How to scarify and fertilise your lawn
Scarifying and fertilising your lawn is an important part of the upkeep of your garden. If done correctly, you can feast your eyes on an lush and healthy lawn throughout the whole year. But if you don’t take proper care of your lawn, moss and dry patches may replace your once green grass. That is something you most definitely want to avoid. That’s why we want to help you with our tips tricks on fertilising and scarifying your lawn.
Why should I scarify my lawn?
Before we answer the how to scarify a lawn, let’s take a step back and FOCUS on the why. In almost every lawn, a layer of thatch begins to form from dead grass-stalks. Moss may start to grow on top of the thatch layer. Grass needs sufficient air, light and water to grow. An overly thick thatch and moss layer retains most of the needed nutrients and stops them from reaching the grass’ roots. This causes the grass to die and causes brown patches. To prevent this from happening, you need to scarify your lawn. Scarifying removes the thatch and moss layer. Afterwards, you can easily rake the remnants away.
When should I scarify and fertilise my lawn?
The best moment to scarify is after a rain shower, when your lawn is wet. Has it been dry for a while? In that case, it is best to spray your lawn thoroughly. The ideal months to scarify are April and May. Does your lawn get plenty of sunlight throughout the whole year or is it growing on sandy soil? Then it suffices to scarify it once a year. Is your garden shadowy and on clay or peat soil? Then you might have more moss in your lawn, as it flourishes under those conditions. You will need to scarify and fertilise it a second time, preferably in October. This will help your lawn survive a cold and wet winter, without getting damaged.
How to scarify correctly
There are two ways to scarify your lawn:
- By hand: this method is only suitable for very small lawn patches. You will need to move over your lawn on hands and knees and cut through the thatch layer with a knife. You can also use a designated scarifying rake, so you can work more ergonomically. But it still remains a time and energy consuming method.
- With a lawn scarifier: this is the most efficient method. The scarifier does all the work for you, cutting through the thatch and moss layer effortlessly. The only thing you need to do, is to set the right cutting depth and push it over yourlawn, just like a lawn mower.
The best way to move is in two directions: first in the length and after that in the width. To make the task as easy as possible, we recommend walking in straight lines. Because you cross every spot twice, the moss and thatch will be loosened perfectly. The only thing left to do, is to rake everything together and remove it from your garden. We recommend raking in two directions as well. This ensures the best results.
Pamper your lawn after scarifying
Have you scarified your lawn thoroughly? Then it may not be the prettiest sight, with a lot of bare spots. This can be resolved by sowing new seeds or replace the bare patches with a new turf. Because your lawn needs to recover, you should fertilise it lightly. The fertiliser should be distributed evenly. This is also an ideal moment to check if your lawn gets plenty of sunlight. Is it still a breeding ground for moss, despite getting more than enough sun? Then you should measure its pH value. If it is too high, you can easily resolve that issue by adding calcium or iron sulphate to your soil.
Do you want to scarify and fertilise your lawn properly? Download our cheat sheet. Your lawn will be as lush as never before.
How to Scarify a Lawn With a Machine or Hand Tool
What does matter though, is that you understand when you should scarify. Do it either in the spring (April/May) or autumn (September). If it’s not one of these three months you need to wait as conditions won’t be right for recovery.
With that out of the way, let’s get to it.
Preparing Your Lawn For Scarification
Whether you’re scarifying to restore or repair your lawn, or simply as part of your annual lawn care regime, you need to prepare.
You need dry, short grass for scarifying.
So, a week or two beforehand, cut the grass and gradually lower the height of the mower to bring the grass down.
The day before scarifying, mow as close as you can without scalping the lawn.
It’s a good idea to mow the grass short for 3 reasons;
- Scarifying through long grass creates more resistance and you do the grass a lot of damage.
- You’ll ultimately have more mess to clean up, and
- Short grass allows air into the turf which dries the grass.
How to Scarify a Lawn, Step-by-Step
Whether you use a handheld scarifier or a powered machine, the best advice is to go gently.
The best advice is to go gently and cause as little damage as possible.
