How to scarify a lawn – the expert-approved guide for healthy, green and luscious grass

Lawn care pros advise what’s the best way to go about scarifying your lawn

A large garden with a mowed lawn
(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb)

Having your lawn care routine down is the secret behind a thick and bright green grass outside your door. And knowing how to scarify a lawn is an essential part of that routine. 

Sure, getting the timing right for when to scarify your lawn is important. But knowing how to do it without hurting your lawn is the name of the game. 

And for this, we look to our panel of gardening and lawn experts to give us some lawn care tips on the proper scarifying ways and methods that will lead to a healthy and well-nourished lawn.

How to scarify a lawn

A garden with a green lawn

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you’re wondering what scarification is, this top autumn lawn care tip is simply the process of removing dead thatch – the brown material underneath your lawn’s grass blades – from your lawn. Apart from the fact that in large amounts dead thatch doesn’t look particularly pleasing to the eye, it can also prevent necessary nutrients and water from getting to the grassroots.

Scarifying can also get rid of moss in your lawn and promote the growth of strong, healthy and greener grass.

What you’ll need

Scarifying is a process that requires a tool in hand. But there are a few options to choose from depending purely on your preference and the size of your lawn.

Lawn prep

Before you start scarifying, prep your lawn for the rather stressful process it’s about to be put through.

‘Mow the grass slightly shorter than usual to expose the layer of thatch and therefore make it easier to remove,’ says Steve Chilton, garden expert from LeisureBench. ‘Also, remove any debris such as sticks, leaves, or even large stones from the lawn.’

Ionel Giuran, Fantastic Gardeners' lawn care expert, adds, ‘If the soil is dry, water the lawn a day or two before scarifying because damp soil will allow for easier penetration of the scarifier.’

Then, the process slightly differs depending on what tool you choose. 

‘You can use either a handheld or powered machine to scarify your lawn. Whichever you choose, you should stick to one tool in order to achieve evenness and the best final result,’ Steve recommends.

A garden with a green lawn and plants

(Image credit: Future PLC)
Steve Chilton portrait
Steve Chilton

Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field. As the director of LeisureBench, an industry-leading garden furniture company, Steve has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. 

Using a handheld tool

Start by tearing up the thatch by combing through the grass, carefully covering every area of your lawn.

‘Use another rake to collect any debris. Then go back in, deeper into the lawn, at a 45 degree angle,’ Steve explains.

Using an electric scarifier

‘Set the blades on the scarifier to the appropriate depth, which will depend on the severity of thatch buildup. It's generally recommended to start with a shallower setting and adjust afterwards if it's needed,’ Ionel says.

He continues, ‘Run the scarifier over the lawn in parallel passes, covering the entire area. The machine will cut through the thatch, pulling up any debris to the surface.’

Finally, collect the debris by either raking it or using the scarifier’s collection system. This is a crucial step as leaving the debris behind can result in smothering the grass.

Garden with a green lawn and vines

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Finish with a fertiliser

Then after putting the grass through all that stress, it’s a good idea to feed it so that it recovers quicker.

‘It is usually advised to fertilise the lawn following scarification,’ recommends Kevin Gess, owner of Prestige Lawns. ‘Scarification of the grass can cause stress, therefore, feeding it with nutrients afterward aids in its recuperation and encourages good growth. Following scarification, applying fertiliser enables the grass to absorb nutrients more effectively and promotes its renewal.’

FAQs

Should I cut grass before scarifying?

‘Before scarifying, mow the lawn to a shorter height than usual to help the scarifier reach the thatch layer more effectively,’ Ionel advises.

What month should I scarify my lawn?

‘In the spring (around April time), you should be doing a light scarification. In autumn (around early September), you can scarify your lawn more heavily,’ Steve says.

Happy scarifying! 

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.