As the summer season draws to a close and the cooler autumn air starts to roll in, now is a great time to start thinking about lawn care. Specifically, it's the best time to start scarifying your lawn. Scarifying, also known as dethatching, is an important step in maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn. It involves removing the layer of dead grass and other debris that accumulates on the surface, allowing more air and nutrients to reach the roots of the grass. Doing it in early autumn helps give the grass one last bit of care before the winter moves in, and helps it to look its best the following year.
You’d typically only need to scarify your lawn once a year, either in the spring or the autumn. During September, the soil is still warm, the air temperature is cooling and the moisture levels normally rise. All these factors encourage your lawn into its second growth spurt of the year, and scarifying should be done when your grass is growing strongly. Leaving it until later in the year means heavy scarifying is required. This seriously thins out the lawn and leaves soil exposed, but thankfully by August and September, you’ll have avoided most of the year’s weed seeds. That way, you’re not just replacing a moss or thatch problem with a weed problem.
Scarifying basically promotes stronger, healthier growth in your grass, but does so by stripping it right back. It removes thatch and moss that forms around the base of your lawn, which mostly comes from grass clippings, dead leaves and other decaying organic matter. If it’s not removed, it eventually creates a barrier that suffocates grassroots and weakens the grass by preventing moisture and nutrients from getting through. Getting rid of the unwanted debris helps your grass grow more evenly and attractively, not to mention it opens up a great opportunity for reseeding. It might look worse than it did before at first but give it time to recover and your lawn will come back stronger.
If you’ve recently planted grass seeds or laid out turf, you need to wait at least a year for them to grow. If your grass is good to go, there are still a few things to consider and some prep to do. Your lawn needs to be dry before you can scarify. It also needs to be short, so bring the height of your grass down gradually over the course of a week or two beforehand. Remove any weeds in your lawn manually as opposed to using weed killer. The day before you do it, mow the grass as low as possible without scalping it.
As with most jobs in the garden, you can either do it manually or make the most of machinery. To do it manually, use a rake to drag up thatch and moss from the lawn. You only need to apply a moderate amount of pressure, but you need to rake repeatedly to lift it out. If you want to save yourself some time and effort, an electric scarifier will do the job for you. They work similarly to a normal mower, so do repeated runs up and down the lawn in order to tease out the moss and thatch.