One handy tool any gardener needs in their arsenal is a manual aerator. This tool helps to stimulate healthy growth on your lawn to turn it into a lush and green landscape. The process of aerating your lawn is commonly thought of as a popular solution for helping solve stunted lawn growth. This is true, but you should make a point to use a manual aerator on your lawn at least once a year to maintain your lawn’s health.
Once you decide you want to try aerating your lawn, you have the challenging project of picking out the correct manual aerator to help you complete the job. My top 10 picks will help you see what a quality product is, and you’ll be able to compare them all side-by-side. The informative buying guide will highlight everything you need to know about shopping for the best manual lawn aerators, and how to tailor the best manual lawn aerators to your needs.
Getting that picture-perfect lawn takes work, and one key area many people forget about is aeration with the best manual lawn aerators. This process helps loosen up the soil so water and air can get down to the grass’s roots to help them grow strong and green up your lawn.
1. Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator
The first manual aerator on my list is by Yard Butler, and you can pick from a spike aerator or core aerator when you purchase this product. When you use it, this aerator removes two ½-inch wide by 3 ½-inch wide plug lawn cores each time you put it down into your lawn. In turn, this can reduce the soil compaction while simultaneously dethatching your lawn. The core aerator or plug aerator allows for water, air, and lawn fertilizer to seep down into your lawn and get to the roots of the grass. It can reduce runoff while promoting turf growth, and this is why your lawn can get so lush and green. Core aeration is a highly effective method for lawn care.
This is a compact manual aerator that comes with a sturdy and stable foot bar that gives you excellent leverage to dig the tool down as far into your lawn as you possibly can. It works well to aerate smaller yards, and it can strengthen your grass’s resistance to heat stress and drought. It has a durable steel construction that won’t rust or corrode when you use it in humid or wet environments. It’s 37-inches long, and this can help reduce the strain on your back and body when you use the core aerators.
- Has a durable steel construction
- 37-inch height reduces back strain
- Punches two deep holes into the ground
- Can clog with certain soil
- May not pull full plugs out
- Difficult to clear out the cores
2. Bosmere Hollow Tine Lawn Aerator
This manual aerator by Bosmere features hollow tines that dig down into your lawn and pull out cores of grass and soil to allow nutrients to reach the grass’s roots. It works well for winter and fall aeration, and you can use it in conjunction with soil core injection. The tines themselves feature a welded design that gives them additional strength, and they get welded directly to the bottom bar to ensure they don’t accidentally come off. The bottom is 11-inches wide, and the entire thing stands 32-inches tall. This size allows you to aerate slightly bigger areas of your lawn without having to do a lot of bending.
The manual aerator has a steel construction that won’t bend, rust, or corrode over time. If you have problem areas in your lawn, this is a handy tool to have on hand, and it also works well for smaller lawns. The green powder-coated finish adds another layer of durability to this tool, and it’s very easy to store with the large handle between uses. It weighs in at just over 3 pounds, and this size makes it lightweight enough to easily take with you or carry around your yard.
- Tines get welded to the body
- Green powder-coated finish
- Has four aeration spikes on it
- Doesn’t work well in hard-packed dirt
- Top handle may not be large enough
- Can misalign and be difficult to use
3. Rolling Lawn Aerator
You can choose from green or silver with this manual aerator, and it’s excellent to use before you seed your lawn to encourage healthy growth. It has a host of 1.2-inch spikes that will push deep into the ground to loosen the soil and rush nutrients in. Since it rolls along, it makes it relatively easy to aerate small and large yards. The handle comes apart in three pieces of tubular steel, and this makes it very compact and easy to store between uses, even if you don’t have a lot of storage space. It’s easy to take apart and put together, and it uses a snap fastener to lock each section together.
