If you’re a novice gardener, you might have heard about scarifying or have been told you should scarify your lawn regularly.

But do you know what scarifying is?

Scarifying is a term that means different things to different people, which is why it can lead to confusion.

In this guide, I’ll explain what lawn scarification is and tell you why it’s an important part of maintaining your lawn.

What is Scarifying?

Lawn scarification involves using tools or machines to control and remove the build-up of organic matter in your lawn.

This organic material is known as lawn thatch.

Lawn thatch consists of dead grass roots, shoots, and runners. It sits in and around grass plants, just above the soil.

Why it’s Important to Scarify

Some thatch in your lawn is a good thing. By some, I mean around a quarter inch.

It protects grass plants from damage and disease by shielding the crown. Thatch also acts as a barrier that prevents soil from losing moisture through evaporation.

Mulch applied to your flower beds does exactly the same thing.

Three Problems Caused by Lawn Thatch

The problem is that thatch can accumulate. It will then prevent air, water and essential nutrients from being able to penetrate the soil.

This creates several problems:

It Causes Shallow Rooting Grass

Thatch soaks up surface water like a sponge. It will also hold onto lawn feed or fertiliser applied to your lawn.

Instead of producing deep roots, grass will root directly into the thatch layer where it can access this ‘stolen’ moisture, air, and nutrients.

It Provides the Perfect Environment for Moss and Lawn Disease

Wet lawn thatch is the perfect environment for moss spore and lichen growth.

Fungal disease can also spore in this environment. When grass roots into it, fungal disease attacks the grass and takes all of its nutrients.

It Makes Grass Susceptible to Drought

During summer, lawn thatch dries out quickly.

Because the grass rooted into the thatch, it will now suffer from drought as the thatch no longer contains any water or nutrients.

In hot weather, grass will dry out, turn brown and die.

Scarifying Fixes and Prevents Several Issues

Scarifying removes lawn thatch and restores your lawn by allowing all of those needed nutrients back in as well as plenty of air and water.

New grass growth is encouraged, and any remaining organic material is broken down. This slows thatch accumulation to a halt.

As a result, you’re left with a greener, denser, healthier grass sward.

Scarifying A Lawn

Types of Scarification

What is the difference between scarifying and raking? Lawn owners often are confused by these two different lawn care procedures.

Scarification can be done either with a machine or manually, as can raking. But the scarification method of de-thatching should only ever be used when there’s enough thatch to warrant it.

There’s another procedure called vert-cutting which is also used to remove lawn thatch.

I’ll explain each one in detail, so you know the difference.

Scarifying or De-Thatching

De-thatching is a brutal treatment that when performed correctly in the autumn month of September, is used to remove built up thatch from your lawn.

Vertical blades cut into the grass surface and rip out any accumulated dead leaves or stems – this will reduce the amount of organic material on top which traps water during heavy rain.

An ornamental lawn will require you to dethatch every year. This is because bent, brown top and fescues produce thatch as they grow.

A general purpose family lawn which is full of ryegrass, will likely only require scarifying every 2 or 3 years.

Raking

Raking is not just for removing moss. It also clears out dead grass roots, shoots and foliage that can turn into a layer of thatch over time.

That being said, it’s much gentler on your lawn than de-thatching so you can use rakes right through the spring and autumn to prevent thatch build-up.

Verticutting

Verticutting is an alternative method of lawn care and is a great way to encourage healthy grass growth. It’s gentle on turf too so you can do it every week or two from April through to September.

Verticutting is essentially vertical mowing which prunes roots and stimulates new root growth while cutting into the thatch layer, removing the top layers as well as discouraging weed grasses like Poa Annua (Annual Meadow Grass).

Verticutting is rarely performed on domestic lawns and is more common on professional lawns and sports turf.

The fact that there is only one standalone domestic verticutter on the market confirms this. The model is the Bosch AVR1100.

Allett do make a verticutting cartridge for some of their domestic lawn mowers if you are interested.

Lawn Scarifier

Which is the Best Type of Scarification for Your Lawn?

Some people only use one type of scarification method and some use all of them. The method you choose to use depends on:

  • Your gardening knowledge and skill level
  • How much time you spend gardening
  • Your commitment to lawn care
  • The size and type of your lawn
  • Your budget

For Most Lawn Owners

Simply put, the best advice I can give you is that you should rake your lawn every spring and autumn as a minimum. Ideally, you’d also scarify once a year in autumn.

This will improve the health of your lawn significantly. If you have a small garden that is manageable, then this may not be too much to ask.

But it does take some time so plan accordingly before starting. You should expect blistered hands if scarifying manually because there is no way around how much hard work raking is.

There are many different types of scarifier, but the best ones for me have to be the powered machines. They feature changeable cartridges which allow you to do two separate jobs with one machine.

If You Own an Ornamental Lawn

If you own an ornamental lawn, your scarifying regime will be more extensive.

You will need to rake your lawn every spring and verticut it every week or two between April and September. You will then need to de-thatch your lawn every autumn.

Final Verdict

Lawn scarification is an ongoing process as its main purpose is to reduce the build-up of thatch.

Thatch removal is important because leaving lawn thatch to accumulate will lead to much bigger problems.

But scarifying only twice a year will make a big difference, so I recommend it for the health of your lawn.

For more information, read this guide and learn how to scarify your lawn, step-by-step. It is a simple process so just follow the guide.

Once finished, learn what to do after scarifying for the best results.