De-thatching blades will be much harder on your lawn than the wire tines of a rake but either way, gentler you are, the quicker it’ll recover.
The First Pass
If you’re using a powered machine, start off by setting it to its highest setting and scarify in exactly the same way as you’d mow the grass. Go up and down until you have scarified the whole area.
If you’re using a springbok rake or hand scarifier then again, go up and down the lawn, gently teasing out the thatch.
When you have done, gather up all of the debris with a rake, garden vac. or rotary mower.
The Second Pass
Depending on how much material you removed on the first pass, you might choose to lower the scarifier by a setting. The deeper thatch or moss will have been made a little looser from the first pass and so it should come out that bit easier.
If you’re using a rake or hand sacrifier, go a little deeper.
Do the second pass at a 45-degree angle from the first pass so you go diagonally across the lawn.
Once you’ve made your second pass, collect the debris.
If you’re raking in the spring two passes should be enough. However, if you’re removing a lot of thatch or moss in the autumn, you might want to lower the setting and go over the lawn three, even four times.
The Last Pass
On your last pass with the scarifier, use the blades to cut into the soil about a quarter of an inch deep. This will make the perfect bed for laying new grass seed after scarifying.
How to Use a Scarifier
Now you know how to scarify a lawn, let’s look at the different types of scarifier and how to use them to best effect.
The following video from the Lawnsmith is excellent.
Using a Handheld Scarifier
If you only have a small lawn, a hand-held scarifier should do the trick and they’re very simple to use.
Start off in one corner of the lawn and continue down the long edge. Use a back and forth motion and vary the angle of the handle. The higher you raise the handle, the deeper the blades will penetrate the lawn and the more thatch will be removed.
When you make your last pass, you’ll want to raise the handle quite high so the blades cut into the soil to create an open bed for seeding.
Even on a small lawn, using a hand-held scarifier takes significantly longer than a powered version. For that reason, I always use a powered scarifier.
Using a Powered Scarifier
The best powered scarifiers hand changeable cassettes for both raking and de-thatching.
If you’re using an electric or petrol scarifier, it’s just a case of adjusting the height and pushing it around in exactly the same way a lawnmower.
Because you have the option to adjust the height, you might be tempted to set it to its lowest setting and go as deep as you can.
Remember I said earlier, the best advice is to go gently. Being too rough with a powered machine can result in you ripping big chunks of turf out of your lawn.
So, find a path, patio or hard surface and adjust the height on your scarifier so the blades just touch the floor. Then, turn it on and go over your lawn for a few meters. Keep making minor adjustments until the thatch comes up without tearing great chunks out of your lawn.
Learning how to scarify a lawn, either with a machine or hand-held tool is very easy.
The key point I want to stress though is to be as gentle as possible and tease away the moss or thatch. You can scarify heavily but you can also do it gently.
Scarifying with a springbok rake or hand scarifier is a much gentler approach than a powered machine. That said, it’s much more labour intensive.
However you choose to do it, scarifying is important. It’ll breath new life into your lawn and improve the look of your whole garden.
About Tim Stephens
I’m a professional gardener with degrees in Horticulture Landscape Gardening. I want to help you create the garden of your dreams. I want your garden to look like it’s maintained by a professional. As if I was there doing it all for you!
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How to scarify a lawn
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Want to know how to scarify a lawn? The process of scarification is essential to proper lawn care and the long-term health of your grass. To scarify a lawn means to remove and thatch (dead turf), moss, and debris that grows in lawns over time. Scarifying a lawn regularly improves lateral grass growth, so it is an important task to get right.
While the best lawn mower will ensure your grass is neatly trimmed, scarifying it will give you the best-looking lawn each season. Here’s how to do it, according to lawn and gardening experts.
How to scarify a lawn
While the actual scarification can be done in an afternoon (unless your lawn is huge), you do need to prepare the lawn in advance by mowing it nice and short. If you already keep your lawn trim, this won’t be a problem, but you can harm your grass if you cut too much in one go, so you may need to start prepping to scarify some weeks in advance.
