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Spike vs. Plug Aerator

Spike vs. Plug Aerator: Differences for Price, Uses, Material and Shape

Spike aerators have solid tines that penetrate the soil to make holes and loosen compacted soil without removing any soil. Plug aerators have hollow tines that penetrate the soil and pull out plugs or cores of soil and grass to loosen compacted soil. Spike aerators and plug aerators are different from each other in many ways. Firstly, spike aerators differ from plug aerators in their construction as spike aerators have solid tines while plug aerators have hollow tines. Next, they are different in their mode of operation as spike aerators loosen soil without removing soil and plug aerators remove cores of soil and grass to loosen compacted soil.

The difference between spike aerators and plug aerators is also due to their uses, as spike aerators are mostly used for smaller lawns, and plug aerators can be used for both smaller and larger lawns depending on whether they are manually operated or mechanically. This brings us to the next point of difference. Spike aerators are mostly operated manually, while plug aerators can be used manually as well as mechanically. The final difference between spike aerators and plug aerators lies in the results they produce, as spike aerators produce short-term results while plug aerators produce long-term results.

Edenapp discusses all these differences in detail and compares the prices, material, cost, effectiveness, ease of use, and popularity of spike aerators and plug aerators in this article.

What are the differences between Spike vs. Plug Aerators?

As stated above, there are many differences between two of the tools used for aeration – spike aerators and plug aerators, and Edenapp explains them in detail in this section. The main differences between spike aerators and plug aerators are as follows.

  1. Spike Aerator Differs from Plug Aerator in Construction: Spike aerators have solid tines that are made with stainless steel or other metal alloys like aluminum alloys. These tines look like spikes protruding out from the base and hence the name, spike aerators. On the other hand, plug aerators have hollow tines made of metal or reinforced metal for durability.
  2. Spike Aerator Differs from Plug Aerator in its Mode of Operation: Spike aerators loosen compacted soil by puncturing holes in the lawn. Plug aerators loosen compacted soil by penetrating the lawn with their hollow tines and removing the plugs of grass and soil that get stuck in the tines. The soil around the removed plugs is then broken down to reduce compaction.
  3. Spike Aerator Differs from Plug Aerator in its Type of Operation: The most commonly used spike operators like the spike aerator shoe attachment, wheeled walk-behind spike aerator, and the T-handle hand-and-foot spike aerator are manually operated. Most of the plug aerators are mechanically operated by attaching them to tractors like tow-behind plug aerators and drum plug aerators. A manual hand-and-foot type plug aerator is also available.
  4. Spike Aerator Differs from Plug Aerator in its Use: Since spike aerators are generally manually operated, they are used to aerate small lawn areas with mild compaction as it would be difficult to punch holes in a large lawn using spike aerator shoe attachments or a hand-and-foot spike aerator. Plug aerators can be used for both small and large yards. For small yards, a hand-and-foot manual plug aerator can be used, or a tow-behind plug aerator can be attached to a lawnmower.
  5. Spike Aerator Differs from Plug Aerator in the Results it Produces: Spike aerators produce short-term results in reducing soil compaction while plug aerators produce long-term results. When the solid tines of a spike aerator are pushed into the soil, they push the soil downwards and towards the sides. After some time, this soil will fill in the holes you have punctured, leading the soil to become compact again. Also, since the soil is pushed down, the core becomes even more compact in this process. Since plug aeration operates by removing soil plugs, it gives the remaining soil more room and thus produces long-term results.

Spike Aerator

Price Differences between Spike and Plug Aerators

The price of a spike aerator ranges from around $7 for a simple spike aerator shoe attachment to $200 for a 40-inch tow behind spike aerator attachment and $400 for a 36-inch drum spike aerator attachment for an ATV or UTV tractor. The Agri-Fab 45-0544 40-Inch Spike Aerator is a very popular and effective product that currently costs $199 on Amazon. On the other hand, the price of a plug aerator ranges from around $22 for a two-spike manual hand-and-foot plug aerator to $460 for a 40-inch tow plug aerator. A large 62-inch tractor attachment plug aerator with 88 coring plugs can cost around $2200, depending on the manufacturer. The Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator, which costs $399 on Amazon and the Brinly PA-40BH Tow-Behind Plug Aerator, 40-inch, which starts at $305 on Amazon are two popularly recommended plug aerators.

Use Differences between Spike and Plug Aerators

Spike aerators are used to reduce compaction in small lawn areas with mild compaction, while plug aerators are used for both small and large lawn areas. Spike aerators are mostly manually operated, and therefore, covering large areas is physically strenuous and very time-consuming. So, they are suitable for small areas. Plug aerators are generally used as mechanical attachments for lawn mowers and tractors, which are suitable for medium and large-sized lawns. For small lawns, manual hand-and-foot plug aerators can be used. 

Additionally, spike aerators are used to produce short-term results as their mode of operation does not allow the soil to remain loose for long periods. Since spike aerators do not remove any soil but just push them aside, the holes they create are temporary, and they get filled quickly. On the other side, plug aerators remove plugs of soil from the lawn, reducing the amount of soil. The remaining soil at the side of each plug is then broken down to fill these removed plugs, thus providing more room and improving breathability in the soil.

