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Spike Aerator Vs. Plug Aerator

There are two main tools for aerating your lawn: a spike aerator and the best pull behind plug aerator. Both make your yard stronger and lusher, but they do so in slightly different ways. In addition, each tool is unique so just because you’ve used one doesn’t mean you know everything about the other one.

Here’s a quick guide for deciding between a spike aerator and a plug aerator.

What is a Spike Aerator?

Spike aerators create shallow holes in your yard with a spiked machine and provide pretty even coverage. If you have freshly planted seeds, a spike aerator won’t increase the risk of rain washing the seeds downhill.

Spike aerators work by pushing holes into the ground. Unfortunately, this is worse for areas of your lawn that get high traffic.

While spike aerators are great at promoting airflow in your lawn, they will need to be used more often. This is because the churned yard will only remain unplugged for so long before you need to aerate it again. This is because spike aerators don’t dig as deep and won’t help with compacting soil.

What is a Plug Aerator?

Similar to a spike aerator, plug aerators churn up your lawn to promote airflow and increase growth. However, plug aerators dig much deeper into the ground and create larger holes than a spike aerator.

By creating larger holes, plug aerators help seedlings grow deeper, stronger roots, and better trap rain water. Plug aerators are much more effective but are more labor-intensive. Fortunately, they don’t need to be used nearly as often.

Spike Aerator vs Plug Aerator

Spike aerators and plug aerators are very different, which means choosing between them is essential. You won’t get the same benefits with a spike aerator that you will with a plug aerator and vice versa.

Additionally, you don’t need both of them to aerate your lawn effectively. Using just one will be perfectly fine.

What to Keep in Mind

Spike aerators and plug aerators are two different tools. While they both work to aerate your soil, they do so in different ways. Some people don’t like how hard plug aerators can be on their yards so they choose spike aerators. Others don’t want to aerate as often, so they opt for plug aerators.

Certain factors will determine whether using a spike aerator or a plug aerator is better for your lawn. You may also have a personal preference that comes into play when choosing.

1. Soil Composition and Condition

The composition of your soil will affect how quickly and easily it becomes compacted after you aerate it. For example, clay soil has quick soil compaction, whereas soil with lots of sand won’t.

Spike aerators won’t prevent soil compaction in the same way that plug aerators will. If you have soil that compacts or clumps very easily, spike aerators won’t be effective for very long. You’ll have to aerate your lawn much more often than if you use a plug aerator to shift the dirt and create deep holes.

Soil that is very loamy or sandy will be fine with a spike aerator. It won’t lump or compact shortly after you aerate it, so spike aerators will do fine.

Another important thing is the condition of your soil. Plug aerators work best on moist soil. If the soil is too dry, a plug aerator won’t be able to pull it up. If the soil is too saturated, though, it will get stuck in the aerator tines. You’ll have to be pretty familiar with your soil conditions when using a plug aerator or you could run into problems.

Spike aerators aren’t as affected by soil conditions. They’ll poke holes into your lawn whether it’s dry or oversaturated with water.

2. Lawn Health Impact

It’s important to have a healthy lawn. While aerators make this more possible, it’s vital to note the different ways they might impact the health of your lawn.

Plug aerators will pull up a portion of grass and cut the grass roots. They’re great for improving your soil’s health but can be hard on your grass. Using a plug aerator during the lawn growing season will yield the best results and can be the least stressful for your grass. Typically this will be in the early spring. 

Spike aerators are much less aggressive with your lawn. They won’t churn up grass or cut through grass roots, so they can be used at any time of the year. You don’t have to wait for specific times of the year where your lawn will be growing quickest as they won’t be nearly as hard on it. 

3. Lawn Size

Lawn size plays a small role in what type of aerator to get. Small lawns that don’t receive much foot traffic will be fine with a spike aerator every now and then. You can use a spike aerator over specific problem areas and still see great results.

For larger lawns, a plug aerator will be the most efficient. Even if your lawn doesn’t see a lot of foot traffic, you won’t have to aerate it as often with a plug aerator. Because it can take time to aerate your lawn, the less often you have to do it, the better.

No matter what size lawn you have, a plug aerator is best if it has lots of foot traffic during the day. Even for small lawns, this is true. Your soil will compact faster when it has more foot traffic, and plug aerators slow down the process.

4. How Often You Want to Aerate

Aerating your lawn can be time-consuming and laborious. With that in mind, you probably don’t want to do it as often. Here is where one of the more significant differences between plug aerators and spike aerators comes into play.

Plug aerators are very labor-intensive. It will take more time and energy to pull one across your lawn. Fortunately, you won’t need to use them as often. Once or twice a year will be enough to improve your lawn without causing too much stress to your grass.

Spike aerators, on the other hand, are much easier to use. You can tug them along fairly quickly and without much effort. Unlike plug aerators though, you’ll have to repeat the process several times a year.

For those who have small lawns, having the aerate your lawn more often won’t be too time consuming. With a larger lawn though, the idea of aerating it several times a year is probably not very appealing. Nevertheless, it may be worth it if you prefer the spike aerator’s methods over the plug aerator.

Types of Spike Aerators

Spike aerators can come in several different forms. You can find them as a tow-behind aerator, strap-on shoes, push aerators, or spikes for the wheels of your mower. Depending on which type you purchase, you can combine aerating your lawn with another chore, such as mowing.

With the different options available, you can determine the easiest way for you to aerate your lawn. If you have a push mower, getting strap on spikes for your shoes is an easy way to multitask. For riding lawn mowers, you can either purchase spikes for the wheels of your mower or get a tow behind aerator.

Types of Plug Aerators

Plug aerators typically only come as a tow behind option as they’re most often used for commercial lawns. If you have a riding mower, this won’t be a problem. This can pose a bit of a bigger problem for people who have small lawns and therefore only hand mowers.


You need to understand your lawn to make the best decision. If you have a lawn that gets a lot of foot traffic, go for a plug aerator. If you have a smaller lawn, simply using a spike aerator once every few weeks should be adequate to get a healthy, beautiful lawn.