Core Aerating vs Spike Aerating

By Brian Mounts | May 26, 2021
Core Aerating vs Spike Aerating

Do you ever feel that the rate at which your lawn is growing is slow compared to the fertilizer and water you apply to it? You’re not alone. It happens to the best of us.

Most times, soils are too compact that these nutrients cannot get to the roots of the grass. Aeration is a lawn practice that involves breaking the compactions in the soil. It creates adequate porosity in the soil so that air, water, and nutrients can move freely.

The two possible ways to achieve this is through core aeration and spike aeration. The debate between which of them is better is never-ending. As such, in this article, I’ll show you their differences and how to achieve them.

What Is Spike Aeration

Spike aeration is the easiest form of aeration. It involves driving spikes in and out of the soil to create holes. This can be achieved using a Spike Aerator.

Spike aerator is like a rotating drum with lots of spikes. It can be tractor-driven or pulled by hand. As the wheel rolls on the lawn, it pierces the soil, breaking compact lumps. This will enable the roots of your lawn to get access to nutrients and other essentials.

Alternatively, you can poke the soil with rakes or any farm implement with projected teeth. The goes are to break hard layers of the soil and leave it susceptible to water and plant nutrients.

What is Core Aeration

Core aeration is also known as plug aeration. It involves the creation of holes using a cylindrical machine with metallic projections, known as a core aerator. The projections of this machine are hollow and about three inches long.

The wheel can also be attached to a tractor and pulled across the lawn. Alternatively, it can be driven manually by hand. As the wheel moves on the lawn, the hollow projections take in the soil, which it releases on the surface of the lawn.

The process accounts for wider holes compared to what spike aeration offers. Besides this, the projections or plugs can take hold of dead leaves and debris buried inside the soil.

When to Spike

The teeth of spike aerators are quite short compared to those of the core aerators. As such, it can’t dig deep into the soil. It can only make holes and cannot plug out the soil. This makes it ideal for less compact lawns. Spike aerators improve the access of the roots for farming operations like overseeding and fertilization.

When to Core

Core aerators are best suited for lawns with highly compacted soil. It can burrow the soil well and prepare it for better roots growth. If your soil has dead leaves, then this may be the best option. The downside of this option is that the soil it uproots falls on your beautiful lawn.

It can be quite messy, but it’s very effective. If the uprooted plugs of soil are very compact, you can use a rake or mower to break them into bits.

Combining Core And Spike Aeration

It is becoming a common practice among professionals to combine both core aeration and spike aeration. Instead of using core aeration all through, they decipher which of the soils is best suited for any of these aerators.

If you wish to use them both, then look out for highly compact areas and plug them out. Spikes can work for areas that are somewhat water prone or quite porous.

What Are The Problems That Aeration Can Solve

Generally, there are three problems that aeration can solve. They include the following:

#1. Poor Drainage or Swampy Grass

Aeration helps to solve the problems of swampy lawns. Waterlogging is often as a result of compact soil that prevents moisture from going down into the earth. If your lawn gets pretty muddy or swampy when it rains, then you’ve got aerate the lawn.

#2. Dry and Soapy Grass

This is a phenomenon caused by dense thatch that prevents water from reaching the roots of the lawn. Eventually, the water either gets washed out or evaporated, making the grass suffer drought.

#3. Soil Compaction

This is obviously one of the key problems that soil aeration solves, as I have explained earlier. If your soil is giving you a tough time, try soil aeration.

When Should You Aerate Your Lawn?

One of the most common questions I get from lawn owners is how to know whether they should aerate their lawns or not. If you’re also uncertain, these tips will give you some clarity.

#1. Regular Use

If your lawn is like my mom’s, which has a playground with a lot of kids choosing it as the perfect spot to spend some cool time, then you should aerate it more often. Because it will be trampled upon more often, and the soil will get more compact.

More so, it will be less porous than its contemporaries, making it somewhat difficult for water to go through.

#2. New Constructed Lawn For A New Building

Building a new home often requires the presence of heavy-duty vehicles and machines for construction. The presence of these machines can make the soil highly compact.

The topsoil of new lawns gets stripped, exposing the mid-soil, which is often more compact. If your lawn fits into this category, then you’ve got to aerate it.

One of the most common questions from lawn owners is how to determine if they should be aerating their lawn. Your lawn is probably a good candidate for aeration if it:

#3. Soil With Thatch

Thatch is a loose layer of dead roots, stems, leaves, etc., with high porosity and an obvious poor water retention capacity. I know the goal of aeration is to make the soil more porous compared to its compact state, but a thatch soil is totally off the chart.

It cannot support healthy lawn growth. One of the effective ways to deal with this condition is to aerate the soil. By plugging the mid-soil, you’ll successfully get rid of the thatch.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

Aeration may be simple, but I know you don’t want to mess up your lawn while doing so. These are timeless steps on how to aerate your lawn:

  • The very first step is to ensure that the soil is moist. If you want to do this during summer or spring, you may as well water the lawn before you begin. Alternatively, you can aerate the lawn after a rainfall.
  • Most of the aerators, whether core or spike, don’t cover many areas for each movement. So you’ve got to move the machine as many times as possible across the lawn until the entire lawn is aerated.
  • If you’re using core aerators, allow the soil plugs to dry on the lawn, then use a mower to break them down into bits. Alternatively, you can use the back of a rake to break them down.
  • After aeration, you can carry out other lawn practices such as fertilizing and watering.


It’s fair to say that none of these is inferior to the other. Core aeration remains the best for highly compacted soil. However, spike aeration may do a great deal of justice if your lawn is not very hard or compacted.