Material Differences between Spike and Plug Aerators

The most commonly used material to construct spike aerators is steel; this can be stainless steel, galvanized steel, or heat-treated steel. Other heavy-duty metal alloys are also used, and some spike aerator shoe attachments are made of PP material (polypropylene). Plug aerators also are most commonly constructed with heavy gauge steel, but polypropylene is not used in this type of aerator as it is not heavy enough to dig and remove plugs of soil.

Aerator

Shape Differences between Spike and Plug Aerators

The tines of spike and plug aerators are shaped differently. Spike aerators have solid tines or spikes that allow them to punch holes in compacted soil, while plug aerators have hollow tines that penetrate into the compacted soil to collect plugs of soil and grass and remove them. While the spikes of a spike aerator can be attached to shoes, hand-to-foot lawn aerators, drums, push aerators or metal frames, the spikes of plug aerators are generally only attached to metal frames along with the manual hand-to-foot lawn aerator. These attachment differences also produce different shapes, as, unlike spike aerators, plug aerators can never be in the shape of a shoe attachment.

Which one is easier to use, plug or spike aerator?

Spike aerators are easier to use than plug aerators as their operation is mostly manual. The spike aerator shoe attachments can be easily strapped onto shoes, and the push spike aerator requires no preparation and thus can simply be pushed like a lawn roller. Plug aerators are typically mechanical, and thus their assembly is a bit more complicated. They are larger and heavier and, therefore, generally need to be attached to tractors (for heavier attachments) or riding lawn mowers (for small-sized attachments).

Additionally, plug aerators need favorable conditions for effective operation; the lawn needs to be moist when you aerate it using a plug aerator, as the hollow spikes will not be able to remove plugs of dry soil. But, the soil should not be too saturated at the same time as this will cause the plugs to get stuck in the aerator. Since plug aerators remove plugs of grass from the lawn and cut some of their roots, they should be used during the growing season of grass (around early spring) as this will allow the grass to grow back fast.

When you’re using spike aerators, you don’t have to pay special attention to the season or to the conditions of the soil. Since spike aerators don’t affect the growth of grass, they can be used at any time of the year, and they produce the same results in both dry and moist soils.

Which one is more effective, plug or spike aerator?

A plug aerator provides more effective aeration than a spike aerator. Spike aerators punch holes in the soil without removing any soil, and this only serves to push the soil downwards and towards the sides when the spike of the aerator penetrates the soil. While this can relieve mild compaction, the soil at the sides fills these holes, and the soil becomes compact again over time. Also, when the spike pushes the soil downwards, it increases core compaction. This reduces the effectiveness of spike aeration.

Plug aerators penetrate the soil with hollow tines and then remove the soil and grass plugs that are collected in the hollow spikes. The soil surrounding the plugs that have just been removed is then broken down to fill in the bare plugs, loosening compaction. Thus plug aeration is more effective as it reduces the amount of soil in the lawn, providing more room for the remaining soil. The results produced by plug aeration last longer than those produced by spike aeration.

Which one is more popular, plug or spike aerator?

Both plug aerators and spike aerators are popular for their own reasons and use. The popularity of the aerators depends on various factors like the size of the lawns, the soil composition, the type of action preferred, and the type of results desired. For small-sized lawns with mild compaction, spike aerators are more popular as they are easier to use compared to plug aerators which are typically larger and have a mechanical operation. For larger lawns, plug aerators are more popular because they get the job done effectively and quickly. Aerating a large lawn with a spike aerator is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

Sandy soils are easier to aerate, and hence spike aerators are preferred for this, while clay soils require more heavy-duty aerators and hence plug aerators are more popular for use on clay soils. Some owners don’t like the hard action of plug aerators on their lawns; thus, spike aerators are more popular in this community as spike aerators don’t remove plugs of grass and cut some roots in their action. Other homeowners prefer the effectiveness of plug aeration and don’t mind the short-term impact on their lawns while aerating. Therefore, plug aerators are more popular in this community of homeowners. For more information on the best aerators in both categories, read Edenapp’s article on the same.

Which one is used by lawn services more, spike or plug aerator?

Most professional lawn services prefer using plug aerators over spike aerators. As mentioned above, plug aerators are more effective than spike aerators and produce long-term results. When soil is heavily compacted, it is essential to remove some of it to make more space, and this is what a plug aerator does. The remaining soil is then broken down to fill in the bare space, this loosening compaction. This type of aeration lasts for a long time and provides a more effective flow of air, water and nutrients due to the extra space that has been created.

Spike aerators do not remove any soil and simply push it to the sides and downwards. The holes created this way do not stay open for long and are filled in fairly quickly, thus making the soil compact again. Moreover, the spike aerator’s act of pushing down the soil only increases the core compaction of the soil. Due to these reasons, most professional landscapers do not prefer using spike aerators.

Lawn aeration is essential for a thick, healthy and lush lawn as it will ensure all the water and nutrients you supply to the soil can be accessed by the roots of your turfgrass. Edenapp provides aeration service with high-quality professional equipment that will give you the best results. To avail of this service, you can visit Edenapp’s website or contact us through phone or email. 

From selecting the right seasonal plants to installing an outdoor kitchen, our landscaping services can do it all for you. Contact us today for a stunning landscape!

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