I think hand aerators are one of the most undervalued products in lawn care. They’re really cheap items to pick up and the one I’m going to recommend will probably last you forever. These can come in handy when you’re trying to aerate those hard-to-reach areas in your yard that a large aerator can’t get to. I use mine around patios and pavers.
Hand aerators are not going to be too useful in you want to aerate a huge lawn (although you could). They’re also great if you want to take a soil sample in your yard. Its way better to use one of these things than trying to go around your yard digging up holes.
After considering a several of the available products, I like the Yard Butler ID-6C Manual Lawn Coring Aerator (link to check the price on amazon). For me the construction is really nice and solid and it feels sturdy compared to others I’ve tried. Some of the other models out there have a tubular construction but this one is solid. I think this does matter because if you’ve got a lot of rocks and debris in your back yard, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got something robust.
The best thing about the yard butler is that it pulls really nice, long cores. The tines are around 4 inches long and its unbelievably satisfying to use! I definitely carried way to carried away with this thing and often used over large areas of my lawn. It’s easy to use – you use your foot to stamp on the middle of it which drives the two tines into the ground. You get a really nice crunching sound and two long plugs shoot up.
When you’re taking a soil sample, its best to use the lower inch of a plug to make sure you’re not picking up a sample with dog pee or something else on it. The yard butler allows you to get really deep into the ground so you can get some really nice samples to send off.