Spike Vs Plug Aerator: Which One Works Best for You?

It’s that time of the year again, and you’re looking to aerate your beautiful lawn to prepare it for winter. Spike vs plug aerator! Which aerator should you go for? Both are effective means of aerating your lawn, but which one will work best for your conditions?

Spike aeration is more uniform and makes shallow holes in the soil that improve water flow into the ground. On the other hand, plug aeration uses plugs that dig cores out of the earth, leaving uniform cylindrical holes.

So when do you go for spike aeration, and when do you opt for plug aeration? Let’s take you through the method that will give you the best results and why.

Spike Vs Plug Aerator

We all know and appreciate the goal of lawn aeration: to improve air and water flow in the soil while relieving compaction caused by traffic. So what method do you go for? What do you consider when choosing an aeration method?

Spike aeration is a technique that involves poking small holes in your lawn using a shoe lawn aerator, a spading fork, or a roller spike aerator to improve drainage in the soil.

Plug aeration involves digging out soil cores using a core aerator to release the compacted soil and improve drainage and aeration.

Here are some comparisons between spike and plug aerators.

1.  Size of Lawn

Before settling on the aeration method, you need to know if it’s the best one for your lawn size.

Large lawns that receive a lot of traffic usually experience more compaction. Therefore, plug aeration is the best method to relieve the pressure.

On the other hand, small lawns that barely receive any traffic may not need to be plug aerated since the soil isn’t as compacted. In the latter case, spike aeration would work just as well by creating holes for water to seep to the grassroots.

Plug aeration is commonly used in sports fields, such as golf courses, tennis courts, and football training fields, where the traffic is usually high. This enables the grass to absorb water and nutrients better.

2.  Amount of traffic

As explained above, lawns that receive high traffic have a much higher level of compaction. Core aeration, also called plug aeration, is the best option to relieve the stress on your lawn.

Most sports facilities such as golf clubs opt for plug aeration as it creates a beautiful lawn once the grass heals from aeration.

3.  Results Desired

Spike vs plug aerators also vary in terms of the results they produce, depending on the aerator used.

Different types of lawn plug aerators can produce varying results on your lawn. For example, a gas-powered aerator will produce better results than a manual plug aerator.

The same is also true for spike aerators. You can opt for lawn aerator shoes, which produce tiny holes as you walk over your lawn.

You can also perform spike aeration using a pitchfork on a small lawn. Push the pitchfork about 3 inches into the ground, and tilt the handle back and forth to create holes in the ground. This loosens up the soil a bit.

4.  Budget

If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford a core aerator, then spike aeration is an inexpensive way to achieve aeration without needing a plug aerator.

If you want to improve the drainage on your lawn, you can use shoe spike aerators to do that.

Also read: Top-rated walk behind core aerators

Pros and Cons of Spike and Plug Aerators

Spike Aeration


  1. Works well for small lawns
  2. It is relatively cheap compared to plug aerators
  3. It is less messy (doesn’t leave plugs behind)


  1. It compacts the soil more at the point of entry
  2. It is less effective compared to plug aeration.
  3. Labor intensive and time-consuming.
core aeration vs spike aeration

Plug aeration


  1. It is a more permanent solution for aeration
  2. Reduces compaction on the soil
  3. Cores decompose and add value to the soil.
  4. It leaves a uniform lawn that is visually appealing in the long run
  5. Works well for high traffic areas and large lawns


  1. It is messy; plugs are left behind
  2. It can be expensive
  3. It can encourage weed growth if the holes aren’t sprayed.

Also read: Stand-on aerators reviews

FAQs About Spike Vs Plug Aerator

Do Spike Aerators Work?

Spike aerators work but aren’t recommended in most conditions. Spike aerators don’t create holes in the soil but further push down the surface soil to create space at the top.

If used in a high traffic lawn, it only increases the compaction of the ground and doesn’t yield good results.

However, spike aerators work well for small lawns that don’t experience traffic.

Which Aerator is Better: Spike or Plug?

It all boils down to your preference and your lawn conditions. For most people, spike aerators don’t produce the results they desire, so they opt for plug aerators.

There are different plug aerators depending on your budget.

1.   Gas-powered Plug Aerators

Just as the name suggests, this type of aerator relies on gas to run. It is shaped like a lawnmower, with tines that dig 3 inches into the soil. Gas-powered aerators are efficient since you don’t need to push the tines into the ground manually.

2.   Manual Core Aerators

These plug aerators require you to manually push the tines into the ground to make the cores. The upside of this aerator is that you can aerate specific parts of your lawn that aren’t performing well. For example, if you have patches where the grass isn’t doing well, you can selectively improve aeration in that one area.

3.   Tow-Behind Lawn Aerators

These aerators are majorly used in large fields. If you own a lawn tractor, this can be a great addition as you can easily hook it behind your tractor. Tow it to make the tines on your lawn. They’re quite pricey but efficient.

Maintaining a healthy lawn is a lot of work, but it is also rewarding. You may be watering, applying fertilizer, and weeding your lawn but not seeing the results.

The reason could be your lawn soil is compacted, and you need to aerate. Lawn experts suggest plug aeration as it provides the best results for when you need to topdress or replant your lawn.

However, if your conditions favor spike aeration, then go for it.

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