There is a handy protective shield on this manual aerator will prevent grass plugs, dirt, and debris from flying up onto your legs, pants, or lawn aerator shoes as you use it. It also provides a safety buffer between the rolling spikes and your feet. The handle is 40.5-inches long that lets you use it without bending or twisting, and the width is 18-inches to maximize the area you aerate in one pass. There is a rubber handle on the top of the aerator that makes it comfortable to grab and hold as you use it.
- Aerates a wide swath of yard
- Has a safety splash guard
- Easy to put together and take apart
- Spike attachments can bend with too much pressure
- Slightly too lightweight
- Difficult to get the dirt off of the spikes
4. Agri-Fab Spike Aerator
This large manual aerator works two ways. You can drag it across your yard, or you can hook it up to your riding lawn mower and pull it across your lawn. The weight tray on the top of the aerator is 40-inches long, and it can support up to 100 pounds. The more weight you have on it, the deeper the spikes will penetrate into the soil of your lawn to help feed the plant roots and loosen up the soil. You get 10 galvanized steel spike disks when you order this product, and the steel spikes roll across your lawn to give you evenly aerated rows all over your yard when you use it.
The folding hitch makes storage very easy for this manual aerator, and it folds up to a relatively compact size that you can sit against your wall. It’s easy to assemble when you get it, and you’ll have it up and running in minutes. You do want to routinely clean out the spikes, but maintenance is very easy. It has durable wheels that support the aerator, and each product comes with a three-year limited warranty. This will protect you from damage or part failure due to routine use.
- Can support up to 100 pounds
- Has a 40-inch spread
- Spikes roll smoothly
- Challenging to put together
- Instructions are vague
- Weight limit can be too light
5. TONBUX Lawn Aerator Shoes
Before you water your lawn with your expandable hose, take a walk around with these manual aerator shoes. They come with 26 heavy-duty spikes in the bottom that are 2.2-inches long. They’re made out of a durable 30 mm metal that makes it easy to poke them deep into the soil to help your grass absorb nutrients. They have a durable zinc-alloy construction on the spikes and buckles that make them resistant to rust and corrosion, and they’ll also survive typical wear and tear season after season. The base of these sandals are a comfortable polypropylene that cushions your feet.
These manual aerators are a one-size-fits-all design, and there are four adjustable straps that allow you to get a safe and comfortable fit. There is a free small wrench included in each purchase that will help you put these lawn aerator shoes together, and you apply the buckles after you mount the spikes. This is a very cost-effective option for people who have small or medium yards. It can be too much for bigger areas unless you have a lot of time to walk around it.
- Comes with 26 heavy-duty spikes
- One size fits all
- Zinc alloy material
- Can be very time-consuming
- Takes time to get the spikes on
- May loosen as you walk around
6. Truly Holey Manual Aerator
This manual aerator won’t break or clog, and you can easily use it on any type of turf without worrying about having a problem. Your lawn has to breathe to be healthy, and thatch buildup can stop the air from flowing through. This aerator will dig down into the soil to help break it up and encourage air, fluid, and nutrient flow into the roots. It takes out two plugs of dirt at one time, and each soil core will be around the length of your index finger. However, you do have to be sure that you routinely clean out the cores so it continues to dig deep into the soil when you use it.
This manual aerator uses a very heavy-duty but lightweight steel that comes held to the highest quality control standards. It has a white powder coating that makes it highly visible on any surface, and it has a T-shaped handle that is easy to grip. You’ll use a natural stance when you aerate your lawn that is more comfortable on your body. You can use it at your home or business, and it’ll slip into tight areas without a problem. The thick foot bar gives you additional purchase on the tool when you push down.
- 38-inches high
- T-handle has a rubber grip
- Lifetime warranty on the welds
- Dirt plugs don’t eject automatically
- Doesn’t work well in heavy clay soils
- Tips can dull with extended use
7. Step ‘N Tilt Core Lawn Aerator
When you use a mower or weed wacker on your lawn, it creates thatches of dead grass. This manual aerator by Step ‘N Tilt features a very simple operation that makes it easy to tackle projects all over your yard. It has a patented aerator made in the United States to very strict quality control standards to ensure that it’s durable and will last season after season. It’s great for professional landscapers and DIYers. You need the soil moist to use it, and it has newly improved clog-resistant tines that make it quick and easy to use. You can sharpen these tines and replace them as needed without a problem.
