Mow the lawn on low settings before scarifying

What is a lawn scarifier and why is it used?

If you like the fresh, green, and vibrant look of your lawn, the scarification is a process not to be ignored. Lawn scarifying can make the difference between thriving and surviving on your beloved lawn. If you are asking yourself a question of whether you should or shouldn’t scarify your lawn, the answer is yes. 


What is lawn scarification? 

Lawn scarification is the removal of thatch formed on the top layer of soil and at the base of grass stems. Thatch is a build-up of organic matter consisting of dead grass, rhizomes, and roots. Thatch disallows the soil to breathe and often prevent the water from penetrating the soil freely. Therefore, the removal of thatch is greatly beneficial to your lawn. 


What is a lawn scarifier? 

Scarifier is a machine, or a piece of equipment designed to remove moss, dead grass, and lawn weeds by the rotation of its blades. It can be electrical, or petrol operated. Petrol scarifiers are generally more powerful and often used in larger gardens due to their efficiency. For the thatch removal they are sometimes referred to as dethatchers.

Use of garden scarifier
Use of garden scarifier

What are the benefits of lawn scarification? 

The primary benefit of lawn scarification is to remove moss. Moss usually appears after winter or in very moist spots of the lawn and disallows grass to expand. It is also an indicator of other problems such as poor drainage. 


Another benefit is to remove any dead grass. Whether you grew your lawn from seed,turf, or it began to be grown from the seed at the origin. Every grass seed is a mixture of different types of grasses with some being evergreen whilst others die down, therefore, dieback of some grass blades is inevitable. 


You can also use lawn scarification to remove unwanted weeds. Scarifiers will not completely remove the roots of problem weeds but will help to remove their foliage, helping the lawn to appear weed-free. 


Soil aeration can also be helped by the process. The presence of air in the soil is crucial, and the air pockets accommodate excess water and help the microorganisms living in the soil to thrive. They are responsible for the soil breakdown, which results in release of nutrients. 


Finally, lawn scarification can improve water absorption. Good drainage and water absorbance are vital to healthy lawn growth. Poor drainage causes water logging leading to the suffocation of the grass’ roots.

Benefits of aerated lawn
Benefits of aerated lawn

When should I scarify my lawn?

For the best results, we recommend scarifying your lawn two times a year. Although the exact times will greatly depend on your climate, usually the time is just after the beginning of the growing season followed by scarifying in late summer. Dry weather is always preferred.

What are the steps to follow before, during, and after scarification?

  • Treat (kill) moss
  • Spray lawn weeds
  • Mark irrigation sprinkles (if applicable)
  • Mow the lawn on lower settings
  • Scarify the lawn
  • Rake the debris
  • Mow the lawn again
  • Spike the lawn
  • Feed the lawn

Treat (kill) moss

Several lawn fertilisers help to treat moss, but we don’t advise using them prior to scarifying. Instead, use the lawn sand. It can be applied by a spreader or by a hand, throwing a handful at a time working backward. Ensure to water the lawn after removing sand grains from the grass. Read the manufacturer’s instructions provided as overuse of lawn sand can burn up your lawn.

Spray weeds

Spray lawn weeds on a dry day using a selective lawn weedkiller. If unsure, ask your local retailer for some advice. The weedkiller will kill the roots of the weeds while the foliage will turn crispy brown. The scarifier will then remove the remaining foliage giving the lawn weed-free appearance.

Mark irrigation sprinkles (if applicable)

If you have an irrigation system mark all the sprinkles. The blades of the scarifier can cause serious damage to the sprinkles leading to a costly repair or replacement. If you don’t know where the sprinkles are located, run each section of the irrigation system to make them pop up.

Mark the irrigation sprinkles prior to scarifying
Mark the irrigation sprinkles prior to scarifying

Mow the lawn on lower settings 

Mowing the lawn on lower settings will reveal dead grass and moss, and the scarifier will have an easier time getting through it. It will also allow the blades to get deeper into the soil, helping the aeration. At this point, your lawn will appear browner than usual but it is a necessary step to the lawn improvement.

Mow the lawn on low settings before scarifying
Mow the lawn on low settings before scarifying

Scarify the lawn 

Use the scarifier on the recommended factory settings. If you feel that the blades are not reaching the soil level, you should change to a lower setting. This can happen due to thicker build-up of thatch if the lawn has not been scarified in a longer time. 


If your lawn surface is uneven, the depth of blades entering the soil will vary. At times, if you hit a bump, the blades will dig a certain amount of soil out but that is nothing to worry about. It will not rip the lawn out. 


Run the scarifier one way in the same manner as if you would be creating lines with a mower, followed by scarifying the cross way. If you feel there is still a large amount of dead grass to be removed, you can additionally run the machine diagonally. Remember that might not be able to remove all the dead grass at once. Avoid any slow forward and backward motions. This can only leave bear patches taking the entire season to fill. 


Note: always check the area for any stones laying around. Flying stones picked by the blades can cause severe pain if they hit your leg or can shatter the windows on your house. Ensure you wear adequate protective clothing and footwear. 



Rake the debris 

There is a good chance that the scarifier left a significant quantity of debris behind. If you have decided to pick it up with the mower, it might be choking. To prevent that, remove as much debris as possible by using a garden rake or a leaf blower.

Raking debris produced by scarifier
Raking debris produced by scarifier

Mow the lawn again 

After most of the debris have been cleared by rake, for a finishing touch, mow the lawn again. The mower will pick up any remaining debris, leaving your lawn tidy. You can use the same height settings as previously. 


Spike the lawn 

Although the scarifying improved the aeration and drainage, lawn spiking is a good extra moisture control. During the hot summer days, the topsoil tends to harden. Sometimes this hard texture rejects water entry and most of it runs off or evaporates. The holes produced by lawn spikers will direct the moisture into the soil where it is needed. 


In the winter months, the holes will divert excess water deeper into the soil, helping to prevent waterlogging. 

Aerating lawn by spiker
Aerating lawn by spiker

Feed the lawn 

Now that your lawn has been cleared from any obstacles preventing the healthy growth, it is a time for the first feed. At the beginning of the growing season use nitrogen-based fertiliser. Nitrogen is an element responsible for vigorous green growth, leading to a desired vibrant look in a short time. 


Lawn scarification is a task not to be taken lightly if you are fond of your lawn. It will make your lawn thrive, bringing you the desired freshly green look. After all, the vibrant lawn can make your garden really stand out.

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