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Lawn Scarification

After winter comes the gardening season again. In order for your lawn to shine all summer long, it needs proper care. Scarifying is an important part of this. Because by doing so, you aerate the lawn and remove moss. To keep your lawn shining rich and green at the garden party, it should be dethatched once a year. This keeps the blades and the soil nice and soft. Children’s feet will then find it especially easy to walk barefoot!

A green and well-kept lawn is a joy for all hobby gardeners. Mowing is as much a part of this as fertilizing and reseeding on a regular basis. But what about scarifying? A well-kept lawn also needs to be aerated from time to time.

To keep the lawn an even feast for the eyes, it should be scarified once a year. This keeps the lawn soft and loose. Dead plant parts are removed in the process. But also moss and the universally unpopular weeds are well removed during dethatching.

What you need to know before scarifying the lawn

To make sure you don’t go wrong with dethatching, we’ve collected all the important questions you should ask yourself before you start. Here you can find out when the perfect time is, why it is necessary and how it works.

What does scarification mean and what does it do?

Scarifying or dethatching comes from English and is composed of the terms vertical (for vertical) and cut (for cut). The procedure was invented in 1955. It involves scarifying the turf, i.e. the top layer of the lawn. This removes moss and mulch, and wild weeds also no longer emerge after scarifying. The soil is aerated by scarifying and can absorb more oxygen.

However, dethatching should not be confused with aerification, even though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. This is because when you scarify, you are only treating the surface of the lawn. Aerification is a treatment of the soil and thus reaches deeper to the roots. The goal of aerifying is to aerate the soil and should only be done once a year, otherwise, it puts too much stress on the lawn. Scarifying the surface, on the other hand, can be done two or three times a year.

  See, also: Best Lawn Aerators for Yard 

What is the right time to scarify the lawn – Summer or Autumn?

Opinions differ on the question of the right time to scarify.

But it is not so complex: you can scarify in spring and in autumn. Then the conditions are ideal. The ideal time is mid-April and early September.

In the spring, the lawn has enough time to recover before the barbecue season begins, and high temperatures cause the lawn problems. In the fall, the major heat periods are already over and the soil can regenerate before the first frost. If you decide to dethatch your lawn only once a year, we recommend spring as the best season for it. This way, you can be sure that you will always have a beautiful and inviting lawn for the barbecue season.

Lawn Treatment

Dethatching lawn during a drought

If there is extreme drought or if it is expected, then experts strongly advise against scarifying the lawn. The reason is that drought and heat are great stress on the soil. In addition, there is the mechanical stress of running over it. Therefore, spring is a better time to dethatch. The soil is still damp from the thaw, but already dry enough not to turn into a muddy meadow.

Dethatching lawn in rain – damp and wet

Dethatching makes little sense in the pouring rain. Because just as with lawn mowing, section sticks to the ground due to moisture and cannot be removed.

If there is a heavy infestation of moss, you can dethatch a second time in the fall.

The lawn has recovered from the dryness of the summer. Frequent rainfall allows for the last growth before winter. In September, the first frost is usually still far enough away so that the lawn can recover from dethatching by then.

When and why is lawn scarifying useful and necessary?

Many amateur gardeners start the spring lawn season with dethatching. Right after the first cut, dethatching is standard for many to get the lawn back in shape after the winter and maintain a rich green color. The reason for dethatching is a lack of nutrients. This is because lack of care causes mossy and felty areas to form in the soil. These take away nutrients from the lawn. If other factors such as heavy foot traffic are added to this, then moss and felt can grow undisturbed.

This further worsens the conditions for the lawn. Air and rainwater no longer penetrate the soil in sufficient quantities, since moss and lichen store a lot of water. As a result, the lawn is not supplied with sufficient water and nutrients from the soil. Thus, the lawn becomes weaker and weaker, and moss and lichens can spread unhindered. To interrupt this process, these obstacles to the lawn are removed during scarifying.

So if your soil is not matted and mossy, then you don’t need to scarify your lawn. This is usually the case on well-aerated, nutrient-rich, and well-fertilized soils. Here, moss rarely forms, and you can skip dethatching.

Freshly sown lawns should be scarified at the earliest one year after sowing!

If your lawn is freshly sown, you should give it at least one year before scarifying it. This is because it needs to grow enough and root deeply into the soil in your yard. If you scarify too early, you can injure the young roots.

What do you need to consider after scarifying as care afterward?

After scarifying, the lawn often looks tattered and worn. The reason for this is the removed moss and felt particles. But you don’t have to worry, a healthy lawn will recover quickly. You can use this moment perfectly for reseeding.
But in order for the lawn to really recover quickly, you should take thorough care of it in the weeks following dethatching. We’ll show you what those steps are.

  1. Removal: The scarified material should not be left on the lawn. Unlike mulching, it is not an additional fertilizer, but you give the removed moss the opportunity to spread in the open areas.
  2. Sowing: You can sow new lawn seeds in bare spots.
  3. Fertilizing: Whether you choose to reseed or not, you should fertilize either way. Fresh lawn seedlings need more water and fertilizer. Lawn fertilizer should contain nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
  4. Water: Give your lawn regular and sufficient water! If the weather gets too hot and dry, water several times a day! Automated watering systems can be very useful in this regard.
  5. Sanding: This maintenance measure ensures that the aeration of the lawn is improved and nutrients are more easily absorbed. Sand is permeable to water, so it prevents waterlogging. The soil is loosened by the sand.
  6. Spare: For the first two to three weeks after dethatching, you should go easy on the lawn and walk on it as little as possible. Without this mechanical stress, the lawn will regenerate quickly and be like new until the next barbecue.
Lawn Scarification

How to scarify a lawn: our advice

First, you need to prepare the lawn properly, only then you can scarify.

