Many land owners have searched for either a lawn aerator or lawn plugger based on what they have always called them, often without realizing that there is a difference. Pluggers and aerators are different to say the least, but each has its purpose in the lawn maintenance world.
A lawn plugger is defined simply as a machine that physically removes a small cylindrical piece of dirt from the lawn. The piece of dirt or “plug” that is removed is dissolved the next time it rains, and flows back into the hole as loose dirt, allowing the grass roots a soft place to grow into. This process helps fight compaction and allows the roots to breathe, making for a more beautiful greener grass.
A lawn aerator is a machine that opens holes in the ground by pushing a rod or spike into the dirt that simply cuts allowing air to reach the roots. Lawn pluggers also achieve aeration, but the key difference is how it is done. Lawn aerators do not remove a plug of dirt, and can actually make the compaction problem worse around the hole since the weight of the attachment pushes the dirt around the hole away from the spike.
Generally speaking either one of these machines can help your lawn out more than simply fertilizing and seeding every year, and will give you a better lawn overall.