Scarifying – What Do It Bring Your Garden?

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When it comes to gardening tools, you are probably familiar with the lawn mower and hedge trimmer. Lawn trimmers and sprinklers are also familiar to you. However, in addition to the right length and adequate watering, the lawn also needs a way to absorb nutrients well from the soil. This is where the scarifier comes into play. This loosens the soil, removes mulch and old grass residues from the lawn. So it is not the lawn itself that is worked on, but rather its surface. In this way, the lawn should be stimulated to grow again in case of possible damage, and in general, dethatching should contribute to lawn care.

However, dethatching is similarly diverse when it comes to equipment and its application as lawn mowing. To give you an overview of dethatching so that you are well advised when buying a dethatcher, I would now like to explain the subject in detail.

Dethatching explained

I have already gone into the fact that dethatching is mainly to work on the surface of the lawn. Old moss residues, cut off lawn ends, or other disturbing organisms are removed with a scarifier.

Plants also need to “breathe” in their own way. Of course, they do not have lungs in the true sense of the word, but their roots are equally important. Through them you absorb nutrients and this absorption can be favored by scarifying. However, the process should not be confused with aerification, which will be explained later.

In addition to the natural nutrients in the soil, light is also an important growth factor. If the lawn is covered by moss or older grasses, it may no longer receive the amount of light it needs to grow optimally.

Therefore, you should make sure that the lawn is adequately cleaned at regular intervals.

How does scarifying work?

For optimal scarifying, there is the scarifier of the same name. This is not the same as a lawn mower, but works in a different way. Where the lawn mower moves its blades horizontally across the lawn to cut the grass to its proper length, the scarifier moves vertically into the ground.

Incidentally, this form of movement is where the name comes from. The scarifier cuts vertically into the ground either with rotating spring steel blades or with pure springs. The moss or other grass residues picked up there are collected in the catch bag.

So, unlike lawn mowing, the length of the lawn is not affected. The aim is not to cut the lawn itself, but only its surface. The depth of cut here is about 2-4 millimeters. With this depth, only the upper layer of felt should be removed, without working the lawn.

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When should the lawn be scarified

Although dethatching should be done at regular intervals, this does not refer to frequency. Dethatching is recommended mainly in the spring and fall.

In the spring, dethatching frees the soil from possible remnants of the winter. In addition, the lawn is still particularly capable of regeneration there and can cope with the processing optimally. In summer, dethatching is not recommended, because the hot temperatures and possible activities on the lawn already stress it enough.

You can find out if you need to scarify the lawn more often by lightly poking the soil with a rake. If any amount of moss sticks when you pull it out, this is an indication that you should dethatch the lawn.

A heavy infestation of weeds is also an indication that dethatching is necessary. Weeds especially attack weakened lawns, and a felty layer that has settled on the lawn can encourage weed growth.

In the spring, dethatching should be done about after the second lawn mowing. Ideally, your lawn will also have already received spring fertilization. In this condition, the lawn is ideally prepared for scarifying.

The lawn is optimally supplied with nutrients and can cope well with scarifying. Possible damage can be easily repaired again. So when you scarify the lawn depends on a few factors.

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Tips for scarifying

Dethatching when the lawn is wet is not recommended. Make sure that the lawn is dry. In this condition, it is most capable of regeneration and does not provide a target for fungal attack.

Adjust the scarifier so that it is only a few millimeters deep. Ideally, only the top layer is touched and removed. If possible, the lawn should not be picked up by the scarifier.

Move the scarifier across the lawn in brisk motions. If you think you can work the lawn more thoroughly with slow and careful movements, you may be doing it more harm.

The direction of movement is also crucial for an optimal result. For the optimal movement sequence for dethatching, imagine a checkerboard pattern. Now move the scarifier along these longitudinal and transverse lines. Start and maintain a preferred direction and only when the lawn has been completely worked in the longitudinal direction once, the transverse direction should follow.

