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

A perfect lawn needs a bit of TLC. Read our comprehensive guide to lawn care and browse our pick of the very best aerators, from manual to electric.

A lush, green lawn is a source of pride and joy for many gardeners but it’s 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.

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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, leaving the plant susceptible to pests and diseases. Scarifying your lawn will help remove thatch and debris, but 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 reviewed 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.


Best lawn aerators to buy at a glance


Time to show your lawn some TLC? Check out our round up of the best lawn scarifiers and expert tips on how to improve your lawn in 12 weeks.

We’ve also tested a range of lawn mowers, including the best cordless lawn mowers, the best robotic lawn mowers and the best electric lawn mowers. For those with small lawns, our guide to 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 solid 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: the different 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 cheap, and 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. However, it’s important to note that these machines don’t aerate in the same way that a manual aerator does – they use metal blades rather than spikes or tines. These blades create shallow slits rather than deep holes, and although they will help to maintain a healthy lawn by allowing air and water to move through this top layer of soil, they won’t improve your lawn if it’s compacted or you have heavy clay. Mechanical aerators are quite an investment too, 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 they 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:

  • 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 cheap, and 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. However, it’s important to note that these machines don’t aerate in the same way that a manual aerator does – they use metal blades rather than spikes or tines. These blades create shallow slits rather than deep holes, and although they will help to maintain a healthy lawn by allowing air and water to move through this top layer of soil, they won’t improve your lawn if it’s compacted or you have heavy clay. Mechanical aerators are quite an investment too, 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 they require more space to store than the other alternatives.

How to choose the best lawn aerator

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

  • 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 blades and a collection box. You may also need to consider whether or not the handles collapse down if storage space is an issue.

Browse our review of the best lawn aerators below.


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

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Kent & Stowe Lawn Aerator 4 Prong

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Removes good whole soil plugs

Cons:

  • Needs strong treading to work 

Awarded a BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Best Buy for Manual Hollow Tined Aerating, 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.


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 for Manual Aerating, 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 aeration. Made from aluminium and plastic, it’s lightweight but feels substantial and features a T-bar grip as well as 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: 4.5 out of 5

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Powerbase 1400W Electric Lawn Rake and Scarifier

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 103dB
  • 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. The interchangeable drums are easy to attach and remove with the allen key provided, and feature spring tines for scarification and blades for shallow aeration, which are designed to help improve lawn health, rather than relieve compacted soil or open the structure of heavy clay. Featuring a dual start system for safety, folding handles for storage it has a working width of 32cm wide, along with four depth settings. The body is made from plastic, which feels sturdy, and it has a generous 40L collection bag. It comes with a 10m cable and is only £24.02 more than the Wolf Garten Multi-Change® Roller Moss Removal Rake that we tested, 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 scarifier

RRP: £139.99

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

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Vonhaus 1800W 2-in-1 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:

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

The Vonhaus 1800W 2-in-1 Scarifier is a sturdy machine, 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 with its 38cm working width, and two interchangeable drums: one with spring tines for scarification and the other with metal blades that create slits in the top layer of the ground to help improve the health of the lawn, as opposed to making deep holes to relieve compacted soil or open up the structure of heavy clay. It has folding handles for easy storage, a dual start system for safety, and a built-in thermal cut out if it overheats. There are five depth settings, ranging from -12mm, -9mm, -3mm and +6mm – although we found the lowest setting made the lawn look quite ravaged. At 60cm wide it’s one of the largest machines we tested, 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 1800W 2-in-1 Scarifier review


5

Stiga Essential SV 213E Electric Lawn Scarifier

RRP £139
Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

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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 91dB

Cons:

  • The 15m cable isn’t included
  • 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 with spring tines for scarification and the other with blades for shallow aeration, which is designed to help improve lawn health, rather than relieve compacted soil or open the structure of heavy clay. It also has a dual start safety system and can be adjusted to four depths, ranging from -6mm to +4mm, which is shallower than the 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 of £21.71. 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

RRP £229

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 

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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 is powered by a 36v, 4.8Ah battery. It takes 205 minutes to charge, but is easy to plug in and has a helpful charge indicator, although this is 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 – and it lasts 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. Powerful aerating blades cut through the top layer of soil well, to help improve lawn health, rather than relieve compacted soil or open the structure of heavy clay, and in doing so, also tackles most of the thatch and moss in the lawn. The scarifying drum attachment was effective on moss too, though not as efficient with 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 you can easily adjust the heights – +7.5 mm to -9.5 mm – to avoid this problem, and this automatic shutdown is also a great safety feature.


7

Cobra S3840V Cordless Scarifier

RRP £360.99

Our score: 4 out of 5

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Cobra S3840V Cordless Scarifier

Pros:

  • Comfortable to use
  • Very effective
  • Quick to charge

Cons: 

  • Scalps the lawn
  • Very poor instructions

The Cobra S3840V Cordless Scarifier handles well. It’s big, and the wheels are prone to being a little stiff, but it’s lightweight and has a soft-grip handle, which makes it comfortable to use. At 92dB, it’s relatively quiet, too. The 40V 5Ah battery charges quickly in just 90 minutes, and offers 40 minutes’ use. The machine itself is easy to use, and we loved being able to see the charge indicator through the transparent window. The aeration blades and spring tine scarifying drum can be set at 5 heights, which range from -10mm to +5mm. Unfortunately, the instructions are poor, so it takes a while to get this machine up and running. On the plus side, at 38cm wide, it covers a large area of lawn, reducing how long you spend on the job, but its size makes this scarifier very bulky and difficult to store.


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:

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  • 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.