Aerators are specialized tools that we might not use all that often – many of us will use them once a year, if at all. For professionals, they are a necessary tool, but even for the homeowner, they can be quite beneficial. An aerator is an investment though, so you should have some considerations when looking at purchasing an aerator.
Aerators are either pushed, self-propelled, or towed behind a piece of equipment.
Push aerators are the cheapest of the bunch, and are moved by sheer muscle power. These are simply a set of tines attached to an axle, that roll at the speed of the operator. Some of them have a shield to protect from dirt kicking up, but due to the low speeds they operate at, this isn’t all that useful. These are useful for smaller lawns.
Self-propelled aerators will have wheels, and a motor that drives the wheels and the axle. These require a bit more attention when you’re working with them – set the aerator to go at a medium walking pace so you don’t fall behind it. These types are fine for smaller lawns, but are aimed mainly at mid-size, suburban lawns.
A towed aerator will usually be the largest as far as width, able to cover a wider path. You will need a tractor or ATV to pull these along. This type of aerator is only necessary if you use a riding mower to cut your lawn. You can get towed aerators in all sizes, with some being up to five feet in width, and some of them coming in combination with other tools, such as an aerator and spreader combination that can spread seed or fertilizer behind the aerator.
Aerator Tines – Spike or Core?
Aerator tines come in either the spike form, which simply makes holes in the soil, or in core form, which remove plugs of soil from the ground as they go. Different tines work better for different types of soil.
Spike tines tend to work best in looser, sandier soil. This allows the tines to penetrate and separate. In tightly packed soil, the tines will just push the soil down and make it more compact at the bottom of the hole. This, in the long run, is not beneficial and could cause spottiness. Spike tines can wear and bend, but they generally wear at a slower pace than coring tines. Spikes should always be able to penetrate at least an inch into the soil – any less, and they need replacing.
Coring tines are best for thicker soils and clay-based soil. They physically remove a section of soil, making deep holes for water and nutrients to seep in to, as well as to let the lawn breathe. They can also be used for the looser soils as well, if need be. One of the disadvantages to this type of tine is that they wear quickly, and if the tip of the tine creases or bends, the tine will not core in or eject a plug of soil efficiently.
Tips for Aerator Use
There are a handful of things you can do to ensure that the aeration of your lawn goes well –
- Make sure the ground is soft and moist before aerating. Use a screwdriver and push it into the lawn – if it penetrates 2-3 inches easily, the ground is perfect. If it only goes in an inch or so, water the ground and let it sit for a little bit. This should help to loosen it up.
- Add weight on top of the aerator to increase the depth of penetration. This can be used if the ground is still a bit hard, but you are able to go down at least an inch or slightly more. Add sandbags or metal weights to dig deeper.
- Inspect the area you plan to aerate before starting the process. Particularly check for rocks, roots, and other hard objects that can bend or break tines instantly.
- Try to go in straight lines, and avoid sudden movements or turns. These can bend the tines to the side.
The benefits of aeration are many, as we highlighted here. So make sure to get out there and poke away at your lawn, for its increased healthiness and a reduction in constant maintenance needs.