If you find unsightly areas in the lawn, it is advisable to start reseeding after scarifying. After scarifying, healthy growth is possible and the lawn should recover quickly.

Different scarifiers

Scarifiers come in three fundamentally different styles. Depending on your budget and the area of application, you should choose either an electric dethatcher, a gasoline-powered dethatcher, or a manual dethatcher.

The scarifier will probably only be used twice a year, but still, according to Stiftung Warentest, there are big differences in quality. To avoid making the wrong choice, take a look at the different types of scarifier for this.

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The electric scarifier

Electric scarifiers are more suitable for smaller lawns. Also, since the lawn is only worked on twice a year, the scarifier does not have to be designed for continuous use. So, the electric version is an inexpensive and quite sufficient option if you want to work on your own small lawn.

However, the power cord that comes with it should be considered a nuisance. If you have areas that are difficult to reach with a power cable, it is not exactly advisable to resort to an electric scarifier.

In addition, if the ground is very uneven, there is a risk that the electric scarifier often lifts off the ground, as they are usually built very light. Remedy here can be to additionally weigh down the electric scarifier.

Gasoline-powered scarifiers

If you want to scarify a large area or if parts of the lawn are difficult to reach with a power cord, the gasoline-powered scarifier is the ideal way to work on the lawn quickly and cleanly. You’ll also avoid the problem of the unit’s cutting blades severing the power cord.

Since dethatching is best done when the soil is dry, gasoline-powered dethatchers are also more suitable than electronic dethatchers. Gasoline scarifiers have better performance, and in combination with sharp blades, they can achieve higher quality, especially in dry soils.

However, it should be noted that gasoline scarifiers are more costly to maintain and, of course, the gasoline is required. Since the scarifiers are only needed once or twice a year, the question is whether this extra expense is worth the benefit.

The loudness of a gasoline scarifier should also not be ignored. If you want to use the scarifier in a residential area, it may cause problems with the peace of the neighbors.

Hand scarifier

Whether you already own an electric or gasoline scarifier, a hand scarifier is still needed in most cases. The advantage of hand-operated scarifiers is that they come in numerous size options.

So, you can either purchase a hand-held scarifier as your main unit or use a smaller version, for instance, to work on hard-to-reach corners.

Hand dethatchers require a lot of power to work to their full potential. So if you want to use it to work your entire lawn, you really need to have good stamina, or already have your lawn so well maintained that it only needs scarifying in a few places.

The right choice of scarifier

Now you know the three basic types of dethatchers, and the text has already touched on what to look for when you’re interested in a dethatcher.

The size of the lawn

Small areas and individual spots can certainly be treated with a manual scarifier. However, if you have the goal to work on your entire green area, it is advisable to resort to the electric or gasoline scarifiers. In this case, the gasoline scarifier is again more suitable for larger areas.

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Hardness of the soil

Have you ever had a bad experience with a light lawn mower and noticed that it is difficult to operate on hard ground?

The same is true for scarifiers. Hard ground is difficult for electric scarifiers to work on because they are too light. Even additional weighting with bags is not enough to achieve the same effect.


Gasoline scarifiers are often better in the quality of your work and also suitable for larger areas, but you also need a higher maintenance effort. In addition to the higher initial cost, you also need to consider the expenses for maintenance and gasoline.

Condition of the lawn

In general, you should consider the makeup of your lawn. Not only does the hardness of the soil affect it, but also how level it is and whether there are many corners that are difficult to reach.

If you also have little experience using a scarifier, you should play it safe and go for the more modern versions.

Distinction aerification

Scarifying and aerifying basically have two different goals. While dethatching only works on the surface of the lawn, aerifying also reaches the soil.

Aerating is intended to loosen the soil, making it easier for the roots to absorb the necessary nutrients.

Although scarifying also has a positive effect on the absorption of light and an overall high effect on the health of the lawn, the soil as such is not attacked.

If your lawn is more heavily used in the summer, it makes sense to aerify it with special equipment at intervals of about six weeks.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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