I have a small well used back yard, and the soil is very compact in the high traffic areas. The grass isn’t completely bare, but it’s getting there. I know I should be aerating by punching out plugs, but a rented machine is just too expensive and heavy for such a small yard. I tried purchasing a manual aerator, but I don’t know if it’s just the poor design of the tool or my lawn is so hard and compact that I can barely push the darn thing into the soil. Are there any other ways to aerate a lawn and loosen the soil? I heard applying builders sand can help, but if that’s the case, I’ll need a lot of sand because I’ve tried it once and the sand just disappeared with no real improvements. Any other suggestions out there?