Lawn pluggers and spikers are both tools that can help alleviate the problem of soil compaction. Soil compaction makes it difficult for oxygen to reach the roots of a lawn and can deter the circulation of moisture and nutrients in the surrounding soil. A plugger, also known as a core aerator, removes plugs or sections of earth from the ground; a spiker pokes holes in the ground.
The process of penetrating the soil for the purpose of increasing airflow is known as aeration. Aerating with a lawn plugger or lawn spiker is an effective lawn care practice in addition to applying organic materials to the lawn, such as manure or compost.
Lawn spikers and lawn pluggers are both available in several forms. A lawn spiker typically consists of a rotating drum covered in metal spikes or prongs. Some spikers have handles so they can be pushed manually; others are attached to lawn tractors. There are some lawn spiker tools that you can wear, such as aerator shoes and aerator sandals, which have spikes protruding from their bottoms -- to use such spikers, you simply put them on and walk around your lawn, ideally forming uniform lines. Lawn pluggers also are drum-shaped, but have tubes rather than spikes. They pull small, cylindrical bits of soil, or "plugs," out of the lawn and deposit the plugs on the surface to decompose naturally. Pluggers are most typically available as tractor attachments or as engine-driven push models. Some pluggers are manually operated. Although tractor and mechanical pluggers can create multiple plugs with each pass, manual pluggers can only a few plugs at a time.
According to Agri-Fab, most pluggers pull up plugs that are up to 3 inches long and a half inch in diameter. In contrast, the diameters of lawn spiker holes or punctures are considerably smaller and the depths of the holes depend on the lengths of the spikes.
When you utilise a lawn spiker, there is no guarantee that aeration will occur. Because the spikes simply stab or penetrate the soil, soil particles are prone to collapsing into the small, narrow cavities rather quickly. In contrast, a lawn plugger creates relatively stable holes that allow for long-lasting exposure to the air. The larger openings associated with using lawn pluggers also allows for the soil to more readily obtain nutrients and water.
As All About Lawns notes, lawn spikers are best used on small lawns or localised areas of compacted lawn. In contrast, lawn pluggers are better-suited for larger lawns and for more widespread compaction problems.