Lawn Scarify

Will a lawn scarifier help your lawn?

Scarification is the process by which the ‘undergrowth' or thatch is physically removed from a lawn. It can be a harsh process and initially will make your lawn look worse but ultimately can make it much, much better.

What is thatch?

The thatch is mostly dead plant matter (with some being the stolons/offshoots or how some types of grass reproduce) and its presence prohibits the growth of new grass shoots. A healthy lawn will have some thatch but not too much, say <1cm. The scarification process will also remove some moss build up - though only temporary unless it has been chemically treated.

How and with what tools do you scarify

The simplest and physically hardest way to scarify your lawn is to rake it. This can be done with either a normal garden rake or a specialist lawn rake like s spring tine rake. The latter will make the job easier. You will find that raking over an area in a couple of different directions will remove the most moss/thatch. The process is tiring but good exercise! Prices for a garden rake are anywhere between £5 and £30. Dedicated lawn rakes again start at around £5 with more expensive ones nearer £40. In both cases the more expensive models buy you a more durable or perhaps wooden handle and maybe a stainless steel rake head as opposed to carbon steel.

If your lawn is simply too big to do by hand (or perhaps you are too lazy or unfit...) then you can hire or buy a machine scarifier for the task. There are non-motorized units that you have to push starting as little as £30 but for an electric scarifier expect to pay at least £100 and more than £300 for a petrol one. There is less demand for them than lawnmowers and hence are not as cheap to buy. Scarification is a process that you carry out maybe once or twice a year and as such you may not need to buy a machine to do it. To hire a scarifier will cost about £20 for an electric one and £40 for a day for a petrol one. Alternatives are to try and pick up a bargain on ebay or down the local car boot sale.

When should I scarify my lawn?

Scarification of your lawn can be carried out anytime during the growing season but ideal times are either late Spring or Autumn.

Before scarifying

It is suggested that you feed your lawn before scarifying especially if you have a bad lawn thatch problem which will need a serious scarification. This will help the grass fill in the areas where the thatch has been removed. See the lawn feed packaging for details of how long it will take for the fertilizers to kick in - will vary depending on whether you use a fast or slow release type (usually liquid or solid respectively).

If the problem with your lawn is a lot of moss rather than thatch then scarifying will still help but it will need treating with either lawn sand or feed and weed a few weeks (again read instructions on packaging) before scarifying. This will kill off the moss so when it is removed less moss spores will be spread plus the moss will come up easier.

After scarifying

Note after a heavy scarification your lawn may look terrible! It will recover best if you water the lawn after it has been scarified (or time it prior to a few days of rain). Also, the scarification process has opened up the soil around the grass and this is the ideal opportunity to over seed your lawn. This is the process of sowing some more grass seed onto your lawn. This will repair balding patches, thicken the lawn making it a higher percentage grass which helps it appearance and reduce incidences of weeds.

Is it worth it?

It can be hard work but can make a huge difference to your lawn. Although your lawn will look scarred for a while with the right pre and post lawn care it will look much better in a month or so. I'm trying it on my lawn and you can check out the results on my lawn blog.


"I took over a lawn (on moving house) having scarified it virtually 4 or 5 times during the two previous summers it is now a lawn to be proud of. Scarifying is hard work but worth every moment of your time."

Jim L

"I've just bought an electric scarifier & had no idea how or when to use it properly. I found your advice excellent & am now more confident to go ahead & use the machine to best advantage. Thanks"

Jim Hughes

"What price moss for your flower basket liners? expensive, i have used the moss from my lawn after scarifying, it works a treat and i\'ve never had any problems for years, it also looks great."