Product evaluation: stepable lawn aerator

Put on your thinking caps, people, it's quiz time.

Study the picture below, then select the answer that best explains the little turd-like objects in the grass:

Lawn aeration plugs

a) Kate has acquired a dozen constipated Corgies which all became unconstipated at precisely the same time and in precisely the same place.
b) The dispute with the neighbor has become serious.
c) She’s been aerating the lawn.

Very good, the answer is c), and in the picture below, you can see and admire the tool with which this feat was accomplished.

It’s formal name is the Yard Butler® Home Lawn Aerator, and I got mine, of course, at Planet Natural.

Lawn aerator 2  

Having read all about the virtues of aeration while writing my big organic lawn care article, I’d decided I was actually going to try it, so when last summer’s heat was truly gone, I got it out and gave it a whirl.

web brochure: Home Lawn Aerator

The idea here, as the company’s photo illustrates, is that you step on the cross bar, forcing the two cylinders at its ends into the soil. Next time you step on the bar, the soil already in the cylinders is forced out by the new soil, and gets deposited as neat soil pellets. The holes aerate compacted soil, stimulating new grass growth; the charming dog-turd-like items disappear within a few weeks.

That’s the idea, anyway.

Last fall when I stepped on the bar, nothing happened, except that eventually it wiggled and I went over sideways. I managed to sink the thing a couple of times, but only by hopping up and down on the cross bar. Hopping mad describes my mood; I wanted that cross-bar to extend out at the sides, so there’d be something to jump onto. I gave the job up as a lost cause and put the aerator away.

When I told Eric (owner of Planet Natural) what had happened, he offered to take it back, but I am not called manic for nothing; I wanted to try again in spring, when the ground was wetter and softer. (As it happens, the instructions online say to water the ground thoroughly before using. Duh.)

Monday afternoon, as the most recent snowfall melted, I decided to give the old Yard Butler another try. And you know what? It worked beautifully. (There's nothing like following the directions.)

I weigh about as much as most seventh graders (okay, sixth graders) which makes more sense when you know that I'm shorter than most of them. The point here is that if I can sink this thing, it isn't hard to sink. And I'm not working at it; I'm just stepping onto it.

I did notice at one point that fresh pellets were emerging only from one side of the bar, but a little experimentation revealed that if I put a bit more weight (this is where my sons start to snicker and exchange remarks like "A bit more weight," and "Yeah, well that's all she's got!") on the stuck side, it came unstuck.

This wouldn't make a whole lot of sense on a large lawn, but since mine is approximately the size of a large beach towel, I think it'll be manageable. In fact, I'm pretty pleased. I'm not sure what it would cost to rent an aerator, but I am sure that it would be more than the $26.50 this cost me.

One note: don’t leave dirt in the cylinders when you put it away: it will harden to cement, and it will not budge. You can take a knife to it, and the blade will skitter across the surface, then chip. Then it will snap. You can try a shish-kabob spear, and it will bend. You can try a drill, or a jack hammer. And yes, eventually the dirt will give way (especially if you wet it), but your knife, your mood, and your afternoon will all be ruined. 

Also, if you're thinking of going out dressed like the woman in the brochure photo: lose the white shoes. They will never be the same.

10 Responses to Product evaluation: stepable lawn aerator

  1. Would it work for planting bulbs in the manner of an apple corer? Take out a core, pop in a bulb, put back half a core?
    Esther Montgomery
    (Please note – I’ve mothballed Esther in the Garden and am now blogging at
    Esther’s Boring Garden Blog
    instead. E.

  2. Kate: I just found your message on Blotanical…I don’t check very often but thank you and I will try to provide some RI pictures for you. Where did you vacation in RI as a child?

  3. Turds. That made me laugh and I am still giggling. I love it when other bloggers speak like I would. I have way too much lawn for that but have been really thinking I need to dethatch and aerate my lawn in the worst way. 1.5 acres of that tool would likely be then end of me.

  4. I fear not, Esther, save with Scilla or maybe snowdrops. If you managed to super-size the cylinders (perhaps some of the drugs whose spam comments I was trying to get rid of by activating capcha would work) then you’d have yourself a double-barrelled tulip planter.
    Layanne–Thanks so much for stopping by. As for the town–there you’ve got me. I shall have to go into a deep meditative state and try to recall a name—Cumberland! Cumberland, Rhode Island. My grandparents lived in the country near there, and at the time it was my definition of heaven: a perfect maple for climbing, a tree that looked like cotton candy, a stream, dogs, gardens—perfection. It’s the cotton candy tree I’m wondering about. What the heck could it have been?
    Heather–Happy to oblige. Now, a brief rant:
    1.5 acres of lawn? Just mowing it would be the end of me. I’m letting my stepables invade ours…

  5. Do you need to roll your lawn before or after you aerate? Lawn rolling is an obsession in my part of the world. 250 lb tanks of water rolled on the lawn to make it smooth. Yes they aerate, fertilize, de-thatch, water, and mow obsessively. I use worms, moles, chickens, and accept that I won’t be able to putt well on my lawn (can’t putt well anyway, so what’s the point.) If you have a compaction problem you are calcium deficient (or at least imbalanced). Proper chemistry solves everything (didn’t you learn anything in the 60’s?).

  6. Forget rolling, Alan. If I can get the thing aerated and seeded, I’ll be doing great.
    As for the calcium/compaction equation– I’m in the alkaline west, so it’s unlikely that I need calcium. Something to improve soil structure, yes, but I think I’ll try the coffee grounds (which are acidic) to attract worms approach that I just saw.
    As for the 60s–apparently I’m still experimenting. With coffee grounds.

  7. I’ve heard that smoking them is good. (That was the answerer I always got.) I forgot the soil difference, I’ll look into that.

  8. Alan–Yeah, well, back in the 60s, as I remember it, you could name almost anything, and someone would say that.
    Thanks for doing my research for me.

  9. So very helpful your individual ideas to me and my friends. That I have gained a lot coming from your amazing writings and therefore it is my best opportunity to talk about the excellent viewpoints with you.Wish all of us can easily get in touch much more by the mailbox and blogs.Thanks a air yeezy

  10. Pretty funny when you see someone using this method!

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