Scarifying,

How to Scarify Your Lawn: With a Scarifier or a Rake?

Scarifying is an intensive task that requires a fair amount of effort. So, do you choose a scarifying rake machine? Find out the pros and cons.

5 MIN 05 May
Last update: 04 May 2023
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A scarifier is an essential lawn care tool, but it’s surprising how many keen gardeners have never even heard of this vital lawn care task. Scarifying (aka verticutting) helps your grass plants breathe, returns nutrients to the roots, and makes way for a denser, more luxurious role. 

But there are several different ways of scarifying — so which do you choose? Are you going to bite the bullet and opt for a scarifying machine, a manual push-powered scarifier, or a scarifying rake?

This article is all about the different ways to scarify your lawn, including the best approaches depending on the size and shape of your lawn. And, of course, we’ll ask the question, “Why do I need to scarify my lawn” and “How often?”

Ready? Let’s get scarifying. 

Why should I scarify my lawn?

Grass roots need fresh air. So, if your soil is covered with a layer of moss, weeds, or thatch (organic matter such as rotting leaves), it’s time to clear it away because it’s suffocating your grass plants’ roots. 

Scarifying is best tackled at least once a year — twice is even better. That way, you keep on top of the inevitable moss and thatch layer that’s bound to develop.

But scarifying is quite a stressful process for your lawn because it effectively tears a lot of the grass up as it removes the thatch. However, there’s nothing to fear because your lawn bounces back with abundance within a couple of weeks — more robust and vital than before. 

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Should I use a dethatching rake or a machine?

Scarifying is an intensive job, requiring a fair amount of effort. 

However, there are several valuable tools that take most of the effort out of this essential lawn care task. 

The choice between the manual- or machine-assisted route depends on the amount of work you’re prepared to put into the job and the size of your garden. 

Garden doctor Louis says:

Your lawn will look totally battered immediately after scarifying. But don’t worry: with proper aftercare, it will bounce right back!

Scarifying Rake

A scarifying rake
A scarifying rake

The scarifying rake has two sides: one with short, sharp blades, and the other with longer, blunter blades. 

How to use a scarifying rake

Use the shorter blades first — these will remove the top layer of thatch. Work the rake up and down your lawn horizontally. Then, run the rake diagonally up and down, ensuring a thorough dethatching. 

Don’t panic as you go — your lawn will look ropey directly afterwards. It’s worth it in the end! 

After using the shorter blade, repeat the entire process with the longer blades. This will access the remaining moss and weaker grass blades. If you fail to complete this stage of the process, moss will come back more quickly. 

The pros and cons of scarifying rakes

The advantages of scarifying rakes are:

  • Cheap to purchase
  • Easy to control
  • Takes up very little space in your garden shed

The bad side of scarifying rakes is:

  • Labour-intensive job

So, if your lawn is larger than 100mᒾ, I’d recommend a scarifying machine. 

Scarifying machine

A electric scarifier on a moss-filled lawn
An electric scarifier

A scarifying machine makes the task MUCH easier. Resembling a lawn mower, the job of removing thatch becomes a cinch, requiring very little work (other than emptying the collector). 

In fact, if you haven’t scarified before, the hardest part of the job IS emptying the collector because you’ll be running back and forth to your compost bin every couple of minutes. 

Choose from an electric scarifier — perfect for smaller spaces because of the power lead — or one with a petrol engine, which is ideal for larger lawns. 

Remember, scarifying isn’t a one-off job. For best results, you should scarify at least once a year. So, consider buying rather than hiring your scarifier; it works out cheaper in the long run. 

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Performance of rakes vs machines

Scarifiers come in a range of designs and price ranges. You can choose between:

  • Fixed blades
  • Loose blades
  • Needles

Fixed blades cut better, wear less quickly, and are generally cheaper. Loose blades work better on surfaces with lots of stones and debris, while needles are more suited to aerating the soil. 

Most powered scarifiers come with a collection box, which is a priceless addition because there will be a surprising amount of debris to collect otherwise. 

Should I buy or rent a scarifier?

Scarifying rakes are pretty affordable, so for less than £50, you’ll get a good quality rake that does the job well and remains operational for years. 

Machines are more expensive — up to a couple of hundred pounds. However, many hardware companies run special offers, and I picked up my Klarna scarifier for less than £70. And when I looked into hiring, I found that the prices for a day weren’t that different. 

So, I figured it’s better to buy one than pay the same amount to hire and give it back — only to have the same expense the next time I scarified. 

Alternatively, you might find a local Library Of Things, a low-cost way to hire a scarifier, then give it back. 

Aftercare

A scarifying machine on a large lawn.
Halfway through scarifying

I’m not going to lie: after scarifying, you’ll wonder what the heck you’ve done to your lawn. It will look like the ground around the Pyramid stage after a Rolling Stones gig at a wet Glastonbury.  

But with the correct aftercare, it WILL bounce back quickly.

The recovery process starts immediately, so fertilise and water your muddy patch! And overseed — that way, the lawn will return much lusher than before. And set the sprinkler once or twice a day for the next couple of weeks until the lawn shows signs of returning.

For the total lowdown on scarifying, check out our expert guide to scarifying

Any questions?

I hope you’ve got all the information you need for expert scarification. 

But if you need more assistance, check out the encyclopedia of lawn care and gardening tips in our website’s Help & Advice section.  

And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch

We love to hear from you and will get back to you asap. 

Thanks for reading!

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  • What is your lawn care goal?
    1. A. Greener grass
    2. B. A more lush, dense lawn
    3. C. Bald spot repair
    4. D. Lawn restoration
    5. E. Laying out a new lawn
    6. F. Combating moss
  • For which season?
    1. A. Spring
    2. B. Summer
    3. C. Autumn
    4. D. Winter
  • Describe your lawn:
    1. A. My lawn has shaded areas
    2. B. My lawn is used intensively (e.g. by children & pets)
    3. C. I have a decorative lawn
    4. D. I have a standard lawn without special features
  • How many bald spots do you have?
    1. A. A lot, my lawn looks like a barren wasteland
    2. B. A few bald spots here and there
  • Describe your lawn restoration goal:
    1. A. I want to completely renovate my lawn
    2. B. I want to overseed my existing lawn
  • Describe your lawn:
    1. A. My lawn is shaded
    2. B. My lawn will be used intensively (e.g. by children & pets)
    3. C. I would like to have a decorative lawn
    4. D. I would like to have a thick and strong lawn
  • How bad is the moss problem in your garden?
    1. A. Bad. My lawn is covered in moss.
    2. B. Just a few spots
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