a carving knife or file to regularly oil and sharpen the tips of your tines.
This manual hollow-tine aerator does a good job in damp soil. Keep the blades clear, oiled, and sharpened for best results. And triple-check that you’re buying a genuine Kingfisher.
- It has 5 sharpened hollow tines.
- The handle is padded for user comfort.
- The foot bar offers added leverage.
- This is a popular model so you may buy a counterfeit. Always double-check the branding and logo.
4. Fiskars Aerator Rake
Ordinary rakes are perfect for gathering clippings off a freshly mown lawn. That’s if your lawn mower doesn’t have an automated collection bin. But garden rakes don’t have the power to pierce thatch and unravel compact soils. So it’s a good thing this is no ordinary rake. It’s a heavy-duty aerator with broad, densely packed prongs that cut right through.
The 21 prongs are mounted on a long handle. The width of the rake is 36.5cm so one swathe is about the same as a small lawn mower. And the rake is heavier than you’d think – it’s barely under a kilo so it’s hefty enough to break through moss and thatch. The tines are made of flat, solid steel and the handle can be steel or graphite. They’re compatible with QuikFit.
This aerator rake doesn’t dig into the soil or pull out any plugs. It only breaks up thatch and surface clumps. If the top layer isn’t too dense, the rake can scratch surface soil. But mostly it unravels the messy mass of thatch that sits between living grass and compacted soil. This layer comprises dead roots, insects dropping, waterlogged materials, and rotting matter.
It may look like grass, but that swathe of organic residue can stop water, sunlight, and nutrients from accessing the roots of your grass. So breaking it up will leave your lawn healthier over time. Each prong is 7.5cm long and is curved like a cat claw. This makes it easier to slice through the surface. On shorter grass, it will loosen the soil and aerate it too.
This QuikFit rake works best with an elongated Fiskar handle. They’re easy to work with. Just unscrew the orange ring to (un)lock the device. The rake works best with a 156cm handle. That height minimises the angle you have to bend so it maximises force while protecting your spine from injury. It’s more of a manual scarifier than an aerator though.
As rakes go, this one has more heft and power than the average. It doesn’t poke holes into the soil, but it can clear messy surface materials. It forms light ‘waves’ through exposed soil.
- The rake is 37cm wide.
- It can work through thatch and moss.
- The carbon steel construction keeps it durable.
- It’s not too good at penetrating the soil.
5. Einhell Electric Scarifier
From a manual scarifier, let’s now look at an electric one. Scarifiers use blades rather than spikes. So they don’t prick holes in the soil and/or extracting material. Instead, they ‘slice’ varying depths of topsoil and thatch, loosening the compacted layer below. The visual result is far more dramatic than spiked shoes or rolling lawn aerators. And they don’t form plugs.
They do generate a lot of trash though. Scarifiers slice through moss and thatch so the resulting debris is bulkier than standard grass clippings. So expect to empty the bin multiple times per pass. Alternatively, just aerate without the bin and spread the residue later.
This is a two-stage scarifier that you push like a mower. For scarifying, it has eight double blades crafted from stainless steel. And for raking and clean-up, the device uses a clawed roller with 42 teeth. These two are interchangeable. Start with high-setting blades to saw through the surface. Follow with a rake attachment to pile up the sliced organic matter.
But unlike lawnmowers, the front wheels are larger than the back ones. This helps you hold the scarifier steady as it drags through thick moss, stony ground, or heavy thatch. And the roller has ball bearings for longevity smooth operation. You can pick three levels for both the scarifier and the rake. The three settings let you control how deep the blades will splice.
The scarifier comes in pieces so you have to assemble it. But it’s a simple DIY process. And once you’re done, the device easily folds and dismantles for small storage slots. Be careful while you use this gadget though. It has sharp blades and plugs directly to the grid, so be careful not to trip over (or slice into) the power cable. You’ll need extension cords too.
It looks like a lawn mower but it’s far more powerful. As you push, it cuts below the grass, then forks away all evidence of constructive destruction. It’s ideal for springtime lawn repair.
- It can handle lawns up to 300m2.
- The scarifier has a 1200W motor.
- Its 42 claws can work at three depth levels.
- The basket is on the smaller side so you’ll empty it frequently.
6. Greenkey Rolling Aerator
When you use spiked sandals to aerate your lawn, your body weight presses the stakes into place. So the ‘stepping’ part is easy. It’s the pull-out that’s tough because you have to lift your feet with enough force to dislodge sharp nails from gummy clay. Preferably without hurting your leg and thigh muscles. Or miscalculating momentum and poking your eyes out.
From this perspective, rolling aerators seem safer. And less strenuous. But this may work against them. With no motors or anchors, all you have is a wheel and gravity. Greenkey has its stakes screwed onto a hollow one-foot wheel. The wheel is 16cm across and you may be tempted to load concrete inside it for extra weight. (Don’t! You’ll void the 2-year warranty.)
The rolling aerator does require assembly so find a video tutorial. Or check the Greenkey site for instructions. You can buy the roller in black or green. Its T-shaped handle places force at the right pivot points, making it easier to ventilate your soil. But it still needs a lot of muscle. And remember, you want damp soil, not sticky clay. So wait a day or two after watering.
