Seven of the best lawn aerators: manual grass spike rollers and electric lawn aerators

Aerator_Hero_2048_1365 (1)

A lush, green lawn is a source of pride and joy for many gardeners but it’s also often where all the action takes place in the garden. The focal point for gatherings with friends and family, it can suffer from overuse and too much wear and tear. Terrific turf needs a good lawn care regime to achieve it and while regular mowing and watering will take you so far, there are a couple of additional tasks for your to do list, which will help keep your lawn in tip-top condition.

Regardless of how often you cut your lawn, over time the soil underneath the turf becomes compacted, while above ground a thick, impenetrable layer of thatch and organic debris develops around the roots. This undesirable combination prevents air, water and nutrients from reaching deep down to the grass’ root system and ultimately weakens its growth and leaves the plant susceptible to pests and diseases. Scarifying your lawn will help remove thatch and debris, and if you need to relieve compacted soil underneath the turf, it’s best to aerate it. Aeration is the process of making air holes in the lawn to create ventilation. In small lawns a simple garden fork can be used, in either the spring or autumn, to push holes into the ground but you can also buy manual aerators, either solid or hollow tined, which require the same effort as a fork.

However, if you have a lot of lawn and not much time, other types of aerator are probably the best option. Whether you’re pushing a roller covered in spikes, or using a powered machine, these aerators are a labour-saving version of the trusty garden fork, mechanically making a series of holes in the lawn.

The best time to aerate the lawn is after rainfall, when the ground is damp and soft, otherwise it can be quite hard work. While it sounds very hands on, doing it once or twice a year will make a big difference and help keep your lawn healthy.

We researched the most popular aerators on the market, putting them through their paces to bring you a list of the best aerators, both manual and powered.

Each model has a detailed list of pros and cons for clarity and has been rated according to ease of use, handling, performance, and value for money. Each aerator has scored a minimum of four out of five stars, so you can buy with confidence.


Time to show your lawn some TLC? Check out our round up of the eight best lawn scarifiers and expert tips on how to improve your lawn in 12 weeks. We also have tested a range of lawn mowers, including twelve best cordless mowers, best lawn mowers to buy in 2021, eight of the best robotic lawn mowers and seven of the best electric corded lawn mowers under £200. For those with small lawns, our guide to the six of the best hand push mowers will be helpful.


Jump to:


What is a lawn aerator and what does it do?

Aerating your lawn is part of a spring and autumn lawn care regime and there are two different methods of aerating your lawn:

  • Spiking – this involves using spikes to create holes in the lawn, which are a couple of millimetres in width and several centimetres deep, to help relieve compacted soil.
  • Hollow tining – as it sounds, hollow tines are pushed into the ground to remove cylindrical plugs of turf, around a centimetre wide and a few centimetres deep. Depending on the soil type, you may wish to fill these holes with a sandy mix or leave them to let the soil expand and close the holes, which helps with waterlogged clay soil.

Types of lawn aerators: ways to aerate your lawn

There are four types of aerator, each with their own pros and cons:

  • Spike shoes – cheap and easy to use, they are most effective on soft – but not soggy – ground in small gardens.
  • Manual aerators – although these are useful tools, which can do specific jobs (see above), using them requires a lot of effort as it gets tiring, even on a small lawn – but they’re a great idea if you’re after a workout.
  • Manual Rolling Drum Aerators – these are time and labour saving, as you simply walk across the lawn pushing the roller
  • Mechanical Aerators – the obvious advantage of using these is that they’re labour saving. They’re quite an investment, as you’re using them twice a year at the most – even if they’re a 2-in-1 combination of aerator and scarifier – and will require more space to store than the other alternatives.