How to prepare for scarifying by mowing?

Before you start scarifying, it is important that you prepare the lawn sufficiently. Because without proper preparation, dethatching is harmful to the lawn. Besides, you can break the scarifier!

The basic rule is: mow before scarifying!

Cut the lawn back to a height of about three to four centimeters. This way, you can easily see how far you need to set the distance between the scarifier and the ground, and you won’t accidentally rake too deep into the ground. You should also remove small branches and stones so that the lawn is completely free of bumps and objects that can interfere with the scarifier. In case of doubt, this can even be dangerous!

The lawn should be dry before scarifying, but not dried out. Watering is therefore always done after scarifying. However, this should be done very regularly, especially the first two to three weeks after scarifying.

How can you scarify the lawn with machines?

There are many different scarifiers on the market. The electric version is powered by electricity from the socket. This assumes that your lawn is not too large and that you can reach every corner of your lawn at least with an extension cord. You are more independent with a device that you can operate with gasoline. This allows you to concentrate on your lawn without always having to worry about a cumbersome cord. Professional machines work similarly to a small lawn tractor, but with a different base.

How can you manually scarify the lawn without equipment?

If you want to scarify the lawn without machines, you can use a rake or a so-called lawn rake, which is especially suitable for loosening grassy soils. However, you must be very careful not to damage the lawn. The result would be a brown and irregular lawn. In addition, the matter is relatively sweaty.

An alternative to the machine scarifier is hand scarifiers. You roll these over the lawn. Other models resemble a rake but have sharper teeth. You pull these over the lawn with muscle power. If you have a larger area, it may be worthwhile to purchase a scarifier.

Another variant is lawn aerators. These ensure that sufficient oxygen and light reach the plants and that the soil remains nice and loose. Similar to a scarifier, they scarify the turf. However, lawn aerators are much gentler on the grass hub. On the other hand, they are not as efficient with coarse weed growth.

A special trick is liming in the spring.

Because moss and felt are formed in an acidic environment in the soil. If the soil is additionally very dense, moss will form. Lime and iron sulfate in combination ensure that the soil remains alkaline. It also kills dicotyledonous plants such as wild weeds. The grass is monocotyledonous and therefore not affected.

How deep should you scarify the lawn?

To ensure that the lawn really benefits from dethatching and that you don’t accidentally damage it, the procedure for setting the dethatching depth is very important. This is because the dethatcher should score the lawn scar and not penetrate the soil.

That’s why it’s best to adjust the dethatching blade so that it doesn’t cut the soil while working. Therefore, it is also important to mow the lawn before scarifying. Especially for somewhat larger lawns, a gasoline lawn mower is best suited here. This way you can see how deep the ground is away from the blade. In addition, you can then easily remove the scarified material with a rake.

If the soil is ripped up too much, wild weeds can easily germinate and grow in your lawn.

It depends on how much your soil is infested with moss and felt. In fact, it should only penetrate two to five centimeters into the soil. If the blades of the scarifier penetrate deeper into the soil, grassroots, among other things, will be destroyed.

Also, see: Replant lawn: tips and step-by-step instructions

How should you fertilize, lime, or reseed the lawn after scarifying?

Liming should be done long before scarifying. Liming the lawn only makes sense if the pH value in your soil is too acidic. This makes it easier for wild weeds to spread on your lawn.

Immediately after scarifying, you should give the lawn a rest. However, now is the right time to add fresh lawn seed to the dethatched area. After you have scarified your lawn, you should also make sure that the lawn now gets a good supply of water. A sprinkler is particularly suitable for this purpose, as it waters the area evenly and thus also contributes to the germination of the new seeds.

If your soil is particularly heavy and does not let water through well, you can also apply a thin layer of sand now. This prevents water from accumulating, which again encourages moss growth. In addition, the sand loosens the soil and the roots get enough air.

You can fertilize directly after scarifying with suitable lawn fertilizer. But be sure to remove the scarified material! Unlike mulching, the removed moss cannot remain on the lawn. It would then simply spread again.

Common mistakes when scarifying – Video

FAQ - Lawn Scarification

❓ What is scarification of lawn?

Scarification is carried out to remove organic matter from around the base of the grass plants and tidy up any straggly lateral growth. In a nutshell, scarification removes material, probably in the form of thatch or moss that will otherwise prevent good dense grass growth.

❓ What is the difference between lawn raking and Scarification?

Lawn-raking, carried out using a leaf rake or a small raking machine, is a good way of removing moss from a lawn. Scarification is the use of heavy-duty flails (knives) on a motorized machine. It is a very intrusive treatment into the lawn’s surface. It is designed to reduce the levels of thatch, which the moss loves and thrives on. In short, lawn-raking reduces the effect – moss. Scarification reduces the cause – surface thatch.

❓ When should you scarify your lawn?

Late spring and early autumn are considered to be the two best times to scarify your lawn, capitalising on both the weather and the conditions of the ground. Most garden experts agree that the ideal time to scarify your lawn is when your grass is growing strongly.

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