Garden Advice

How To Scarify a Lawn

Everybody enjoys a nice looking lawn, but it takes a lot of work to keep the grass clean, green and neat. From aerating and dethatching to feeding and weeding your turf, there are plenty of lawn maintenance tasks to do to achieve the above. Right then, dethatching, also called scarifying, is a way of removing thatch that builds up on your lawn and can have a negative effect on the grass. It can be done easily with the right tools, equipment and knowledge. In this article, we will get more in depth with the process of scarification and explain some techniques on how to scarify your lawn correctly.

So, if you:

  • Have a lot of moss on your lawn and want to do something about it;
  • Want to scarify your turf, but don’t know when and how to do what;
  • Are considering buying a scarifier, but don’t know which one to choose;

Then, keep reading and you’ll find all the answers in detail. 

What is lawn scarifying and why is it an important part of garden care?

Scarification is the process of scoring the soil in your garden in order to remove thatch. It can be done manually with a rake or with a scarifier machine. It’s an essential practice in garden care because if too much thatch builds up on your lawn, it stops nutrients from getting to the grass roots. Thatch is basically, dead grass shoots. A small amount of thatch can actually be beneficial for your lawn, because it protects the grass and shields it from extreme temperatures. But if the matted layer becomes too thick, it prevents oxygen from reaching the roots and can also promote moss build-up. So, the main purpose of scarification is to keep grass healthy and should be done regularly (once or twice a year).

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How often do you need to scarify your lawn?

This is a good question. Choosing the right time of the year to scarify your lawn is important. Generally, it is best to do it in sunny, warm weather, when it’s not too dry or too wet outside. This means that the best seasons to dethatch are spring and autumn. Scarifying your lawn is not suggested in the summer, because it’s the season when it gets a lot of heat and you use your lawn more. In addition, dethatching can stress your lawn, so the job is better done during the grass’s active growing season, in order for it to recover quickly. It shouldn’t be done in the winter, either, when the ground is frozen.

Light dethatching can be done both in the spring and autumn, but removal of heavier and thicker thatch is best done after the summer. Removing heavy thatch thins your lawn and makes it an ideal seed bed for new grass, but also for weeds. Hence,  heavy scarifying is recommended in the autumn, when weed growth slows down. 

How to scarify a lawn

Let’s get to the main part – how to scarify your lawn. Scarification is a lot of work and you should be prepared properly. As we’ve mentioned above, there are two ways to do it – manually with a rake or using a scarifier machine. You should mow the lawn before you start removing the thatch and it’s a good idea to cut the grass a little lower. You should also remove any weeds and debris.

How to scarify a lawn with a rake

Let’s look at how to do it manually:

  1. Start in a small area – It’s easier to do the job one small area at a time. Choose a spot, in which to start, and make a plan of how you will go over the whole lawn.
  2. Get your rake and begin – Place your rake on the ground and start dragging it towards you by applying only light pressure.  At the end of each stroke, lift the rake slightly to pull the thatch out of the lawn surface. Keep going over the same area a few times, in one direction, and try to avoid pressing hard, so you don’t damage your lawn. Sometimes, thatch can get stuck in the thines of your rake and if that happens, just remove it. 
  3. Change the directions – After you have gone over an area in one direction a couple of times, switch to a different angle between 90 and 45 degrees and go over it again. This will bring up even more thatch out of the ground.
  4. Move onto the next patch – After you are done with an area, switch to the next one and repeat the steps again. Keep going until you go over the whole lawn.
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How to scarify a lawn with a machine

If you are not a fan of manual labour, there are many scarifying machines out on the market. From petrol to cordless or electric dethatchers, you are spoiled for choice and can pick the right one for your needs, depending on how big your lawn is. So, if you have bought or rented a scarifier, let’s go over the steps on how to use it to do the job:

  1. Get rid of debris – It is very important to remove any debris from your lawn before going over it with a dethatcher, because it can get damaged, so start by clearing out the lawn. Your turf suffers from heavy moss build-up, too, it’s worth getting rid of it, first, by applying a moss killer.
  2. Mow the lawn – Get your lawn mower and cut the grass. You should do it a little bit shorter than usual for best results.
  3. Use the scarifier – Start the machine on the highest setting and go over the lawn. Repeat the process a couple of times, reducing the setting with each round. Remember to go in different directions at a 90 to 45 degree angle.

Aftercare tips for your lawn

Removal of thatch from the lawn will inevitably damage it a bit, so you have to take proper care to help the grass recover quickly after you are done. There are a few steps you will need to take to provide  your turf with the best condition to remedy itself:

  1. Clear out the waste – If you have scarified your lawn by hand, or the machine you have used does not have a waste collecting compartment, you should remove all the green debris after you’ve completed the job.
  2. ReseedReseeding bald spots on your lawn is a must, so you should do this after you’ve cleared it.
  3. Fertilise – For your grass to grow healthy and fresh, you have to make sure it is properly fertilised. Feeding your lawn will also make sure it recovers faster.
  4. Water regularly – In the following weeks, after you have scarified your lawn and removed all the excess thatch, make sure to water it sufficiently and regularly, so the grass grows properly.

Are you looking for professional help?

For most people, mowing the lawn is not a huge problem. But more complex tasks, such as scarifying can be tedious and time-consuming. And what’s more, they may require skills, as a lot can go wrong, like damaging your turf to the point that it doesn’t easily recover. So, if you are looking for professional help with garden care, we’ve got you covered! Fantastic Services is a company with many years of experience in providing domestic and commercial property maintenance services in the UK. We have developed our gardening and lawn care services to save you precious free time and all the effort, while delivering amazing results. Just book our lawn scarification service today and leave the hard gardening work to the pros!


  • Removing the excess thatch from your lawn keeps the grass healthy and fresh.
  • The best seasons to dethatch your turf are Spring and Autumn.
  • Scarification can be done manually with a rake, or by using a powered machine.
  • You should provide proper aftercare for the grass by overseeding, fertilising and watering it regularly.


Did you find this article useful, or have any questions? Feel free to comment below!

Image source: Shutterstock / iratxe_lopez

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