You should have most of the tools you need for the job as part of your regular yard maintenance kit, but if you have lots of lawns, it can be worth investing in a scarifying machine to speed up the job.
Weed pulling tool: see a selection on Amazon 2. Heavy duty gloves: see our best gardening gloves 3. Thatch rake or lawn scarifier (if you have budget and lots of lawns)
Cut the grass
The first step is always to cut the grass with your lawn mower. You have to do this gradually.
Robin Antill, the Director at 1st Choice Leisure Buildings says, ‘bring the height down for several weeks prior to scarification. You need the grass to really be short and dry in order to perform it effectively. The grass will be cut shorter without being shocked, and greater air circulation will enable the grass to dry out before being scarified.’
Get rid of weeds
Next, get down to thorough weeding, removing any larger weeds first. ‘Unless there are weeds on your lawn, pull them out by hand rather than using a weedkiller. After scarifying, weedkillers will prevent germination, thus we advise employing a plant puller (can be bought on Amazon) to get rid of the majority of weed seeds from the grass.’ explains Antill.
Use a hand scarifier or rake to scarify
‘To lift out any curls or moss from your grass when using a rake, you must use pressure throughout the entire task’, recommends Antil. You will need strong leather gloves to accomplish this task to prevent damaging the skin on your hands.
If you have mobility issues and don’t want the potential strain on your back from using a rake, you can buy a mechanical lawn scarifier. According to Antill, ‘a motorized scarifier works much more quickly and easily. Both an electric and a gasoline scarifier will remove any thatch or mosses from your grass, but they work mechanically rather than with your human might.
‘Most of the time, these machines include height adjustments, and you should make these changes after turning the machine off and setting it down on such a hard surface. It’s simpler to run the device for a few meters and then make little changes just so the debris is removed without ripping up significant portions of your lawn.’
Remember that the scarification process should be done on dry grass.
Soak the lawn overnight
This step is important because scarification is typically done before reseeding, and lawn seed takes better to well-hydrated turf. Melody Estes, a Landscape Design Gardening Supervisor from Maine and a consultant at The Project Girl, recommends applying ‘half an inch of water over the top of your lawn and letting it soak in overnight, preferably with some rain falling on it.’
For this reason, it’s not recommended to scarify a lawn during extremely dry weather as your lawn will be too dry.
When is the best time to scarify a lawn?
The key is to let your lawn establish itself before you scarify it, according to Jeremy Yamaguchi, the CEO of Lawn Love. Yamaguchi advises that ‘if your lawn is newly planted, you want to wait at least a year to scarify it so that it can establish. After the lawn has become established, aim to scarify it once every one to two years.’
The best time of year to scarify a lawn? Either in the spring or fall. ‘If you choose to do it in the fall, make sure to do it with plenty of time to spare before the first frost.’
Should you scarify a lawn that’s wet or dry?
The answer’s actually neither. Yamaguchi says that ‘you don’t want to scarify your lawn if it’s wet or dry. Instead, do it when it is just slightly moist, which is usually best achieved when the lawn gets watered around two days before scarifying it. If the grass is noticeably wet or entirely dry, your efforts will likely cause much more damage than good.’
This is why scarifying your lawn in the spring or fall is best.your lawn won’t get parched like it likely will in the summer, but it won’t get waterlogged either, which is likely during heavy winter rains.
Scarifying a lawn is an easy job, but you must do it annually to keep your lawn in good health. Something to put in your gardening calendar right now.
Meet our lawn experts
Having worked in the garden building industry for over 40 years, Robin is an expert in all things grounds maintenance.
Melody Estes from Maine works in landscaping and garden design. As well as this, she is a consultant for The Project Girl, Homes Gardens and Gardeningetc, where she offers her expertise on gardening.
As founder of Lawn Love, a service providing lawn care to residents across the US, Jeremy knows everything there is to know about growing, and caring for, a lush lawn.
How to scarify a lawn
If your grass has moss or a thatch of dead grass and leaves it can form a dense layer which holds water and creates an environment for moss to grow. It also stops water and oxygen getting to the grass roots below.
