Scarification or scarifying your lawn is one of the basic principles of gardening and lawn care. If you’ve never done it before, we’ll show you how in this guide.

The process for removing moss and lawn thatch is the same whether you choose to use a rake or scarifier, a powered tool or a hand tool.

The most important advice to follow is when (the time of year) you scarify your lawn. Always complete this task during the spring or autumn. If it isn’t April, May or September, wait until these months so lawn recovery conditions will be right.

If you don’t, you could damage your lawn.

Preparing Your Lawn for Scarification

Whether you’re trying to repair your lawn or are performing routine maintenance, there are a few steps to take before beginning.

Your grass needs to be short and dry before scarifying. A week or two before you begin, cut the grass as short as you can using your mower.

This is important because:

  • Scarifying through long grass creates more resistance and can cause lawn damage
  • There will be less organic waste to dispose of
  • Short grass allows air into the turf which dries grass

The Three Step Scarification Process

Whether you use a handheld scarifier or a powered machine, proceed as gently as possible to reduce any damage caused.

A rake is much gentler than the de-thatching blades found on a powered scarifier, but the easier you take it, the quicker your lawn will recover.

The First Pass

If you are using a powered scarifier, begin by setting it to its highest height setting and scarify as you would mow your lawn. Proceed up and down until you have scarified the entire lawn.

If you are using a springbok rake or hand scarifier, move up and down the lawn gently prising out thatch.

When finished, collect all the organic debris with a rake, garden vacuum or rotary mower and dispose of it in an incinerator bin or compost heap.

The Second Pass

On this pass you can slightly lower the height of your scarifier. Deeper rooted thatch and moss should now be looser so it should come out easier without any damage.

If you are using a rake or hand scarifier you can go in even deeper.

Th second pass should be completed at a 45 degree angle to the first pass, so you’ll be moving diagonally across the lawn.

Once complete, collect all waste and dispose of in a compost bin or a garden incinerator bin.

If you are raking in the spring, these two passes should be sufficient. If you are removing a lot of thatch or moss in the autumn, you may need to lower the setting and make another one or two passes.

The Last Pass

On your last pass with the scarifier, use your tool’s blades to cut into the soil a quarter of an inch deep. This creates the perfect bed for sowing grass seed after scarifying.

Using moss killers before scarifying your lawn can make moss even easier to remove.

How to Use a Scarifier

You now know how to scarify a lawn. This video is great for demonstrating the techniques discussed as well as how to use each type of scarifier.

Using a Handheld Scarifier

If you have a small lawn, a hand-held scarifier should be sufficient but will require some physical effort and will take much longer.

Start in one corner of your lawn and proceed down the longer side. Use a back and forth motion while varying the angle of the handle. The higher the handle, the deeper the blades will penetrate the lawn and the more thatch will be removed.

Remember to raise the handle even higher on the last pass to create a bed for lawn seeding.

Using a Powered Scarifier

The best lawn scarifiers use interchangeable cassettes for raking and de-thatching.

If you’re using an electric or petrol scarifier, simply adjust the height (highest setting first) and push it around your lawn as you would your lawn mower.

Proceed gently and don’t go too deep at first. The worst case scenario will see you tearing chunks of turf from your lawn.

To help, you can find a hard surface and adjust the height of your scarifier so the blades only just touch the ground. Try this setting and keep making slight adjustments until thatch and moss is removed throughout your lawn.

Learn more: What Is Lawn Scarifying?

Final Verdict

Learning how to scarify a lawn with a powered lawn scarifier or handheld tool is easy.

The most important point to take away from this guide is that gentle is always best as moss and thatch rarely requires too much effort to remove.

Scarifying with a springbok rake or hand scarifier is always gentler than using a powered machine but it will involve hard work.

Scarifying is vitally important and doing it properly will breathe new life into your lawn and improve the appearance of your garden. Once you’re done, consider using lawn feed to maintain your lawn throughout the year.

Finished scarifying? Learn what to do next to help your lawn recover after scarification.