The base wheel is made of sturdy plastic. And once assembled, the aerator weighs a little under three kilos. That’s not much compared to a 60kg human in spiked shoes. Or a 14kg electric scarifier. That gives you a hint of how much energy you’ll use rolling this thing.
But it’s less likely to tear your leg tendons. So while Achilles injuries may be great for bragging rights, it doesn’t count if you got them from yard work. Meaning if you opt to buy this rolling aerator, you’ll be safer than walking in spiked sandals. But you’ll also get trim from all the effort of rolling it around the yard. It’s green though, and no carbon footprints!
Puns aside, this rolling lawn aerator is a safe solution for your compacted soil. And just like the staked shoes, it can finagle your teens into doing the yard work. Expect loud music!
- The roller is 30cm wide.
- Each spike is 45mm deep (2 inches).
- The T-handle is easier to hold.
- It’s lightweight so you need a lot of effort to pierce the soil.’
7. Gruntek Lawn Aerator Shoes
If colours are your thing, you’ll love the bright orange on those Gruntek aerator shoes. They have a sturdy plastic sole … but even the most rugged plastic can collapse in wet clay. So knowing your shoes aren’t metal, wait until the soil has dried for two days (after rain or watering) before you stomp into these shoes. The sole is fitted with 13 steel nails per shoe.
When you order these shoes, the strapped soles are separate from the nails. The shipping box has a small spanner that snugly cinches the nail heads. The top threads let your screw the nails securely to the underside of the sole, finishing off with the provided nuts. The shoes use Velcro straps to hold your feet so be careful when you lift – the shoes might fly off your feet!
The spanner is 9cm long (compared to the 5.9cm nails) so you need to store it carefully or risk losing it. The back of the sole has a raised flap to support your heel. But it’s brittle and will easily snap off as you stomp the yard. But the advantage of aerator sandals (as opposed to electric scarifiers and sharpened tines) is their gentleness. They won’t harm roots.
It’s good practice to apply fertiliser after your spiked garden stroll. Then add a round of hosing to soak in your lawn feed. Hollow tines and scarifiers are good for repairing compaction. But a staked show is the best lawn aerator for releasing oxygen and nitrogen. It also lowers incidences of waterlogging, which is essential given the rainfall volumes here.
By improving air circulation and penetration, Gruntek shoes reduce the swampy conditions that generate algae and moss. It also wards off pests that get attracted to boggy lawns.
- Each sandal has 13 spikes on it.
- The straps are adjustable to fit your feet and shoe size.
- The nails are nearly 6cm long.
- The heel support easily breaks off.
The concept of aerating your lawn is simple. You poke holes in the ground and possibly pull out the content. These holes make it easier for water, soil, air, herbicides, pesticides, and even fresh seeds to permeate the lawn. And this enhanced penetration lets your lawn ‘drink, feed, and breathe’ better. This improves the overall health of your garden. So let’s dig in.
Type of Aerator
An aerator can be manual or mechanical. It can be a sub-section or a lawn mower, taking the form of a scarifier. And these machines can be petrol-powered, battery-powered, or electric. Mechanical scarifiers look a lot like lawnmowers, and it can be easy to mix them up at the store. So shop carefully to be sure the equipment you just bought is right for your yard.
Aerators can also be manual. These range from designated aerators with hollow tines to sturdy garden forks. With the latter, you use your foot to press it into the ground then wiggle it to allow more air or water through. Other types of manual lawn aerators include sandals with staked feet (think extra-long football spikes) or analogue rollers with spiked wheels.
Depth of Penetration
Different aerator categories are sometimes given distinct names. A scarifier – for example – is a mechanical aerator fitted with blades instead of spikes. It ‘cuts’ shallow sections of soil or thatch and upturns the resulting debris. This is far more disruptive than typical aeration. The best time to do it is early spring. It shakes up the frozen soil and revives life down there.
Other aerators may be classified as corers. These are hollow aerators that pull out a ‘plug’ or ‘core’ from the ground, leaving a visibly distinct hole. It’s a good option when planting fresh grass seeds because you can stuff the holes with seeds and fertiliser. In all these cases, the size and depth of spikes, cores, or forks vary. Get the right dimensions for your lawn needs.
Whether you’re using knives, sharpened nails, or hollow forks, their distribution is important. Spiked sandals come in standard shoe sizes. But some may have 10 stakes per inch while others will have two. Roller aerators match lawnmower sizes, so they could measure anything from 20cm to 40cm across. The spike spacing is a crucial factor to check.
Generally, the more spikes per inch, the more effectively your garden aerates. But more stakes mean more labour. You’ll use more effort pushing the spikes in and pulling them out. Especially with the sticky clay soils that comprise most UK loans. Confirm what the stakes are made of. DIY aerators can use ordinary nails but commercial ones need heavy-duty steel.
In our opinion, the best spikes to poke into your garden sit on the Yard Butler. Here’s why:
- The padded handles are gentler on your palms.
- It forms 0.5inch by 3.5inch soil plugs.
- It’s a manual tool so it won’t interfere with your utility bills.
- The tool is 37 inches tool so it strains your back less.
- Its simple design makes it easy to clean.
- It’s a convenient way to collect soil samples.
- It can be useful for re-seeding your garden.
Which aerator works best for your yard? Show us what you’re using in the comments!