Originally Posted On: https://www.experteasy.com.au/blog/lawn-scarification/
Lawn scarification is the process of raking a lawn with the intention of removing thatch. When carried out appropriately it can lead to a healthier, greener lawn.
To scarify efficiently, you’ll need a mechanical lawn scarifier with blades that penetrate the ground and remove the thatch.
While you may feel more comfortable hiring a lawn care service to carry out this work, but in the following guide, we outline how scarification works, its importance, how frequently and how you should go about carrying out lawn scarification.
Following this guide will lead to a lusher, healthier lawn.
Lawn scarification is an operation that removes thatch from a lawn, and is also known as “dethatching”, or “power raking”.
Thatch is essentially side shoots of grass which normally create a lush, thick lawn, but then die off to make way for new runners. As these grass shoots decompose, they produce a chemical called lignin, which makes the remaining material slow to break down further. This dead grass then becomes intertwined with newer shoots of grass, and this composite is known as thatch.
Some thatch is good for lawns – around a few centimetres is good, as it protects the root of the grass while allowing nutrients through to the soil and grass roots. It also acts as a buffer against extreme temperatures and helps to prevent soil compaction. The issue, however, with too much thatch is that it stops air, nutrients, and water from reaching the roots of the lawn, and therefore stops healthy growth and nourishment. It also creates an uneven lawn and the latticework of partially decomposed material encourages disease.
Thatch is often caused by environmental consequences, but it can accumulate excessively when lawns are neglected. Natural factors that cause thatch include soils with a low pH or a high sand content, as they have less microorganisms to decompose thatch. Fertilising a lawn with too much nitrogen causes rapid growth of shoots in thatch, and overwatering prevents decomposition as it hinders microorganism health. Oxygen flow can also be prevented by over-watering or soil compaction, which creates poor conditions for microorganisms.
Too much thatch – anything over half an inch – will need to be scarified. This is because excessive thatch has four key consequences. Firstly, it prevents drainage which means air and nutrients can’t reach roots. Secondly, thatch can increase the risk of drought damage as grass roots are unable to embed in the soil. Thirdly, grass strains with shorter roots that are disease prone are in favour of preferable longer rooted grass like those on golf courses. Finally, thatch can also lead to further issues like weeds, fungal issues, and moss. By removing this lawn thatch, the roots can receive these nutrients and as a result, grass is healthier and greener.
The simple answer to this is no. In fact, different types of grass produce varying levels of thatch. Grass types like ryegrass produce very little thatch, as it’s durable and therefore low maintenance. If a ryegrass lawn hasn’t been scarified for a several years, however, it will likely require scarification to clear any build up. It also depends on the look you’re trying to achieve for your particular lawn as ryegrass is dark and will therefore have a unique appearance.
First up, you’ll need to check for the appropriate level of thatch. It’s definitely best not to scarify for the sake of it, as this can create more damage than good. To check for thatch, it’s best to take samples using a hollow tiner. Digging from variable places across your lawn down at least two inches, you will be able to see how much thatch is in the lawn.
It’s extremely important to be careful and not overdo scarification. Follow the steps below for successful scarifying:
I also recommend you watch Lawnsmith’s video on how to carry out scarification:
Lawn scarification can be a laborious process that will likely cause some initial damage to your lawn. The long term benefits do, however, outweigh the initial unsightliness. This is variable dependent on how much thatch there is on the lawn.
If you do not have a heavy thatch layer you should first consider lawn aeration, while both techniques are good for the health of the lawn in the long-term, they both stress the lawn in the short-term, you should generally try and avoid carrying out both techniques in the same season. For maintenance we strongly recommend core aeration as it is less stressful than detaching
Choosing the right time of year during which you scarify can help to promote growth and a speedy recovery. This most often means carrying out the process during warm, wet, and sunny weather, however the scarification itself should always be carried out on a dry day on a dry lawn. Otherwise, you may find wet thatch clogs up your scarifier much quicker, and it’s more difficult to tidy up.
For lawns with a little moss, light scarification or even raking can be carried out to repair your lawn in spring. The height of spring is the perfect time for this as the weather should be warmer but still wet for recovery and growth. Good tools for carrying out this process include an electric rake or a hand scarifier. Spring is the best time for light scarification.
This is a risky process, but be can be required for lawns with heavy thatch, high levels of moss, or simply a dry patch. Heavy scarification could be followed by widely spaced lawn aeration, over sowing of seeds, and mild fertilizing for optimal results…essentially replacing half the lawn. Don’t attempt it if the area will have high foot traffic in the month after. Autumn is the best time for heavy scarification, carrying out this process in spring could result in many weeds.
While scarifying is the best procedure for removing thatch from beneath the lawn surface, raking is best for removing moss. Moss doesn’t lay as deep in the lawn, so can simply be raked by a manual or powered model to pull the moss out of the grass. If there’s both moss and thatch in your lawn, it’s best to rake out the moss before carrying out scarification.
The following tools will help in the scarification process:
There are typically two types of lawn scarifier. A manual lawn scarifier is ideal for small lawns, and simplifies the process. A powered scarifier is great for larger lawns, and providing a quicker scarification process.
The best way to use these is applying a back and forth motion, while adjusting the depth of penetration that the blade makes into the ground. This can be done by tilting the handle, and will reach more thatch as a result. Digging deep is particularly effective for aerating the ground for sowing grass seeds as part of the final step. Do bear in mind this process can be time consuming.
Powered scarifiers really do speed up the process as you can imagine. It’s easy enough to adjust the height, and simply move across the lawn like you would a lawnmower. You can see just how much easier the process is with a powered scarifier from this video:
However best practice is to first go gentle on the lawn to minimize damage, and very gradually adjust the height on the scarifier. When preparing the lawn for sowing seed, dig into the soil by about a quarter of an inch for sufficient penetration.
Recovery is key. This is where the time of year is even more important. You can help to speed up the process through the following two processes:
As you can see, excessive thatch takes a long time and a lot of effort to recover from. So preventing the thatch in the first place is the best method. There are several steps you can take:
So there you go – your ultimate guide to lawn scarification. Good luck, and here’s to a healthier, greener lawn!
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