Lawn Scarifying Tips

Lawn Scarifying Tips

If you’ve never heard the term scarifying or scarification, you are not alone. But if you are a true lawn aficionado, then you probably know what it is and why it has value for keeping your lawn beautiful.

Scarification: Defined

Simply put, scarification is the process of removing organic matter from your lawn by raking or using specialized tools. This material is called thatch, and is comprised of dead grass roots, shoots, and runners. It is the grass shoots that normally make for a lush, beautiful lawn, but they normally die off to make room for new growth and then decompose. This thatch then becomes interspersed among healthy grass and above the soil. The process of scarifying ranges anywhere from a vigorous raking in the spring and fall, to using more complex processes involving specialized tools and machines.

To do a complete job of scarifying your lawn, you will need a mechanical device called a lawn scarifier. This device uses blades that dig into the ground to remove the thatch. On the other hand, you may decide to use a professional lawn care service to do this job for you. However, do read on before making any decisions about how to beautify your lawn!

Reasons to Scarify Your Lawn

First, thatch is not all bad. Some thatch acts as a barrier that protects the lawn against damage and disease. Like applying mulch in our garden, thatch minimizes the loss of moisture from the lawn, keeping it healthy and acting as a buffer during extremes in weather.  However, too much thatch damages the roots of the grass by inhibiting air, nutrients, and water from getting through. What follows: damaged roots equal damaged lawn. The following are several issues that are caused by too much lawn thatch.

Shallow Rooting

Too much thatch damages grass roots by absorbing water and fertilizer before they can get to the roots of the grass. When this happens, the roots cannot grow deeply into the soil, and they instead grow on the thatch. Adhering to the thatch like this allows the roots to get their necessary water, nutrients, and air.

Growth of Moss and Disease

Moss and fungus are harmful to lawns; scarification can help
Moss and fungus

By soaking up water, thatch causes an environment that promotes the growth of moss, lichens, and fungus. Fungus will consume the grass’ nutrients, causing it to fall prey to disease.


It’s no surprise that in hot weather, thatch will become dry and essentially kill the grass that has become rooted to it. Lawns suffering from this condition will turn brown.

Does my Lawn Need Scarification?

Whether your lawn needs frequent scarifying depends on the type of grass you have and the amount of thatch on it. For example, thatch only forms a small amount on rye grass, which means rye-based lawns won’t need to be scarified as often as other types of grass. However, don’t scarify just for the sake of it; instead, dig down into your lawn about 2 inches and see how much thatch has formed.  

Equipment Used for Scarification

There are two pieces of equipment used for scarification, the manual scarifier and the powered lawn scarifier. In addition, there is a third option, and that is scarification with an old-fashioned rake.

Manual Lawn Scarifier

When you use the manual scarifier, you need to maneuver it in a back-and-forth motion which causes the blades to dig into the ground at a preset depth. Digging deep allows for aeration of the soil, which is necessary for the final step in the process. Be aware that this is a tiring and time-consuming process.

Powered Lawn Scarifier

Lawn Scarifying tips - powered scarifier. Views from side and underneath
Powered Lawn Scarifier. Left is side view. Right shows underneath view of the unit

When speed is necessary, you need to use a powered lawn scarifier. This scarifier is also easier to operate and glides across the lawn like a lawnmower. However, it is also easy to damage your lawn with this scarifier by adjusting the height too deep, too fast.


Raking in the spring and fall helps keep lawns beautiful

Both the manual and powered lawn scarifiers are the most efficient at controlling thatch in your lawn. However, raking is excellent at removing moss growth. Moss needs to be removed before scarification.

What You’ll Need for Scarification and a Beautiful Lawn

In addition to the manual or powered scarifier, the following items and tools will help you grow a beautiful and healthy lawn.

  1. Lawnmower: To cut grass and gather thatch before scarifying.
  2. Moss killer: If raking does not eliminate all the moss, purchase a moss killer, and apply it a week before you plan to scarify your lawn.
  3. Weed killer: Apply weed killer 3 weeks before scarification.
  4. Rake: Use for moss and to gather loose thatch.
  5. Grass seed: Add for fullness to the lawn.
  6. Fertilizer: Add to enrich and add necessary nutrients to the lawn.

So. you have finished scarifying your lawn, but your work is not yet over. At this point, your lawn will not yet be the lush, beautiful carpet you want. In short: it needs to recover, and the secret to this is the following.

  • Adding too much seed! Yes, that’s right. By overseeding your lawn, more grass and fewer weeds will grow.
  • Fertilizing: Especially after scarification, your lawn needs to have its nutrients replenished, specifically:
    • Nitrogen for green growth
    • Phosphorous for root and seed growth
    • Potassium for strength and disease protection
Mowing your lawn regularly is an important step in the scarifying process

How You Can Control the Growth of Thatch

When thatch becomes more than ½ inch on the lawn, you need to consider scarifying it. Perhaps you’ve seen lawns that are neglected that have an excess amount of thatch with many bare and brown spots.

Now that you know something about the tough process of scarification, you will probably be interested in doing what you can to prevent or minimize the growth of thatch. Here are some things you can do.

  1. Aerate your lawn often, especially in heavily trafficked areas. Aeration helps form microorganisms, and these serve to dissipate dead grass and prevent the formation of thatch.
  2. Scarify with regular raking and light scarification. Raking and light scarifying keeps serious problems that will be more expensive and time-consuming from occurring.
  3. Fertilize with lower-nitrogen fertilizer. High nitrogen fertilizers cause grass to grow so quickly that growth of the root system can’t keep up. The result is that watering and getting nutrients to the grass becomes problematic.
  4. Don’t overwater. Overwatering causes longer-rooted grass to grow.


So, when is it the best time to groom and nurture your lawn? It’s important to rake your lawn every spring and every autumn to stimulate growth and remove dead thatch and other organic material such as leaves and garden refuse. You should scarify either once a year or every two years for the ultimate health and beauty of your lawn.

Now that you know everything about scarification, you are ready to start your spring by nurturing, growing, and de-thatching your lawn so it will be stunning all summer long.

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Last update on 2023-03-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API