If you love your lawn, you dethatch it, they say. But after dethatching, the lawn looks badly battered. Does it have to be done at all? And how does it actually work? When is the right time? We show whether you should dethatch at all and how you can get your lawn looking fresh again!
When the days get warmer in spring, we are clearly drawn to the outdoors. The longing is great to finally make ourselves long on the lawn again. Unfortunately, after a long winter, the green spaces usually present themselves in a dreary state. So it’s time to put on the gardening gloves and get the lawn ready for spring. Scarifying is at the top of the to-do list in most gardens. Find out when and why you should scarify your lawn here.
What is scarifying?
The term “scarifying” probably comes from the English combination of vertical and to cut, i.e. to cut vertically into the turf with knives. Originally, the procedure was also called aerating, which corresponds to the actual sense of dethatching: the lawn is given more air by removing so-called lawn felt (non-rotted plant fibers), weeds and moss. Depending on the equipment used, the scarifier, after scoring into the lawn, pulls out the dead and unwanted parts of the plants and transports them – if available – into the catch basket or they are subsequently collected from the lawn with a rake. In this way, more light reaches the newly formed blades of grass and they can grow better.
Scarifying was developed for lawns that have to withstand extreme site conditions. These include soccer pitches, for example. Especially in sports stadiums, where there is little light and no natural soil life, where the water is artificially drained and the green area is equipped with a lawn heating system, the soil requires the most intensive care. But even in private gardens there are difficult site conditions that make scarifying necessary if you value a well-kept lawn green.
Why should the lawn be scarified?
At the beginning and end of the garden year your lawn is waiting for a fresh cure. You can check whether it also needs to be dethatched for this purpose using the tables.
Indications that your lawn should be dethatched in spring
- Snow has compacted the soil.
- The lawn is permanently wet.
- The grasses are brownish rather than green.
- There are many leaves on the lawn.
- Moss is growing through the lawn.
- There is lawn felt (a mixture of non-rotted plant parts) between the blades.
- The first wild weeds, such as dandelion, dock or daisies are spreading.
- Grass clippings from last year can still be found.
- Indicators that your lawn should be aerated in autumn
- The lawn is overgrown with wild weeds.
- The grass area has rarely been mowed.
- The grass has been heavily used by games and sports.
- Moss has spread during the summer.
- Lawn mulch has decayed poorly.
- Due to strong plant growth, the garden was shaded a lot.
- A lot of rainfall during the summer.
- The lawn has been “burned” by too much sunlight.
When exactly should be scarified?
There are two ideal times to scarify the lawn. The first dethatching of the garden year should take place in the spring after the first mowing. It’s best to start when it’s just starting to get warmer – early to mid-April, depending on your region. But the earlier you dethatch, the better, so the lawn has plenty of recovery time before it’s called upon. Typically, lawns need three weeks to recover from dethatching. It’s best to sprinkle some lawn seed on the bare patches of grass while you’re at it. If your lawn is freshly planted, give it time to take root. The first dethatching should take place 2-3 years after the establishment of the green area – regardless of whether you have sown it or laid turf.
The second time to scarify is in the fall, while it is still warm but no longer hot. Prepare the lawn for winter by removing moss, weeds and lawn thatch. Start aerating the lawn in September and possibly into October in more southern regions, so it has plenty of time to recover from the procedure before snow and ice get to it.
Which dethatching devices are available?
There are gasoline-powered scarifiers, electric scarifiers and hand scarifiers. Which device you choose is not only a question of cost, but should essentially depend on the size of the garden and the conditions. If you have a park-like garden, a gasoline scarifier is a good choice, as it is powerful and designed for large areas. For average-sized gardens, an electric scarifier is the most pleasant choice, as it works quietly and is also easier on the back and joints compared to handheld devices. In addition, there are many devices with an additional catch basket, which makes the work much easier. For those who are sporty and only have small areas to work on or have a lawn on a slope, a handheld unit is the best choice. Motorized scarifiers cost between 70 and 2700 euros. But there is also the possibility of renting the device in a gardening store.
Can scarifying also harm the lawn?
The subject of scarifying is a hotly debated topic among gardening enthusiasts every year. The fact is that after dethatching the lawn looks pretty battered. The shock at the sight of the first-time dethatched lawn is probably quite large. Because not only mosses and lawn felt are removed from the lawn, of course, also blades of grass with roots are pulled out of the grass corral when the turf is scarified. Thus, after scarifying, a large amount of soil becomes visible. But don’t worry, if the lawn is healthy, i.e. if it is not weakened by, for example, fungal diseases, it will regenerate quickly and after about three weeks it will again be interspersed with freshly grown blades of grass. For those who still have concerns, dethatching can also be done on a biennial basis. In addition, there are, of course, many other ways to keep your green spaces fresh and healthy.
I have 30 years of experience and i started this website to see if i could try and share my knowledge to help you.
With a degree a Horticulture BSc (Hons)
I have worked as a horticulture specialist lead gardener, garden landscaper, and of course i am a hobby gardener at home in my own garden.
Please if you have any questions leave them on the article and i will get back to you personally.