When it comes to choosing whether you go for an electric, cordless or petrol aerator, consider the pros and cons that are associated with each type:

  • Electric aerators: While quieter and lighter than petrol versions, the cord length can be restrictive and potentially hazardous. You will also need a power supply in the garden.
  • Petrol aerators: These tend to be for professional use and are often combined with a scarifier. While more powerful, petrol is always noisier, heavier and more messy than electric or corded machines, as well as needing regular maintenance to keep the engine in good working order.
  • Cordless aerators: These also tend to be 2in1 combined with a scarifier. While quieter, lighter and more environmentally friendly than petrol and electric versions, they will cost more, especially if you have to invest separately  in batteries and a charger. There is also the charge and run time to consider, but there’s no cable to worry about and they do enable you to reach all parts of the garden.

How to choose the best lawn aerator

Depending on the type of aerator you’re going to choose, there are several key features:

  • Manual hollow tine – look out for solid, strong tines to cope with compacted turf, with a decent tread so prevent your foot from slipping, and a soft-grip handle for comfort.
  • Manual Rolling drum – ideally you want a good number of metal spikes on the drum to create plenty of holes – as a guide, 27 spikes will give you about 180 spikes per square metre – and they should be at least 5cm long to ensure they penetrate the ground deeply enough.
  • Mechanical aerator – go for strong, good-sized tines and a collection box if it has hollow tines. You may also need to consider whether or not the handles collapse down if storage space is an issue.

Best lawn aerators to buy at a glance


Seven of the best lawn aerators to buy in 2021

1

Kent & Stowe Lawn Aerator 4 Prong

RRP: £36.99

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

Aerator_Kent_and_Stowe_2048_1365
Kent & Stowe Lawn Aerator 4 Prong

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Good soil plugs

Cons:

  • Needs strong treading to work 

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy, this simple aerator from Kent & Stowe works well. The smooth, FSC-grade ash handle is comfortable, lightweight and doesn’t rub, even after using it for a while. The handle runs into a single-riveted steel socket above wide steel treads, and these treads are great for striking and pushing into soil. However, the 9cm, stainless steel tines don’t go in smoothly every time, despite being pointed. Its best feature is that it produces good, solid plugs of soil that are great for breaking down and reusing as topsoil. 

Read the full Kent & Stowe Lawn Aerator 4 Prong review


2

Greenkey Rolling Lawn Manual Aerator

RRP: £45.99
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

Greenkey Manual Lawn Aerator
Greenkey Manual Lawn Aerator

Pros:

  • Adjustable height
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • Good for storage
  • Plastic caps to cover the spikes when not in use

Cons:

  • Needs assembling – though it’s straightforward
  • Hard work, so best suited to small gardens

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy, the Greenkey Rolling Lawn Aerator is basic but does the job well. Lightweight with sturdy spikes, it’s just the tool if your small lawn needs aerating and you don’t mind a bit of hard work. Made from aluminium and plastic, it’s lightweight but sturdy. It features a T-bar grip and an adjustable shaft. The drum is 30cm wide, which covers a lawn quickly and easily, and there are 30 x 4.5 cm spikes to ensure deep, even aeration. It comes with a two year warranty.

Read the full Greenkey Rolling Lawn Aerator review


3

Powerbase 1400W Electric Lawn Rake and Scarifier

RRP £89
Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

Pros:

  • Easy to manoeuvre
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Folding handles and removable collection box for storage
  • Dual start system for safety
  • Four depth settings

Cons:

  • Plastic collection box cover catches on handles
  • Noisy at 104dB
  • The collection box doesn’t pick up all the debris

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Budget Buy, the Powerbase 1400W Electric Lawn Rake and Scarifier is light, compact but fairly noisy, reaching 104dB. That said, it removes moss and thatch effectively, and features a dual start system for safety, folding handles for storage and has a working width of 32cm wide, and there are also four depth settings. Its body is made from plastic, which feels sturdy, although the cover on the collection box is flimsy and catches on the handle as you close it. Both of the interchangeable drums are easy to attach and remove with the allen key provided, and it has a generous 40L collection bag, however, it does miss some of the debris, which needs to be picked up with a mower or rake. It comes with a 10m cable and is only £30 more than the manual scarifier, so it’s a great, labour-saving alternative. It comes with a two-year warranty.

