Things to Know Before Buying a Lawn Scarifier
So, you’re thinking about buying a lawn scarifier? Great idea!
Scarifying your lawn will protect the grass and help keep it looking smart all year round.
The condition of your lawn will dictate what type of scarifier you need.
Below I have assembled some helpful information to help you make an informed purchase.
What does a Lawn Scarifier Actually Do?
Firstly, it may help you to know that a ‘dethatcher’ and a ‘scarifier’ are the same thing.
Scarifying is the process of removing debris (moss, leaves, grass cuttings) from the lawn by catching it in bladed teeth.
The other function of a scarifier is to aerate the soil. It does this by piercing down into the lawn’s surface.
But why is that important? Well, the more oxygen in the soil, the healthier your grass will be! In addition, scarifiers also help keep weeds at bay. They really are exceptionally useful little machines!
Understanding ‘Working Depth’
Ideally, you want a scarifier with a selection of working depths.
Scarifying (removing the dead moss and thatch) isn’t a deep action – it only needs to be deep enough to yank out the thatch.
When you have a choice of working depths, you can start on the highest, going down through the settings until you find which is best for collecting the debris. It is much better to go slow, rather than choose too deep a setting to start with and puncture your lawn.
For example, the Bosch AVR Electric Lawn Raker has a great range of working depths. This is ideal for slightly tougher jobs: if you’ve got a very thatched lawn, or want to aerate it deeply.
Those of you that have looked after the lawn can get away with a cheaper machine that doesn’t dig so deeply. You may even consider a hand-push model like the Gardena Hand-Powered Lawn Scarifier which will save you money but still work well on a relatively well-groomed lawn.
If your scarifier has depth options like “-5 mm” this means it can be used as an aerator as well. Deeper teeth aerate the lawn by pricking holes in it. This is good as it allows rain and oxygen to replenish the grass, so look for adjustable heights.
Look Out for Their Teeth!
When it comes to scarifiers, the more teeth the better! The teeth do exactly what you’d expect – pierce down into the lawn aerating it and collecting debris.
Bear in mind that lots of long teeth will make a mess of your current lawn – but this is temporary. The grass will grow back quickly and it’ll look so much better for the rain and oxygen.
Look for good-quality metal teeth. Stainless steel or tempered steel teeth will last longer than plastic ones, for example.
You can buy replacement teeth for some machines. If you’re splashing out on a pricey model, it’s worth checking if you can buy spares before you commit to the purchase. Also, check how much replacements cost – some brands are more expensive than others.
Choosing the Best Cutting Width
The larger the cutting width, the less time it’ll take to scarify your lawn. Simple.
Most people are looking to get these types of jobs done quickly, so the idea of a wider machine to cut down time is appealing.
Out of the models I reviewed, the AL-KO Comfort 38E has the widest rake width at 38 cm.
One thing to bear in mind, however, is that a wider width tends to mean a bigger machine. Which also generally results in a heavier machine. The aforementioned Flymo model weighs 12.6 kg. Whereas the Black & Decker GD300 has a rake width of 30 cm (only 4 cm less) and weighs a mere 7 kg.
You’ll just need to weigh up the pros and cons of width vs. weight and see which model best fits your needs.
Finding a comfortable scarifier
Scarifiers do require a bit of user effort. They need to be manhandled around corners and can feel a bit lively sometimes too.
Therefore, one thing to make sure of is that you are in control. Make your life easier by choosing one that suits your height. A height-adjustable handlebar is worth its weight in gold.
Ergonomic, non-slip handles are also a blessing, unless you have the grip of a boa constrictor!
Finally, that brings us back around to the topic of weight. Be realistic about what sort of weight you can handle. You may find it’s better to get a slightly smaller, lighter option that you won’t tire of using (like the Black & Decker GD300), rather than a hefty, powerful 15 kg model which is exhausting to manoeuvre.
Petrol vs. Electric Scarifiers
There are pros and cons to both petrol- and electric-powered scarifiers
- Petrol scarifiers are powerful, versatile and great for large lawns. They are ideal to use in areas with lots of weeds because they aerate effectively and are heavy duty. An electric scarifier may just “bounce off” in dense, heavily weeded spots. Whereas a petrol scarifier will grind it out and finish the job. However, petrol scarifiers are heavy, emit fumes, and can be time-consuming to start. They are noisy, so you may want to wear ear defenders, and will require maintenance such as filter and spark-plg changes.