People between four feet and 6.5-feet tall can use this manual aerator without bending or straining your body, and the aerator is small enough to fit in tight areas and corners of your yard to hit problem spaces. There is an optional soil core container that you can use, and it works well on all soil types ranging from clay soil to sandy soil. It comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and the company will refund the full purchase price within 30 days if you have a problem.
- Has larger tires for more stability
- Can store your soil cores
- Has a very simple tilt and step operation
- Tines can dull and clog
- Takes a longer time to clean
- Doesn’t work well for larger yards
8. Yard Tuff Drum Spike Aerator
This manual aerator has a 36-inch wide swath that allows you to work quickly and efficiently in yards of all sizes. There are 78 heavy-duty spikes that can easily penetrate up to 2.5-inches into the ground to aerate the soil. Since this is a heavy roller, it works to create a consistent and level lawn that gives the same levels of aeration for a lush and green grass. It uses heavy-duty steel that is reliable and durable, and it resists rust and corrosion. You can pull it behind a UTV, ATV, or a lawn tractor using the pin-style hitch that creates a secure hold that won’t break.
It weighs 299 pounds, so this manual aerator is on the heavier side, and it has a capacity of 24 gallons. This bigger size lets you tackle large projects or bumpy soil. It works best in loose and sandy soil, and the manufacturer recommends you use this aerator with a 14HP or higher tractor. When you purchase this tool, you’ll get a one-year manufacturers warranty that covers any parts. If it should break down, all you have to do is contact the company for a refund.
- Gives heavy and even coverage
- Can hook to a variety of lawn tools
- 78 spikes
- Very difficult to move with a full drum
- Connector can come loose
- Spikes can bend relatively easy
9. Corona YardBREATHER
The Corona YardBREAHTER manual aerator will penetrate and break up the grass to allow nutrients to flow to your grass roots. It comes designed to automatically pull out 3.5-inch soil plugs each time you put in down into the lawn, and you can space these punches a few inches apart to maximize the nutrients and air your lawn gets. It has a lightweight design that makes it easy to carry around your yard and from project to project, and the soil plugs will come out to help prevent clogging. The heat-treated steel footplate has small ridges to help it grip onto your lawn aerator shoes so you don’t accidentally slip off when you use it.
There are ComfortGEL grips on this manual aerator that allow you precision control and stability when you use it. The T-shaped handle reduces the strain on your body and helps you balance when you step on the aerator to push down. It has a grey and red design that stands out against any turf to make it easy to see, and you can get right up against your walkway edging to keep your grass green and lush.
- Bright red accents are easy to see
- Automatically ejects the soil plugs
- ComfortGEL grips on the handle
- Doesn’t work well on wet ground
- Have to clean it a lot when you use it
- Tines aren’t very sharp
10. Greensen Lawn Aerator
The final manual aerator on the list comes from Greensen. It has tine spikes that easily loosen up packed soil as you pull it over the ground. It uses premium galvanized steel in the construction to increase the durability factor while making it resistant to breaking down, rust, and corrosion when you use it in wet or humid environments. They resist wear, and they won’t dull with repeated use. There are two slightly larger wheels on the side of this aerator that will allow it to easily navigate over any types of soil or turf without getting stuck or straining your body.
It has a 44.3-inch long handle that ensures you don’t have to bend too much when you pull it. It’s a very lightweight and portable design that is easy to maneuver in wide open spaces and tight areas. It’s easy to store, easy to assemble, and easy to clean. The handle has a rubber grip on the end that makes it comfortable to use it for extended periods.
