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How to Scarify a Lawn

Date posted: 11 December 2014

Lawns that are prone to a build up of thatch require scarification from time to time.

Some grasses produce more thatch than others – and in fact many 'luxury' lawns that do not contain any rye grass are the worst culprits, and will need scarifying.

If you are looking for hard-wearing 'utility' grass that doesn't produce much thatch, and therefore requires a little less maintenance, consider rye grass. If you have chosen or inherited a different type of lawn that does produce thatch, however, read on for some tips about how to scarify for the best results!

What is scarification?

Scarifying is the process of removing thatch or 'undergrowth' from your lawn, giving it more space to grow over any patchy areas. You can scarify using a hand rake dragged across the lawn's surface rigorously, but this is extremely hard work unless you have a very tiny lawn. The better alternative is to borrow, buy or hire a petrol powered scarifier.

When to scarify

If you do not scarify in the right weather conditions you risk causing more harm than good to your lawn. Never scarify in hot or frosty weather because the grass will struggle to recover. Scarify during growing periods – either in late spring (mid-April onwards) if you are only carrying out light de-thatching, or in the autumn (September time) if you need to undertake heavier scarification for more serious thatch or moss problems.

Most lawns will need to be scarified every 1-3 years. It depends on the amount of thatch it produces and the severity of any moss infestations. Over time you will build up a good idea of how frequently your lawn needs scarifying and this will enable you to plan ahead.

Before scarifying

To achieve the best outcome, scarify over short grass that is as weed-free as possible.

If it is suffering from a moss infestation, treat this first – preferably a few weeks before scarification. The moss will be killed off and easier to remove through the scarification process, while at the same time preventing live spores from being spread – helping to limit future moss infestations.

This is also a good time to feed your lawn and then mow regularly to bring the grass height lower gradually over a week or two. Then mow it as short as possible (without scalping) the day before you are planning to scarify.

How to scarify

With a specially designed powered (e.g. electric) lawn scarifier you will simply need to walk along while the machine does all the hard work for you – passing it over the surface as recommended in the manufacturer's instructions. If on the other hand you are trying to scarify using only a garden rake, make sure you are equipped with work gloves to protect your hands from blisters and then rake repeatedly using moderate pressure, lifting out all the dead moss and thatch.

What to expect afterwards

Your lawn is likely to look a little worse for wear for a short period after scarification. As long as you carried out the job in appropriate weather / growing conditions, however, it should start to bounce back after a few weeks. Longer term it should end up thicker and healthier than it was beforehand. You can boost your lawn's recovery after scarification by giving it a water afterwards if you don't experience any rain showers, and over seeding areas that are a bit bare.

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