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Lawn aeration is one of the most significant strategies that you can use to improve the health of your lawn. If you have a large lawn and use a riding mower, you can save a lot of money in the long run by purchasing a pull-behind aerator instead of renting a dedicated unit.
But the question then becomes, which pull-behind model should you choose? I’ve done a ton of research on what’s available and here’s a rundown of the best offerings on the market.
Best pull behind aerators based on features, reliability, and performance:
- Agri-Fab 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator
- Brinly Tow-Behind Plug Aerator
- Agri-Fab Tow-Behind Plug Aerator, 40″
- Strongway Tow-Behind Plug Aerator
- Yard Tuff Plug Aerator
- Craftsman 40 Tow Plug Aerator
I’ve contrasted these models using categories like their width, the number of plugs that they have, whether they have pneumatic wheels, and how easy they are to use. Before we dig into those pull behind aerators though let’s make sure you understand a few basics…
What Is Lawn Aeration?
Over time, the soil in your lawn can become compacted. This is especially true when you have heavy amounts of clay in your soil like I do.
This is where aeration comes in handy. It ensures that you have a healthy lawn by allowing air to enter the ground and with it, more water, minerals, etc (source). All of these feed the roots of your grass, making it greener and stronger by easing the compression around roots caused by compaction.
Here’s how to determine whether your lawn needs aeration:
- If your lawn is used often, for playing purposes either for children or for pets, the continuous stomping can make the land too compact.
- If there’s been recent construction around your home — the construction equipment, people and materials can affect the grass and make it too compact and depleted.
- If the ground holds water too long after a rainfall. You may actually notice that water sits on the ground for extended periods.
You also need to aerate at the right time for it to work well. The best time to do this is around the time the grass is growing so that any holes can heal quickly. You can also do this early in the spring or late in the fall when it’s cooler. Of course, base this decision on whether your grass is better suited for the warm or the cool season and aerate accordingly.
Note: I prefer to do this very early spring, late fall, and even during the winter. I do this because I don’t want to cause stress to the grass when it is actively growing.
Plug Vs Spike Aerators – Know The Difference
There are different aeration tools. The two main ones are the plug and spike aerators. The spike aerator basically pokes the ground and leaves holes behind. The plug aerator, also commonly called a core aerator, digs into the soil and pulls out solid plugs (or cores).
While both work well for their intended purposes, it’s usually best to use a core aerator to reduce compaction of the soil. Just poking holes into the ground can cause the soil b to become more compact.
For a better understanding of this read Does Lawn Aeration Really Work? Side By Side Comparison.
You should start aerating by moistening the land. If it’s not watery enough, you might end up struggling more than you have to. I’ve found that using a liquid soil conditioner (often called liquid aeration) is very useful is moistening the soil in preparation for aeration.
If you’d like to learn more about this, read Does Liquid Soil Conditioner Work? The Easy Aeration Promise.
Your lawn may also need dethatching and while aeration can dislodge some thatch, a dedicated dethatching tool is usually best for this purpose.
How To Pick A Quality Pull Behind Aerator
There are several factors to consider when picking an aeration tool. One of the first ones is the size of your property. For larger properties, a wider pull behind aerator will result in fewer passes. But if you have a lot of tighter spaces, a smaller unit may make more sense.
Number of Core Aeration Spoons
The metal shaft that plunges into the soil is often called a spoon. The more of these your aerator has, the more cores it will remove on each pass. Wider pull behind aerators generally have more cores.
Max Core Depth
Remember that the goal of lawn aeration is to improve air and water penetration while encouraging deeper root growth. Because of this, the depth at which your aerator spoons are designed to dig will dictate the amount of soil that is removed.
Aeration cores should be around 3 inches deep, up to 0.75 in diameter, and these plugs should be up to 3 inches apart.
So, sorry, those novelty spike shoes that poke an inch into the ground are not penetrating deeply enough, not to mention the potential harm they are doing by compressing the soil instead of truly aerating it.
Pneumatic vs Flat-Free Tires
Traditional tires are pneumatic, meaning they are filled with air. They provide a soft experience but are prone to flats. Newer “flat-free” tires are made from solid polyurethane and, while they are more expensive, do not suffer from deflation. These generally cost more.
Comparing The Best Pull Behind Aerators
Here is a quick comparison of key features for the best pull behind core aerators on the market:
|Model||Width||Core Spoons||Max Core Depth||Tires|
Let’s have a look at these and really consider the features offered by each of the best pull behind core aerators.
Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator
Agri-Fab has made a name for themselves with reliable products and offers one of the widest pull behind aerators on the market. If you have a bigger yard, their 48-inch model is a solid choice.
Using it is easy. It has a load deck above the spoon wheel where you load some weights or cinder blocks so that the spoons can push into the ground. The knives on the spoons are self-sharpening and it includes a transport lever that allows you to disengage the aerator spoons when needed.
