‘Scarifying’ is a job that you cannot avoid if you want to keep your lawn looking pristine!

Over time, a lawn can develop an unattractive top layer of moss or thatch (dead organic material). Not only can this make a lawn look poorly maintained, but it can also deprive the grass of the resources that it needs. Periodically removing this layer, usually once or twice a year, will allow your lawn to grow healthily.

However, scarifying a lawn at the wrong time of year can have disastrous results. The idea behind scarifying a lawn is to re-seed the area afterwards so that the grass can grow back quickly and healthily. The growing conditions have to support this; if you pick the wrong time of year then your lawn may not recover properly, or you could easily leave yourself open to weeds.

If you have not scarified your lawn before, if your lawn is bigger than you can handle, or if you simply want a guarantee of a well-done finished result, you may want to consider hiring a local gardener for this job. They will be used to garden maintenance and will be able to let you know how to properly scarify your lawn in the future. An experienced handyman may also be able to help, though they may not have the same equipment as a gardener. To save time, you should also consider hiring a waste remover to take away the garden waste once your lawn has been scarified.

Preparing to scarify a lawn

Knowing when to scarify a lawn is one thing, but it is not a job that you can just start on the day. In fact, if you are planning to scarify a lawn then you should spend several weeks preparing for it.

In the weeks running up to the task, keep mowing your lawn to keep the height of the grass down. You do not want to scalp it, but you must also keep it from growing too tall: long grass will create resistance when you come to scarify your lawn, as well as more rubbish that you’ll have to get rid of afterwards. You will also want to spend this time looking out for and removing any weeds growing on your lawn. 

When you are ready to start scarifying, you will need to wait for the right conditions. If the grass is too wet, scarifying it will pull it up by its roots. Your soil should be moist, but not enough to be soft or squishy underfoot. The best time to scarify your lawn will be on a fairly dry day in the afternoon, when there is no dew around.

A fanned metal rake is a tried and tested tool for scarifying a lawn. There are also electric scarifiers available, though it may be cheaper to rent than buy one for your job. 

Remember, scarifying a lawn takes a lot of physical work. If the job is too large for you, you will be better off hiring a gardener or handyman.

Once you have finished scarifying, remember to re-seed your grass!

When should I scarify my lawn?

The best time to scarify your lawn is at a time of year when the grass is actively growing. This will allow it to recover quicker once you have scarified it. However, the conditions also need to be ideal: too hot, cold, dry or warm and your lawn will not recover properly. You should also remember that scarifying your lawn will leave soil exposed, which will be a perfect place for weeds and other plants to barge their way in.

There are two times of year that tend to offer the perfect conditions for scarifying a lawn. The first is during late March/ April, when spring is in the air and your grass will have all the moisture and warmth it needs. 

You will not want to wait too late to get started: just after spring comes summer heat and dryness. It will also be important not to scarify your lawn too heavily in spring, as another thing that summer brings is weed seeds. Scarify too heavily at a time when your grass cannot recover fast enough and weeds will quickly establish themselves.

The time to scarify your lawn more heavily will be in September/ October, during the autumn. At this time of year, the grass is growing healthily, and most of summer’s weed seeds will have gone. This will create ideal conditions for scarifying your grass.

Having said that, there are a few conditions which can alter these rules. If your grass is growing under tree cover, the shade combined with falling autumn leaves will reduce the health of your grass and make it more difficult for it to recover. Shady areas can also be a problem, partly because the lack of light will encourage moss growth. These areas will thin out over winter anyway before thickening again in spring, but scarifying could prevent this. For areas that are covered with shade, wait until spring to scarify them.