- Galvanized steel tines
- 44.3-inch long handle
- Rubberized grip is comfortable
- Wheels can wear out
- Small screw holds it together
- Handle makes it awkward to store
Manual Aerator Buyer’s Guide
Many people forget to aerate their lawn if they start to have problems with stunted growth or dead areas, but having a manual aerator on hand allows you to perform this chore once or twice a year. There are so many different brands and types of manual aerators out there that it can make it challenging to find out which one will work best for your needs. Read on to get the highlights on this product so you can make informed decisions when you start shopping.
Manual aerators work best on small problem areas in larger yards or on entire smaller yards. This can be a very labor-intensive project, so make sure you have the correct sized aerator to help you work through it without taking days.
When to Use a Manual Lawn Aerator
There are several indicators that you should use a manual lawn aerator to bring your lawn back to a healthy state. You may notice one or several of the following problems if you need to aerate your lawn.
- Dry – If your grass dries out very easily or has a slightly springy feel, you may have thatch buildup of more than ½-inch. Your rainwater may stand on the surface of the grass or not green it up even if you soak it. To find out if you have thatch or not, take a shovel and take a chunk of earth out down to five inches deep. If you see more than ½-inch of thatch, it’s time to aerate.
- New Lawn/Home – If your grass was put in when you constructed your new home, it could have extreme compaction on the lawn area. For example, large machinery and several building crews could have walked or drove across it. It’s a good idea to aerate the lawn if you have a new home and lawn.
- Heavy Use – Do you have kids or pets that use your lawn heavily? The more you use it, the more compact your soil will get with the traffic. If you have gatherings often, children, or pets, there is a good chance that your soil is too compact to support your lawn’s health.
- Layers – Maybe your lawn was built with sod but it has several layers of soil built up. If you lay sod down on soil that’s already there, the soil density gets thrown off. The existing soil is much rougher while the sod is fine. Aeration will blend both soil types together, and this encourages your lawn to establish healthy roots.
Brown spots or weak areas in your lawn are hallmark signs that it’s not getting all of the nutrients it needs. Aeration can help take care of this problem to give you an even and healthy lawn.
The Best Time to Aerate Your Lawn
The goal of manual aeration is to aerate your lawn in the period that your grass grows the fastest. If you do, this encourages the roots to reestablish themselves in the new soil and grow lush and green by absorbing as many nutrients as possible. The time you aerate will depend on the type of grass you have. If you have a yard full of cool-season grass, you’ll aerate at the start of the warm spring weather. For warm-season grasses, you’ll hold off an aerate later in the spring when summer just starts.
You should make a point to aerate your lawn once a year with your manual aerator. It should be around the same time each year if possible, and you really want to focus on any problem areas you noticed and give them more attention. If your lawn sees constant heavy usage, you may want to aerate every six months. For example, a lot of golf courses around the United States go through the aeration process three to five times a year to combat the usage.
What Happens After Aeration
Your lawn will look a little funny after you aerate it even with the best manual lawn aerators. You will see small and large soil plugs scattered around your yard. This is really common when you first finish aerating, but the plugs will break down and return to your lawn after a few weeks. After a week, take a look in a few holes you punched in the lawn. By this time, you should be able to see white roots poking through. This means your grass is getting good air and water. The water retention of your soil should increase after each aeration session. This is why your lawn gets fuller and greener as time goes on. If you have a koi pond, this water will add extra nutrients to your lawn.
Once you get in the habit of routinely aerating your lawn once or twice a year, you should notice that it’s looking fuller and greener each season.
The best manual lawn aerators allow you to get in tight spaces and in areas where you can’t get your bulkier garden tools. They’re excellent to have on-hand to help take care of dead or struggling patches of grass, and I’ve showcased several nice options for the best manual lawn aerators you can compare. The buying guide to the best manual lawn aerators outlined why you should aerate and when you should aerate, and you can take it to help you improve your lawn’s health.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.