Click here to check latest pricing (link to Amazon)
The hitch also allows it to be attached to ATVs (you’d need to remove your ball hitch if you have one) in addition to lawnmowers. It comes unassembled, so you’ll have to spend a half-hour or so getting it set up but it’s built solid and should last you for many seasons. Agri-Fab has some excellent assembly videos on their website.
This model is 48 inches wide and has 32 spoons for pulling plugs, which means that it covers a wide area in a short time. It comes with flat-free tires and the loading deck can hold up to 175 lbs of weight.
Brinly PA-40BH Tow-Behind Plug Aerator
This aerator offers 40 inches of width and 24 aerating spoons that will go through your lawn easily and quickly. It’s best suited for estates and large open area lawns. The spoons are made of stainless steel, and they have been heat-treated to offer the best performance.
This tow-behind aerator is easy to attach to a tractor or a lawnmower, as well as an ATV. There’s a loading deck that can take around 150 pounds of weight, and this helps to drive the spoons into the ground. You can use blocks or any other weights. Because each of the plugs on the aerator is attached separately, they are easy to replace if one breaks without having to replace them all.
The Brinly model is easy to get over pathways or any other surfaces of your lawn. If you have any tight corners you may not be able to reach them so keep that in mind. The core plunge is 3 inches, and the design is very durable. This machine comes with flat-free tires and has a lever to disengage the spoons when transporting.
Agri-Fab Tow-Behind Plug Aerator, 40″
This is another aerator from Agri-Fab that comes with 24 plugs at 40 inches wide. It’s a popular aerator because it’s wide enough to cover larger areas but not too wide to allow for a little maneuvering. You can attach it to a small tractor, a lawnmower, or an ATV. It comes with 10-inch flat-free tires.
Check current pricing and read reviews (link to Amazon)
It requires some assembly but you can follow the instructions provided either by a video or a set of instructions that come in the package. The deck is made of steel, including the drawbar, and is designed to last.
Compared to Agri-Fabs 48 inch model, this one holds its own for someone needing the ease of pull behind aeration but working in tighter areas that don’t allow for a wider spread.
Strongway Tow-Behind Plug Aerator
This aerator is 48 inches wide with 32 core aeration spoons that dig into the ground at 2 and a half inches deep. It can take up to 140 lbs of weight in the tray above the deck to help push the aeration spoons into the soil.
This model does have pneumatic tires that are 10 inches in diameter.
Read reviews and check latest pricing (link to Amazon)
The body of the Strongway pull behind aerator is finished with a coat of powder which makes it look good and serves to prolong durability. The wheels is strong enough to hold the weight balanced while the lever is easy to reach. You can use it on any soil as long as there’s enough open space to allow for the width.
Yard Tuff Plug Aerator
The Yard Tuff aerator is 48 inches wide, and this allows it to cover wide areas without any issues. There are an astonishing 54 core aeration spoons on this device and it’s designed to plunge the spoons a full three inches deep.
The aeration spoons are easy to replace. Just like many of the examples mentioned, it’s made of steel for durability and finished with a powder coat that will protect it from the elements.
It uses the traditional pin-style hitch and includes a tension bar to disengage the spoons while transporting or storing.
Click here for more details (link to Amazon)
The 18″ X 50″ tray on this aerator can hold up to 200 lbs of weight, either block made of cinder or cement, sandbags, or even weighs of appropriate size. It’s a big product that will be perfect for more solid lawns, even if your concentration of clay is higher than normal. This aerator has pneumatic wheels and the manufacturer offers replacement spoons.
Craftsman 40 Tow Plug Aerator
Craftsman offers this pull behind aerator as a way to make any compact soil looser and healthier. It’s 40 inches wide and has 24 plugs that are made from galvanized steel. They cut into the ground at three inches deep, making the soil more open to absorbing nutrients, water, and air.
The tray on this aerator can hold up to 140 lbs of weight. The tires are flat-free, making them suited to run seamlessly over the lawn and other surfaces.
This aerator is made of steel and includes a drawbar. In general, it should be easy to handle and assemble.
Get current pricing and read reviews (link to Amazon)
Choosing the right pull behind aerator will depend on your needs. This includes the size of your yard and whether or not you have a lot of landscaping to maneuver around. For large, open areas, a wide base unit like the Agri-Fab 45-0299 can be the perfect solution. Smaller yards or lawns with lots of obstructions will be better served with a 40 inch model like the Brinly PA-40BH.
Make your decision based on your needs, not marketing hype. These are all quality pull behind aerators and each of them can serve your needs. What’s really important is that once you have this tool. you begin putting it to regular use improving the quality of your soil.
Be sure to look at my complete five-step strategy for improving clay soil and how aeration plays a critical role in this process.