Knowing how to scarify a lawn properly makes common lawn problems like moss and thatch a breeze to deal with! Moss will make your lawn feel spongy, and you can often see it growing as a layer at the base of your grass. Alongside this, you might also notice dead grass, known as thatch. R emoving thatch is not only a good idea in autumn and spring but also essential if you need to overseed any areas. The quickest way to get rid of this is with a simple scarify, and you can use the two methods mentioned below to do this.
Different options for how to scarify your lawn:
Method 1: Using a spring tine rake
Use a leaf rake, not an ordinary rake, as this will rip lumps out of your grass rather than the moss/thatch.
This is the simplest way, although it involves quite a bit of physical effort to do the whole area. It would be best to aim to rake in one direction and then at a slightly different angle to get more material. Remember that your grass will need help to recover from this. So, sowing more seeds or feedingis a good idea.
Method 2: Using an automated scarifier
An automated scarifier will speed up this process and save you a lot of effort if you have a larger area! You can hire or buy one if you have a large area to cover. This method will remove a lot more material and be useful if you want to overseed afterwards. This may result in seeing soil patches where the moss has been removed. but that is what you need to overseed, so don’t panic!
This is best done in September as an autumn renovation or in April as a spring renovation.
Can you scarify wet grass?
Ideally no. You should aim to scarify your lawn when it isn’t soaking wet, as you could end up pulling up more than just the thatch.
What are the best conditions to scarify your lawn?
We recommend scarifying your lawn during late spring or early autumn, at this time of the year, your ground will be warm enough to help your lawn recover. Avoid scarifying your lawn during winter, or deep into the summer months, when frost or drought could be possible, and your lawn is more susceptible to damage.
How long should grass be before scarifying?
If you don’t plan to overseed your lawn after scarifying, then we recommend cutting your lawn down to a manageable height before scarifying. If you do it when your grass is too long then it won’t do any good, and if your grass is too short, it won’t be beneficial for your lawn.
Is it best to cut grass before scarifying?
After you complete scarifying your lawn, you will most likely get a shock at how your lawn has ended up looking worse than when you began! But not to worry, this is all very normal. If you scarify correctly, you should be left with some bare and thin patches, and so you will need to overseed your lawn after you scarify. For this reason, we recommend always mowing your lawn before scarifying, as you will not be able to do it after as you will need to give the new grass a chance to grow.
Will knowing how to scarify a lawn help with thatch?
Scarifying can help, but even the best-kept lawns will suffer from a build-up of thatch. However, some lawns will experience it more frequently, and this is where it becomes an issue! Compacted or heavy soil that doesn’t drain well lets water sit and allows moss to thrive. Shady and damp areas under trees can also be a consistent moss problem. You can help alleviate dampness and poor drainage through aeration. if you have clay soils, we have a guide on how to get the very best out of them.
Now you have some helpful tips on how to scarify a lawn, but if you’re having issues or if your lawn has unique problems, then please drop us an email, and we will be happy to help!
Scarifier Vs Dethatcher – Which Tool is Best For You
There are not many homeowners who can take pride in their long lawn. On top of that, having a clean and well-maintained lawn adds more pounds to your pride. But maintaining a lawn is not easy unless you have the right tools.
You will need a tool to remove debris and clippings regularly and that is when you will come across Scarifier and Dethatcher. Both the tools are designed to clean your lawn but which one you should purchase. In this article, we will compare both the tools and let you decide which one is best for you.
What Is A Scarifier?
A scarifier is a gardening tool that can slice through the roots and soil for the penetration of water food and pesticides. It has sharp metal blades that can cut the turf for removing organic matter. How a scarifier works is that it leaves holes that make fertilizers, water, and air go deep into the grass. It is similar to raking a lawn and helps to free grass clippings, moss, and other debris.
A lawn scarifier slices the blade vertically and takes out the material upwards. In doing so, it helps in easy removal. Some units also feature a collection bin for catching thatch. This helps to prevent raking. The rotating cylinder digs down for pulling up stubborn thatch. There are even the ones that come with adjustable blades.
- Scarifying is perfect for setting seed.
