My scarified lawn looks terrible, should I be worried?

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It is normal for a freshly scarified lawn to look terrible but don’t worry. Scarifying a lawn is a temporarily destructive task as it removes a lot of thatch, moss and a little grass. The lawn will look bare however, this is normal and will recover in a few weeks. Read the guide below to get your lawn looking back to its best.

When should I scarify my lawn?

The short answer to the question, when should I scarify my lawn, is mid-Spring or early to mid-Autumn. Wait until the grass is actively growing and the weather is dry, but not too hot.

To understand why this is the case, you need to understand what scarifying is and what it does to your lawn.

Scarifying is the raking of the lawn to remove debris and organic matter from the surface of the soil. The removal of this debris allows more air, and therefore oxygen to reach the roots of the grass blades. It frees up space for healthy grass shoots to grow into. It also removes unsightly moss etc from your lawn so that what will remain is only a tip-top lawn.

Unfortunately, the scarification process is temporarily destructive to your lawn. As it is tearing out moss and thatch, it will inevitably remove some grass too. For this reason, when you scarify your lawn is key to success.

When you should scarify your lawn depends on how much moss and thatch needs to be removed from it.

When should I perform a light scarification?

A light scarification is best carried out in mid to late spring. This is because the process will end with less of the soil surface being exposed and therefore will be less susceptible to weeds germinating in your lawn. Weed seeds will be more active during the late to spring and summer months. Reducing your lawns exposure to these weeds will significantly improve it’s condition over the growing season.

Performing a heavy scarification during this period will create a lot more bare soil and will therefore be counter-productive if weeds take hold of the lawn before the grass has a chance to.

Some other key points are:

  • Lightly scarification should only be carried out with a rake of electric/petrol descarifier on a high setting that won’t dig into the soil too much.
  • Light scarification will require a lot of effort if you are using a rake. This might only be possible on small lawns or large lawns where you target specific areas.
  • Don’t perform a scarification if the weather is exceptionally dry and hot. Grass won’t grow as well in these conditions are your lawn will unsightly for longer.
  • Don’t perform a scarification if the ground is wet. Scarifying the lawn when the ground is wet will tear out too much grass.

Remember to read the section called Preparing your lawn for scarification in this article before carrying out any work.

When should I perform a heavy scarification?

The best time to perform a heavy scarification is in early to mid-autumn. This is because the process will bare a larger amount of the soil surface than a light scarification. Because the majority of the seasons weed seeds will be less active at this point in the year, you will run less of a risk of these seeds germinating. The grass will get a better chance to recover and fill out the bare soil.

Remember to read the section called Preparing your lawn for scarification in this article before carrying out any work.

Some other key points are:

  • Lightly scarification should only be carried out with a rake of electric/petrol descarifier on a high setting that won’t dig into the soil too much.
  • Light scarification will require a lot of effort if you are using a rake. This might only be possible on small lawns or large lawns where you target specific areas.
  • Don’t perform a scarification if the weather is exceptionally dry and hot. Grass won’t grow as well in these conditions are your lawn will unsightly for longer.
  • Don’t perform a scarification if the ground is wet. Scarifying the lawn when the ground is wet will tear out too much grass.

If you leave the scarification too late in the year, do not try to fit it in. Instead wait until mid-spring the following year. Trying to scarify your lawn outside the ideal window of opportunity, will cause more problems for your lawn than what it will solve.

Prepare the lawn to be scarified

So you now know when you should scarify your lawn. You’ve waited until your lawn is beginning to actively grow. Now all that remains is to prepare the lawn for scarification. As the whole process is temporarily destructive to the lawn, it’s best to prepare your lawn ready for the scarification process.

If your lawn is heavily affected by moss, apply a moss killer 10 days before scarification. This will do three things:

  1. It will loosen the moss from the ground, thus making it easier to scarify.
  2. As it turns black, it will become easier for you to spot, allowing you to concentrate on the parts of the lawn that require it most.
  3. Any moss left in the lawn will at least be dead and not spread any further.

Cut the lawn short at least a week before scarifying. This will help change the metabolism of the grass and will develop some strong root growth. Then, on the day of the scarification, preferably after midday, cut the lawn again. The reason for waiting after midday is to ensure that any morning due has evaporated. Otherwise the due might make the lawn too damp and cause it to tear.

Cutting the lawn before scarifying will prevent the scarifier from ripping out too many grass blades.