- Electric scarifiers are quiet, lightweight and cost effective. They are great to use on small- to medium-size lawns. They do a great job of hauling the moss and thatch from your grass with minimal effort on your part. They won’t need re-filling like a petrol one either. However, they’re not always as powerful as petrol scarifiers and you may find yourself restricted by the cord length.
Manual Hand Scarifiers
Manual scarifiers are quiet, easy to store and don’t require any maintenance other than scrapping the rust off.
They’re great for tackling jobs in small gardens and often work surprisingly well.
A simple rake and a push-along aerator could also do the job. You could even buy some aerating shoes that spike the grass as you walk around.
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Lawn Scarifier FAQs
Are scarifiers worth the effort?
Yes. Scarifiers really can improve the appearance of your lawn.
It can be tempting to neglect the lawn, especially when it’s fine weather and there are more exciting things like BBQs to be thinking about. However, you should always make time to scarify because eventually your daisy-strewn lawn will turn brown, soggy and look awful because dead thatch is killing the grass.
Does a scarifier make a difference?
Yes. Scarifiers will keep your grass looking healthy and green for longer.
If you never scarify the lawn, weeds, grass clippings, moss and dead plant matter clog up the surface. As a result, rain and light can’t get through. The grass doesn’t get enough nutrients and eventually it will die off.
If your lawn is developing large brown patches, it’s definitely time to scarify. This means water isn’t getting through to hydrate the new shoots.
After you’ve scarified the grass it might look… how to put this nicely… a bit awful! But don’t worry – grass grows back at lightning speed and it’ll soon be greener and fresher than ever.
How do I use a lawn scarifier?
For best results (and the greenest lawn!), you should scarify once or twice a year.
- First, kill any live moss. This prevents the spores flying all over the garden and taking over. Use a good quality moss killer and wait until its gone brown.
- Choose a dry day so the lawn doesn’t turn into a mudbath. Ensure you’ve given the grass a cut a few days beforehand.
- For the first round, choose the highest setting on your scarifier. Push it around just as if you were mowing the lawn.
- For the second pass, use a lower setting and so on. If you do the second pass on a parallel route, you’ll get better coverage.
- Once you’ve pulled out the dead thatch you might find there’s little grass left! Now is the best time to re-seed.
When should you scarify your lawn?
You should scarify once or twice a year. Once in spring, when the grass is growing strongly to start the season off right, and once in autumn to remove the year’s waste (only if it needs it!).
The grass needs to be actively growing before you scarify, and you should mow before for best results. If the weather is too hot, cold, dry or wet, your lawn will not recover properly.
For your lawn scarifying to be the most effective, the soil needs to be both warm and moist. Spring and Autumn are the best times for these conditions.
What is the difference between a lawn raker and scarifier?
Rakers are gardening tools designed to remove moss and debris from lawns. This will promote healthy growth and can keep your garden looking neat.
Scarifiers also remove moss, leaves and debris from the lawn, but their design gives them another benefit. While rakers can comb through the lawn, scarifiers have steel blades that cut the soil. This aerates the lawn, allowing it to breathe so nutrients can reach the soil beneath the grass.
Should you cut the grass before scarifying?
Yes. For best results, you should mow your lawn before scarifying.
Most people choose to gradually reduce the height of the grass in the week before scarifying, so the grass isn’t shocked suddenly. If your lawn has any weeds, you can remove them manually without weed killer.
What to put on lawns after scarifying?
Once your lawn has been scarified, you should use a fertiliser to give the lawn the best chance of recovery.
Purchase a fertiliser suitable for the time of year. Autumn fertilisers release nutrients slowly for long term health and growth in the winter. A spring fertiliser will encourage your lawn to grow and recover rapidly.
If there hasn’t been much rain, you should water your lawn in the few weeks after scarifying. If scarifying has revealed any bare patches, you should reseed these areas.
How long does it take for scarified grass to heal?
A few weeks to 4 months. It depends on the time of year, weather, and the condition of your lawn before scarifying. If the weather is cold and dry, your lawn may take up to 4 months to fully recover. In warm conditions, your lawn should bounce back within a few weeks.
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