Can You Pull an Aerator With a Zero Turn Mower?

When planting season arrives in early spring or early fall, it’s the best time to aerate the lawn and get some oxygen mixed into the topsoil. If you have a zero turn mower and you’re wondering if you can attach your lawn aerator to it, you can rest assured knowing that it will do the job.

The numerous residential and commercial models will vary, but most come with a hitch or bracket that allows attachments to be connected. These are meant to be your main mower, and the manufacturers want them to be as adaptable as garden tractors and other riding mowers.

Why Should I Aerate?

Core or plug aerators have hollow tines, or spikes, that penetrate the ground and pull out cores, or plugs, of soil to loosen up the ground, which primarily prevents compaction. Compacted soil is difficult for grass to grow in since roots have a harder time establishing themselves. A well-aerated lawn supports good growth in several ways:

  • Improving water penetration
  • Increasing oxygen content
  • Stimulating root growth

Core aeration does all of this with minimal disruption to the existing lawn, which is why it may be a preferable option over tilling. When you till the lawn, it tears up the topsoil and any existing plants and roots growing in it, which is great when you want a fresh start to the yard. Aeration, on the other hand, leaves the lawn system intact while reaching down, usually between 1.5 and 3 inches, into the root zone of the topsoil.

Opening up the ground to air and moisture is also a great time to add amendments to the soil. Adding compost and topsoil will help build the soil quantity, and fertilizers, sand, clay, or pH adjusting materials will add qualities to your soil profile that match the needs of your grass.

How Does A Core Aerator Attach To A Zero Turn Mower?

A core aerator that you pull behind a tractor or mower is usually a manual attachment of a ball hitch, a pin hitch, or a bracket. Based on an assessment of your model of mower and plug aerator, the attachment’s manual should provide directions on how to hook it up.

Adding Weight To Your Pull Aerator

Agri-Fab 45-0518 40" Tow Plug Aerator,black

While some electric aerator attachments have a power pressurizing mechanism, manual pull aerators need to be weighed down to give it the extra pressure to dig into the ground. It’s best to aerate on moist soil so that the tines can enter the soil more easily.

Some pull aerators come with a flat top with edging that will keep your weights on the unit. Cinderblocks, pavers, and sand bags are all options to add weight to the aerator. Certain models come with attachments that can be weight adjusted for the hardness of the ground. Sometimes 100 lbs or more is needed to work the tines to the soil.

Using An Aerator With Your Zero Turn Mower

Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator,Orange & Black,Large

Pull aerators have a manual lever to lift and lower the tine axel, which should only be done over soil, never over concrete. If you lower them over the sidewalk, street, or driveway, it can damage both the tines and the hardtop ground.

Using a zero turn mower with your aerator gives certain advantages, especially in maneuverability. While it’s still easiest to do long passes with wide turns to not overlap areas too much, a zero turn mower will help you make tighter turns to get around trees and through oddly shaped sections of your yard. A zero turn mower also tends to pick up speed a bit faster, which can help large yards get covered in a little less time.

What Should I Do With Soil Plugs?

A core aerator will leave behind cylindrical plugs, or cores, taken from the ground. Some people like to leave these in place so that the topsoil doesn’t lose quantity and depth, but others may prefer to clean them up. If you do remove them, keep them! They are valuable to your lawn and can be re-added later on after you break them up.

Using a dethatcher can break up the plugs where they land without waiting for rain to break them down and re-incorporate them into the ground.