Lawn Aerator Vs. Tiller – Lawn And Garden Tools Explained

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There’s nothing more rewarding than having a beautiful lawn and garden.  With so many tools, it’s hard to know which works better than the other and for which purpose.  Take the lawn aerator vs. tiller, for example. Learning each tool’s purpose and basics is essential if you’re comparing these two.

Lawn aerators only make small holes in the grass while tillers mulch up the entire top layer of soil, grass and all.  Aerators are a part of lawn maintenance.  Tillers shred and mix the earth, destroying most plants.

We’ll dive deeper into each tool below, so join me to determine the benefits each has for your garden and lawn maintenance.  Knowing when to use each will help you keep things looking great and stop a mistake in purchase or use.  Let’s dive in.

What A Lawn Aerator Is Used For

Lawn aerators work by poking or removing tiny holes or plugs into and from the turf.  The holes created pierce down a few inches and allow the soil to aerate and receive nutrients below the compaction layer.

The lawn aerator, employed to aerate the soil in a battle with soil compaction, works very well at aeration and allows nutrient delivery to occur.

Using the holes a lawn aerator creates, one may deliver fertilizer directly to the soil’s root layer. 

An aerator helps to preserve and strengthen an existing lawn.  It is an essential component of a strong lawn maintenance program.

What A Garden Tiller Is Used For

You’ve likely heard of people using a garden tiller on their lawn.  It might be the best tool for the job, but it depends upon what the goal is.  For example, if you’d like to shred your lawn and start a fresh new one, then a tiller is the right tool for the job.

A garden tiller is a tool, often powered, used for mulching up and shredding the top layer of soil where used.  If used on a lawn, a tiller will destroy any grass or weeds, or anything else, so one ought to operate with caution.

Garden tillers are often used in the spring and fall when a bed rejuvenation occurs.  That is, a finished crop bed, and the dead or dying leftovers are all that remain. 

Rather than remove the dead plants and send them away, a tiller can chew everything up and leave it in place. It makes the dead crop turn into chopped up compost, mixed into the soil.

Should I Aerate Or Till My Lawn?

Knowing when you should aerate or till the lawn is essential knowledge before you tear up your yard.

Aerate your lawn if you have an existing lawn you want to rejuvenate. Till your yard, if your lawn is full of weeds, and you want to start fresh.

  • Just remember to remove as many of the weeds as you can. 
  • Using a pickaxe first to break things up before using the tiller is useful as well.

Can I Use A Tiller To Aerate My Lawn?

A tiller is an excellent tool for chewing up the top layer of soil (or grass) in the lawn or garden.  Using a tiller to aerate is not advised.  It will damage the existing grass.

What Is The Best Aerator For Lawns?

For Smaller Properties

Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator (available on Amazon)

The Yard Butler is a great hand tool for doing a little core aerating.  I like this tool because it’s light, strong, and easy to use.
The depth the Yard Butler cores the lawn to about 3”.  It makes it a useful aerating tool for deep aeration and effectiveness.  Using this in smaller patches or areas utilizing a hand tool makes sense over a more massive machine.

For Large Properties

Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator (available on Amazon)

I like the Agri-Fab 48” Plug Aerator.  It’s a simple machine. You just hook up to the back of your lawn tractor and put some weight on it. Very simple to use and immensely useful.  You need the machine to tow it, though, like a four-wheeler or lawn tractor.  But, if you’ve got a big property, likely that won’t be an issue.

The Agri-Fab aerator is decent because with some weight on it, the knives plunge about 3” down, really driving home the value and effectiveness.

It’s a formidable machine too.  The tires are flat-free, and the 32 knives come from galvanized steel.  I’d put a coat of paint on mine, and it would last for what seems like forever, I bet.  Even without doing that, the manufacturer’s warranty is three years, so you know it’s a good product right from day one.

Do Aerator Shoes Work?

Photo 197722874 | © Irinaleto51 |

The concept of aeration is the creation of channels down into the soil. These channels allow for air and gas exchange.  The holes also allow liquid or other materials to find their way into the ground.

Aeration is a process in lawn maintenance used to compensate for soil compaction. Walking on the lawn causes soil compaction. This fact alone might seem a slight contradiction to the point of aeration to alleviate compaction, oh, but there’s more.

Aerating a lawn is accomplished in two different ways: forcing holes to be created via spikes or removing small core plugs. The effectiveness of creating holes via moving a tip into compacted soil is in itself another slight contradiction. Creating these holes by forcing a spike down into the ground completes its process by pushing and compacting the soil further around the hole. 

Creating a hole to alleviate compaction and compacting the soil further in the process seems a bit pointless, or am I missing something here about how physics works?  I think not.

Aerator shoes, therefore, have two distinct contradictions that may be liabilities towards their effectiveness.

A lawn aerating machine that removes plugs ought to find consideration as much more useful than aerator shoes ever could be.  Removing plugs does not compact surrounding soil like a spike and is, therefore, more effective.

That just about covers aeration for now.  What about tillers?  Let’s take a look at those next.

What Is The Best Tiller For Lawns?

Scotts Outdoor Power Tools Corded Tiller/Cultivator (available on Amazon)

I’m not the only one that likes Scott’s tools.  Here’s my choice for a tiller/cultivator. I usually don’t go for corded units, especially when it comes to hard work like a tiller, but this machine works well for a small area.

The tiller blades do quite the job on an 11″ Wide and 8″ deep maximum width and depth.  Just remember that at 13.5-Amp, this machine can pop a breaker on a typical house circuit, so make sure you take it easy and use a heavy-duty cord.

Does Tilling Cause More Weeds?

Tilling the lawn or garden is an excellent means of chewing up the top few inches of growth and soil. The last thing anybody wants when they’re redoing a lawn or garden bed is to have more weeds than they started. So, should tilling the lawn or garden cause more weeds?

Chilling a bed or lawn does not cause more weeds. However, if you don’t remove the weeds from the area, many are likely to return. Tilling the soil, choose up and disperses the top few inches of Earth. It includes any grass or weeds that may be living there. There is no guarantee that the tiller will kill weeds, but it will unearth them and chew them up.

Tillers are handy when appropriately used for chewing up and redistributing the soil in a highly compacted area. It is also highly effective in spring or fall when rejuvenating a bed before use or after.

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