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The basic principle of scarifying a lawn is to remove excess thatch or moss that will otherwise prevent strong, healthy grass growth.

Thatch is a layer of fibrous material comprising dead and decaying organic material found between the soil surface and the turf. This material will be made up of old grass clippings, horizontal grass stems, decaying leaves and any other organic material that has found its way under the grass sward.

A layer of thatch up to 0.5” thick is normal and desirable as this is what provides the bounce to a lawn as well as acting as a mulch to reduce water loss during dry conditions. The problem starts when this layer is over 1” thick. Water penetration is reduced and the liklehood of grass disease increases. New root growth becomes more difficult as roots establish themselves in the thatch rather than in the soil or any new growth that manages to break through the thatch layer is blanched as it struggles to receive sufficent light. As the grass weakens moss and weed then find it easier to become established.

Scarifying is also important for removing moss but only after the application of a moss treatment to kill the moss beforehand. The scarification will then remove a significant amount of the moss present.

The best time to scarify a lawn is generally in early autumn or mid spring; the key is to do it when there is still sufficient growing time and conditions available for the lawn to recover. Some people will prefer to do it in early autumn as this is the time of the year when the grass will tiller out and thicken up by growing side shoots and runners.

A lawn should not be scarified too late in the autumn, too early in the spring and in winter as it is much more likely to do more harm than good at this time; the process will open up the sward and potentially allow frost and low temperatures to damage the grass plant and roots. It is also more difficult to get recovery of the lawn at these times and could therefore result in more moss or disease.

Scarification is usually followed by aeration and overseeding and/or top dressing in order to fill out any bare or weaker patches caused by the process. The timing is therefore important to ensure that there is sufficent moisture and warmth for seed germination and growth.

Scarification After