The ideal time to scarify a lawn is around September as this is when the grass tends to be at its strongest. Light scarification may also be done around April/May time, but it should be approached cautiously, especially if there is still a risk of frost as it could cause more damage than good. It is always wise to prepare the grass for scarifying; mowing the lawn beforehand and providing it with a good feed.
When scarifying a lawn there are a wide range of tools and machinery available to the gardener. A hand tool, such as a springbok lawn rake, is excellent for teasing out any moss but can lead to laborious work when scarifying a larger or unkempt garden. An electric or petrol fuelled Scarifier can make the process much quicker and less exhaustive, but they are not ideal for removing moss. A moss and/or weed killer may be wise to use before scarifying.
After scarification it is important not be disheartened by the rough appearance of the lawn, as the improved lawn environment will allow the grass to spread and grow. The lawn will soon become greener and lusher looking, justifying all your preparations and hard work.
Benefits of scarification:
The soil’s surface can be better infiltrated by water, due to the small depressions made by the rake/scarifier.
It can prepare the soil for over-sowing, allowing grass seeds to be sown in the patchy or more sparse areas.
There is improved air flow around the individual plants, minimizing the potential for disease.
Healthy grass is better able to grow and flourish without competition from the thatch ‘rubbish’.
Aeration is the process of creating small holes in the surface of the soil beneath the lawn, allowing better air circulation and water infiltration. It is especially helpful for lawns where there is excessive thatch build-up or compaction of soil, and is a useful way to prepare the soil for over-seeding. Most lawns benefit from being aerated on an annual basis, or at least every 3 years, preferably around September time.
It is advisable to scarify the lawn prior to aerating, and to mow the lawn quite low. The soil should be moist, but not soggy, and so you may need to water it several times in the days preceding aeration. The most simple method of aeration is to use a hand fork to dig small holes into the ground, but there are also specially made machines available that make the work a little easier going. Another popular method is to use a tool that removes cores from the soil via hollow spikes/tines. This method is especially effective for reducing thatch build-up and for soils suffering from compaction.
After aeration there will be a noticeable difference in the lawn, with the grass roots benefiting from the additional oxygen flow, infiltration of water and space to grow and spread out. Grass will appear greener and become denser, even without applying fertilizers.
Benefits of aeration:
• Lawns have an increased ability to absorb nutrients, maximising the efficiency of fertilizers.
• It helps to break down the harmful layers of rubbish materials, known as ‘thatch’, that can build up amid the grass.
• Root growth is stronger due to the increased oxygen levels in the soil.