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Scarifying Your Lawn: The Beginner’s Guide

Lawn Care Tips | Posted on March 5, 2019 at 11:58 am by

Scarifying your lawn is not about aerating the soil beneath your grass, it’s actually about removing organic material like moss and compacted grass growth so the new blades of grass can grow in more easily.

In this guide we’ll look at scarifying an old lawn, regular scarifying for a healthy lawn, and some other steps lawn owners can take to encourage healthy grass growth and re-growth.

What you need:

You can hire a lawn scarifier for a one-off job, but because this is something you should do to your lawn regularly for the best results, you might want to consider whether to buy a lawn scarifier or dethatcher so you can always have it on standby.

1. Rake the surface

A wire rake is the best tool to remove dry leaves and other surface debris, as well as any moss. Moss has a very shallow root layer so should just pull away on the tines of the rake.

For smaller areas you can do this by hand – wear gardening gloves to avoid blisters and consider talcum powder for extra comfort too.

You can get mechanical rakes for larger lawns (sometimes called ‘rakers’ to distinguish them from hand rakes) and some lawnmower manufacturers produce these as attachments for cylinder mowers.

2. Scarify the thatch

rotary scarifier on lawn

What is lawn thatch? If you look closely at an old lawn that has not been scarified in some time, you’ll find old blades of grass matted down against the earth, mixed in with other organic matter such as moss, clover, and other old weeds.

This eventually forms a barrier covering the earth and preventing new blades of grass from growing through so easily. In the worst cases it can prevent the lawn’s new growth completely, killing off the grass.

Scarifying is a mechanical process that cuts through this thatch and removes it, without removing the healthy grass – you need to be careful when scarifying a healthy lawn to avoid damage, but it is a process that is carried out regularly on the best-looking gardens.

A manual roller scarifier should give acceptable results on a domestic lawn, but you might want to consider an electric or petrol-powered garden de-thatcher with spring tines for larger areas. A garden detacher will also provide that little extra oomph when it comes to carving up compacted growth and lifting it away from the healthy lawn.

3. Aerate the soil

You can stop after de-thatching the grass or, for even better results, continue to aerate the soil by scarifying again with a longer blade setting.

The difference between the two processes depends on whether or not the blades make full contact with the ground – if you allow them to penetrate the earth, they will reduce compaction in the surface and introduce some fresh air into your lawn’s root structure.

It’s especially good to do this if you’re planning to sow new grass seed to thicken the lawn and make it look healthier, as scarified earth has a broken-up surface with furrows for the seed to bury itself into.

Top tips for scarifying a lawn

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when scarifying a lawn that should help to give you the best results:

Scarifying a lawn is easier the more often you do it, as the soil and thatch should be less densely compacted, but it naturally runs the risk of damaging healthy grass growth too, so find your balance and consider lightly raking more often than you fully scarify and aerate.

What to do next?

There are a few extra steps you can take to make a scarified lawn look even better:

Finally if your lawn is too uneven or your grass has already perished significantly, you might want to consider laying a new lawn using turf, and give your garden a fresh start.

With a freshly laid turf lawn you can make sure the ground is rolled out smooth and flat, and begin a regular schedule of gentle raking and scarifying to keep it looking great for years to come.