- It offers chopping action that can be perfect for removing weeds and moss.
- Scarifying can be great for having a spongy lawn.
- The metal blades can be great for removing embedded debris.
- Helps to loosen the soil for water and air penetration.
- Perfect for preventing moss, mold, and milder propagation.
- In the beginning, scarifying will make the lawn look rough.
- Scarifying can damage the grass.
- Without a powered device, it can be a tough task.
- Over-scarifying can tear the root system.
- Clearing the thatch may require several passes according to the lawn.
What Is A Dethatcher?
The sole purpose of using a dethatcher is to remove the thatch barrier. Just like a scarifier, it also comes with metal blades that can comb the grass. It also helps to pull the thatch on the surface. There are different types of dethatchers like motorized units, dethatching rake types, and tow-behind models. Each of these models is according to the size of the lawn. Sometimes there will also be a dethatcher attachment kit.
On many occasions, people may find it confusing as both dethatching and scarifying is about dethatching. However, dethatching is gentle and shallow compared to scarifying which is more aggressive. In doing so, it does not dig down into the soil. Dethatching can be great for temperature control and it comes in the form of a special hand rake.
- Dethatching allows air, water, and nutrients to reach the soil.
- It can reduce the formation of mold, mildew, and moss.
- Perfect for regulating temperature and moisture level.
- Helps to promote robust growth.
- Suitable for different seasons in a year.
- Scarifying and dethatching can be devastating to the lawn.
- Manually dethatching is a tiring process.
- During the dormant season, dethatching can lead to grass damage.
- It does not penetrate deep for soil aeration.
What is the Difference Between a Scarifier and a Dethatcher?
Both scarifying and dethatching contribute to better water, air, and fertilizer penetration. Even though they both serve the same purpose, a scarifier is similar to vertical mowing. It cuts grooves through the thatch that helps in better water and oxygen movement into the soil. On the contrary, a dethatcher helps to remove lawn debris and works similarly to a lawn raker. It will not get deep that can be perfect for preventing any kind of damage. If you are looking for an invasive thatch removal procedure, you can opt for scarifying.
Things to Know Mind About Scarifying
Scarifying too early may shock the grass. This can lead to damage when the heating season begins. It is important to mow the lawn before scarifying. In doing so, it will reduce the grass length so that it will not get through the thatch. You should never scarify if you have re-seeded in the past year. This will allow the roots of the grass to go strong and deep.
When Should You Use Scarifier For Your Lawn?
Scarifying can be best during spring as well as in late summer or early fall. You can scarify lightly during the spring season so that it will pull up the material from the last growing season. It helps to create a perfect base for the upcoming growing season. You can go for scarifying from mid-April until mid-May.
Lawn scarifying also has to be done in late September or early October. It helps to remove the thatch which is made during the year. This also allows the grass to recover prior to the frost starts. During this time, you will have to scarify aggressively for removing thatch accumulation with repeated mowing. However, you should know that there are different types of grasses and you will have to scarify according to the grass type.
Things to Know Mind About Dethatching
Dethatching can be done at least once a year. You can go for dethatching when the thatch is over 0.5-inch. Similar to scarifying, you should mow the lawn before dethatching. This will enable you to perform the task effectively and provide better access. For a spongy lawn, it is advisable to go for a scarifier. Also, never dethatch the lawn if it is in a dormant state. You must allow it to recover quickly and then go for dethatching.
When Should You Use Dethatcher For Your Lawn?
Dethatching is gentle and supple. You must always go for dethatching in late March or early April. Always do it when the grass is in its growing phase and when the temperature begins to warm up. Another important thing to consider is that you will have to opt for dethatching when the grass is growing vigorously. See if the growth rate has increased and if there is an improved recovery rate.
Scarifier vs Dethatcher: Which Tool should you Purchase?
Whether it is scarifying or dethatching, you must make sure that your lawn will look great. Before you decide to go on either process, you will have to consider the type of grass. As both scarifying and dethatching are for better lawn maintenance, you will have to perform either according to the grass. Many people opt for a dethatcher during spring and go for a scarifier in late summer.