Don’t be scared to scarify…

What is lawn scarification?

Lawn scarification is the process used to remove excessive amounts of thatch from a lawn and is an important part of lawn care and maintenance. Scarifying is done using a mechanical lawn Scarifier which have adjustable rotating steel blades to cut the thatch out without destroying the healthy grass. In some cases they can even penetrate the soil below the surface to improve aeration and the quality of the grass roots.

Why scarify a lawn?

Scarification is necessary when thatch in the lawn becomes excessive and begins to damage the grass. Too much thatch in a lawn can suffocate rather than protect plants, stopping them getting the necessary light, water and air that they need. In itself thatch isn’t a bad thing – a layer about 0.5-1cm thick is fine – anything thicker will begin to damage the grass and removing the build-up will improve the health of your lawn ultimately making it more resilient.

How do you scarify a lawn?

This depends on the size. Small lawns can be scarified by hand using a spring tine rake but can be quite tiring and does not produce as good results as a mechanical Scarifier. If you have a small or medium size garden, a pedestrian Scarifier (i.e. one that you push along like a lawnmower) can be very effective. Larger gardens may require the use of a ride on Scarifier.  Lawntech  have a wide selection of mechanical Scarifiers and tools at their disposal to suit your lawns requirements.

So what is thatch?

Thatch occurs naturally but as with many plants, over time old grass leaves and stems die away and are replaced with new ones. As the dead material can be slow to decay it sits in a spongy layer under the green sward of the lawn. Having some thatch under the top surface of your lawn is not necessarily a bad thing as it acts as a protective layer, shielding both soil and grass plants from the elements. In addition, the correct amount can also give the surface of your lawn a firmer, thicker look and feel.

How can I tell if my lawn needs scarifying?

Too much thatch in a lawn will give your grass a spongy feel when you walk on it. You should be able to see a layer 0.5-1cm thick when you look at the sides of your turf – anymore than this is excessive and unhealthy for your lawn. You can take a core sample from your lawn to assess how thick the thatch is, and see how extensively your lawn needs scarifying.

Thatch profile crop

When should I scarify my lawn?

Ideally scarification should be carried out in the late summer and early autumn as this provides better results in terms of recovery. We advise that scarifying is carried out between mid-August and October because the warmth and moisture present in the soil in the autumn will help the lawn to recover more quickly. You can also scarify your lawn in the spring time, but this should only be light rather than heavy duty as the summer months can be detrimental if there is particularly hot, dry weather. Scarifying should not be done during winter – doing so at this time of year is more likely to damage your lawn than improve it.

How often should I scarify?

Most lawns will need to be scarified, but some require more than others if they are prone to a thatch build-up. It depends entirely on the type of lawn, soil and how the natural bacteria is working in your individual environment. Fine lawns containing creeping fescue will generally build-up thatch more quickly, while lawns with high levels of rye grass produce far less. Over fertilising, bad mowing techniques and grass grown in poor quality soil may make your lawn more susceptible to thatch.

What happens afterwards?

You mean apart from your lawn looking pretty scary? Although it can be a bit of a shock at first, your lawn will recover amazingly quickly and look all the better for it. The rate at which your lawn recovers can vary depending on weather conditions and the initial quality of your lawn – however be patient as it will be worth it. Any thatch that has been cut away should be removed – it makes good compost which is an added bonus! Other lawn treatments can be carried out at the same time including aeration, over-seeding and top dressing with sand and loam which all help with recovery.

The benefits of lawn scarification include:

  • Removes harmful levels of thatch
  • Prunes grass roots encouraging growth
  • Allows water to reach the soil
  • Allows air to reach the sward
  • Allows nutrients to reach the grass plants
  • Removes moss and dead weeds
  • Reduces the likelihood of future moss problems
  • Improves the health of your lawn
  • Refreshes tired or poor quality lawns
  • Good preparation for over-seeding

You can see how the pros at Lawntech do it by clicking here to watch this video.

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