Read the full Powerbase 1400W electric Lawn Rake and Scarifier review


4

Vonhaus 1800W 2 in 1 lawn rake and scarifier

RRP £139.99

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

Aerator_Vonhaus_2in1_Scarifier_2048_1365 (1)
Vonhaus 1800W 2-in-1 Aerator and Scarifier

Pros:

  • Easy to manoeuvre
  • Lightweight
  • Folding handles and removable collection box for storage
  • Interchangeable drums are easy to remove and install
  • Dual start system for safety
  • Five depth settings

Cons:

  • The collection box doesn’t pick up all the debris
  • Noisy – 104dB

The Vonhaus 2-in-1 Electric Scarifier is a sturdy machine, made with a robust but lightweight plastic body, which weighs 16.1kg. Powered with a 1800W motor, it’s a little noisy at 104dB, but removes moss, thatch and other organic lawn debris very efficiently and has two interchangeable drums to switch between aerating and scarifying modes with a working width of 38cm. It also features folding handles for storage, a dual start system for safety, a built-in thermal cut out if it overheats and five depth settings, ranging from -12mm, -9mm, -3mm and +6mm – we found the lowest setting made the lawn look quite ravaged . One of the largest machines we tested, it’s 60cm wide, but is still easy to manoeuvre and comes with a 10m cable. The generously-sized 55L collection bag is moderately efficient, but misses some debris as there is a gap between the box and the blades. It has a two-year warranty.

Read the full Vonhaus 2-in-1 Electric Scarifier


5

Stiga Essential SV 213E Electric Lawn Scarifier

RRP £139
Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

Aerator_Stiga_2in1_2048_1365
Stiga Essential SV 213E Electric Lawn Scarifier

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Folding handles and removable collection box for storage
  • Interchangeable drums are easy to remove and install
  • Dual start system for safety
  • Four depth settings
  • Quiet at 94dB

Cons:

  • The 15m cable isn’t included
  • The collection box doesn’t pick up all the debris

The Stiga Essential SV 213E Electric Lawn Scarifier is light, compact and efficient when it comes to tackling moss and thatch in the lawn. It comes with two interchangeable drums, one each for scarification and aeration, a dual start safety system and can be adjusted to four depths, ranging from -6mm to +4mm, which is shallower than other models we tested. We found that the 40L collection bag left some debris behind and the 15m cable – the longest in the group we tested – is an additional cost. It’s compact and easy to fold the handles for storage, and comes with a two year warranty.

Read the full Stiga Essential SV 213E Electric Lawn Scarifier review


6

Stihl RLA 240 Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator

RRP £229

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 

2048-1365-gw-scarifiers-Stihl-RLA-240-Cordless-Lawn-Scarifier-&-Aerator
Stihl RLA 240 Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator

Pros:

  • Excellent safety features
  • Easy to use
  • Comfortable

Cons:

  • Struggles with inclines 

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy, this machine was quick to charge, taking 205 minutes, and thanks to its folding handles, it was easier to store than other models we tested. Its 36v, 4.8Ah battery was especially easy to plug in and use, and has a helpful charge indicator, although this was faint in daylight. The battery also has great safety features – it won’t work without a safety key, and there’s a lock on the powerbar for an effective dead-man switch. The battery will last long enough to cover a 250m2 lawn, about the size of a tennis court. Thanks to smooth, high-quality wheels, it feels lightweight and easy to manoeuvre, which is surprising given that it weighs  15kg. Its powerful aerator/scarifier blades cut through soil well, and tackled most of the thatch and moss in the lawn. The scarifying drum attachment was also effective on moss, though it was average on thatch. However, this machine struggles with inclines. If your lawn isn’t level, it catches on the soil and shuts itself off. Fortunately, this isn’t too much of a problem, because the heights of the scarifier –  +7.5 mm to -9.5 mm – can be easily controlled with a switch. This automatic shutdown is also a great safety feature. 

