Fall is fast approaching and that means your lawn is will soon be going into its long winter nap.  It also means that you will need to switch your lawn care routine. Dethatching, aerating, topdressing, overseeding and re-seeding are all important fall lawn care procedures that prepare your lawn for the winter. All of those maintenance routines are enhanced by one major procedure—aerating. Lawn aeration is the process of creating holes in the turf. Sometimes aerators pull out little plugs of soil, which allows a greater amount of air and water into the soil. Since aerating machines poke about a 100 holes per square meter, aerating creates many routes through which water and nutrients may reach the grass roots. These holes promote deeper root systems and reduce soil compaction. With the additional air, water, and nutrients that the aerating process opens up, your lawn grows thicker and is better able to crowd out weeds. Spring and fall are the best times to aerate your lawn. But some soils can benefit from aeration at other times as well. For instance, clay soils tend to compact easily and may need additional aeration. Because aerated lawn takes in more water and air, clay soil is softened and the grass roots can “breathe” and expand.


Aeration keeps grass healthy, opening passageways for air, water, and nutrients to travel to its routes.

Benefits of Aeration

  1. Loosens compacted soil.
  2. Creates better drainage.
  3. Decreases runoff.
  4. Reduce nutrient leaching.
  5. Moderates drought damage.
  6. Limits thatch development.
  7. Provides the means for air, water, and nutrients to reach grass roots.

Types of Aerating Machines

Aerators are not all alike. Some are pricey, some cheap. Some are heavy, some relatively light. Some work really well, others leave a lot to be desired. The general rule is that the better working aerators are larger, heavier, and pricier.  For smaller, cheaper, manual types, soak your lawn to soften the soil before using.

Hefty, Commercial Aerators

These are the best and the priciest. These are the kind of aerators that your lawn maintenance companies use. They are large, heavy, costly, and very effective. Many pull behind large tractor mowers. Others are gasoline-powered and self-propelled. Hiring a company to aerate your lawn a couple times a year will cost you less than buying the average priced, do-it-yourself variety aerator. And the company you hire cleans, stores, and does the maintenance on the machine. You can rent a self-propelled gas-powered core aerator for about CDN $15 to $25 an hour. Buying a power core aerator averages $175 to $350. Professional models range from $900 to $3,000 or more.

Some aerators have curved spikes, such as this one. Some dig out plugs of soil to aerate it. This one can be pulled behind a riding lawn mower.

Some aerators have curved spikes, such as this one. Some dig out plugs of soil as they aerate it. This one can be pulled behind a riding lawn mower.

Manual and Towable Spike and Plug Aerators

Some spike machines are sold for soils with minor to moderate compaction. They hook on to the back of your riding lawn mower.  They run CDN $100 to $300 depending on their size, and weigh from 25 to 80 kgs.

Push Spike Aerators

You can also opt for a manual push-type spike aerator. To increase the weight of this machine and therefore its effectiveness, a tray for mounting a concrete block sits above the spinning tines. The block is not included with the machine. About $70.

Hand Spike Aerators

Hand spikes look something pitch forks or rakes without any arch in their tines. Some people like using them to tend small patches. The hand variety will cost you about $25.

Notice the holes across the lawn that this hand aerator has made. A labor intensive aeration method.

Notice the holes across the lawn that this hand aerator has made. A labor intensive aeration method.

Shoe Aerators

More sandal-like contraptions than shoes, these platform aerators strap onto shoe soles.  Spikes about three inches long jut out from the bottom. The better ones have heavy-duty steel spikes. Shoe aerators probably work fairly well if you are a big, heavy person with a small patch of grass who wants to get some exercise. Rating reviews of this product are average to poor. They run about $20.

Liquid Aerators

A liquid spray, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate  is said to enhance the absorbing properties of soil. Some university studies have found no evidence of these properties but many companies sell it, which attests to its popularity. Without nutrients mixed into it, it runs about $25 for about a 3 to 4 liter container.

No doubt about it, aeration is one of the most important parts of lawn care. Hiring a lawn care company to aerate your lawn is the most affordable, most effective, and least strenuous way to aerate.  Whether you aerate yourself or hire it done, we urge you to make sure it gets done. Your lawn will be the better for it.