How to scarify a lawn: ensure your grass is looking its best this summer

Find out how to scarify a lawn with our quick and easy guide. There’s nothing remotely scary about it – we promise

Scarify a lawn: perfect lawn and Grade 1 listed tudor home
(Image credit: William Goddard)

Looking for advice on how to scarify a lawn? If your lawn is looking patchy, brown, mossy and generally not as healthy as you might like, it might be time to scarify. By following a few easy tips, you'll find out how to scarify your lawn and soon you’ll have bowling green turf before you know it.

Before you start, get right down to the root of the matter and examine your lawn at close quarters. Can you see brown, dead-looking plant material at the base of the grass and on top of the soil? If you can you're looking at thatch. Thatch inhibits air flow to the healthy grass and slows down the lawn’s drainage. So that’s what you’re aiming to improve when you scarify your lawn, by removing thatch and moss. 

Read on for our top tips, then check out our guide to the best lawn mowers to help get your lawn in perfect condition this summer. 

How often should you scarify a lawn?

Never scarify a recently planted lawn or newly laid turf, allow it to establish for at least a year. Established lawns should ideally be scarified once a year, or at least once every couple of years so that you can keep on top of the problem.

What time of year is best to scarify a lawn?

Strictly speaking spring is the best time to scarify, however, there is a danger that you will have to endure beautiful summer weather with a lawn that’s not looking its best and is still growing back. For practical reasons then, it’s often best to scarify in September or October, but at this time of year you’ll need to treat your lawn gently and ensure you work well ahead of any frosts.

How to scarify a lawn

A few of weeks before you intend to scarify you should treat your lawn with moss killer so that you don’t spread moss spores when you scarify.  Start by mowing the lawn with the mower set low - about 2cm - and a grass box on the mower to collect the clippings.

It is perfectly possible to scarify a lawn by hand using a spring tine rake. Start gently and be careful not to be too brutal and be sure to leave some thatch as this is what protects the plant. 

stainless steel scarifying rake

It is possible to scarify by hand although it takes a while and is hard work. This Kent & Stowe stainless steel scarifying rake is available from Dobbies

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Scarify a lawn using machinery

Wheeled scarifier for lawn care

A simple wheeled scarifier, like this one from Harrod Horticulturalwill do the job efficiently and more easily than using a rake

(Image credit: Harrod Horticultural)

You’ll find the process far easier with a scarifying machine and there are several options, from simple wheeled ones available for less than £50, right up to petrol driven models, which at £350 upwards, are much more of an investment.  Still, bear in mind that if you have the right tools for the job it's far easier to do a good job, and you'll be more likely to make lawn care a regular thing.  

However, the approach is the same, no matter what tool you’re using. Work your way over the lawn in one direction to lift around a centimetre or so of loose thatch, using a rake or a leaf blower to remove the debris. Then, change directions, working at right angles to your first pass. The thatch will be looser on this second attempt and you can lower the machine blades slightly. In autumn, two passes are enough. In spring you can do three or four passes, particularly if the lawn is in a really bad state.

Petrol driven lawn scarifier

The petrol-driven Hyundai HYSC210 makes quick work of lawn care

(Image credit: Hyundai)

Lawn maintenance

After scarifying, your lawn will need a good lawn food to boost its growth and aid recovery. Use a specific lawn food for the time of year, and follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully. 

If scarifiying has left bare or thin patches you may wish to reseed these areas. This is easy to do and will improve the appearance of your lawn. 

Mowing your lawn

Regular mowing will encourage strong regrowth, and a flat, healthy lawn. Avoid mowing in wet weather, or straight after rain and raise the height of the blades in frosty or drought conditions to protect the roots. 

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