Read the full Stihl RLA 240 Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator review


7

Cobra S3840V Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator

RRP £360.99

Our score: 4 out of 5

2048-1364-gw-scarifiers-Cobra S3840V-Cordless-Lawn-Scarifier-&-Aerator
Cobra S3840V Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator

Pros:

  • Comfortable to use
  • Very effective
  • Quick to charge

Cons: 

  • Scalps the lawn
  • Very poor instructions

The Cobra S3840V Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator handles well. It’s big, and the wheels are a little stiff, but its handle is comfortable. At 92dB, it’s relatively quiet, too. Its 40V 5Ah battery charged quickly in just 90 minutes, and offered 40 minutes’ use. The machine itself is easy to use, with a comfortable, soft handle, and we loved being able to see the charge indicator through the transparent window. It scarifies very well, neatly cutting through the soil and getting most moss and thatch. However, the spring tine scarifying drum left a lot to be desired. It lifted moss and thatch, but it caught a lot of living grass, no matter which of the 5 heights from -10mm to +5mm you choose. The instructions were also poor, so it took a while to get this tool working. At 38cm wide, it covers a large area, but its size makes this scarifier very bulky and difficult to store. 

Read the full Cobra S3840V Cordless Lawn Scarifier and Aerator review


How we tested lawn aerators

To see how well lawn aerators perform, the GW reviews team tested a range of models across a range of garden situations – creating holes and furrows in different turf and ground conditions. Before we started, we checked for any wildlife in the grass and organic debris on the lawn surface. The lawn aerators were compared, and the following criteria used to calculate the scores, with equal weight given to each:

  • Set-up & storage: We looked at the assembly needed, ease and clarity of instructions, any storage features and, where relevant, the cable length.
  • Handling: We assessed ease of use, weight, noise levels, comfort and safety features.
  • Performance: Considered the strength of the blades, as well as how well they created holes and furrows in the lawn. For the 2-in-1 machines, we also evaluated how well the spring tines removed moss and thatch in the scarifying mode.
  • Value for money: We considered all of the above, plus quality and design, the RRP and the length of warranty.

Carts

Accessories

Flower Seeds

Composting

Choosing the right fruit trees for your climate
How to harvest herbs: How and when to harvest homegrown herbs
what weed is it? putting names to pesky plants
Georgia’s Farming and Gardening Sector: Top 10 Easiest Veggies to Grow [Infographic]
Cryptanthus Care Guide – Growing Earth Star Plants
Metal Garden Containers – Are Metal Planters Safe
Top 10 Cold Weather Vegetables
How To Prune Back Mums – Do You Prune Mums
Seven best wellington boots on test
10 of the best gardening gloves on test
10 of the best garden kneelers
Win a natural beauty bundle
How to Grow Fig Trees, Explained
8 Flowers to Grow in Your Vegetable Garden
American vs. Asian Ginseng: What’s the Difference?
8 Vegetables with More Than One Edible Part
Top 6 Struggles of Growing Herbs Indoors (w/ solutions)!!!??? // Garden Answer
Top 5 Beginner Tips For Apartment Gardeners Aja Dang Epic
How To Grow Tomatoes Indoors
How To Care For Indoor Plants + GREENIFY YOUR SPACE
How to Grow Vegetable Seedlings
Try it now | How to grow Bean Sprouts in the fastest and easiest
Try it now | How to grow Bean Sprouts in the fastest and easiest
Biggest & Thickest Buds on Cannabis using This Organic Hardener & Sugars
Biggest & Thickest Buds on Cannabis using This Organic Hardener & Sugars
MY SECRETS TO BIG MONEY PLANT (POTHOS) | MONEY PLANT CARE TIPS - COMPLETE GUIDE
MY SECRETS TO BIG MONEY PLANT (POTHOS) | MONEY PLANT CARE TIPS – COMPLETE GUIDE