Reviving a scarified lawn means dealing with thatch, weeds, and moss, and then aerating it. You also have to add top dressing, overseed and fertilise it to promote its recovery. Following these steps in the right order will create optimal conditions for your lawn to bounce back. The result can be the best lawn you’ve ever had.
Helping your lawn to recover after scarifying isn’t hard. It all starts with understanding how scarification works.
What happens during lawn scarification?
Lawn scarification is the process of raking the lawn and breaking up the soil to remove debris, thatch, weeds and moss. Scarification also makes the soil less compact, allowing the grass to grow better.
Scarification damages the surface of the soil deliberately. This allows moisture to remain near the roots of the grass. It promotes the deeper growth of the roots and supports their development.
You can scarify your lawn using a rake or a manual or petrol-powered scarifier. You could also use a tiller attachment for your lawn mower. For best results, though, use a scarifier as it will also loosen compact soil.
The best time to scarify your lawn is mid-spring. The wet weather and warm temperatures will promote root growth. It’s also the best time to overseed, which is important after scarifying.
Warning: Scarifying your lawn may make it look a bit scary. But this is normal. Within a few weeks, it will look much better.
Next, let’s see how to revive a lawn after scarifying.
What to do after scarifying a lawn to revive your grass?
Did you scarify your lawn to restore or repair it only to end up with no grass left? Follow the steps below for the best lawn treatment after scarifying.
If you’ve only scarified your lawn as part of annual maintenance, it’s still good to follow most of the steps below. But if you’re hard-pressed for time, focus on overseeding and fertilising.
Good to know: If you’ve used a scarifier, it will have already done some soil aeration, though not as much as an aerator.
1. Identify potential problems
Scarifying is meant to be a solution to your lawn problems—weeds, moss and thatch included, but it can uncover problems with the lawn that you may not have realised were there. Here are some of the common problems you may encounter:
- Weeds or moss cover a wider area than expected. (See Steps 2 and 3)
- Bare patches of grass. The grass may grow in different directions under the thatch so that when you scarify the lawn, the scarifier may pull out big chunks of grass. This happens especially when you use a powered rake scarifier on a lawn that’s been over fertilised. (See Steps 6 and 7)
- Thatch overgrowth smothers the grass beneath. (See Step 8)
The steps below can help you solve all these problems. But even if you don’t have any of them, following all the next steps will help your scarified lawn recover beautifully.
2. Remove the weeds
Removing any weeds after scarifying your lawn is crucial. If you don’t, they can easily spread in the exposed soil and take over the lawn.
Dig the weeds out of the soil. Be careful to remove all of them. Don’t leave any weed roots or debris in the soil. It may involve some serious work, but it will save you a lot more trouble in a few months’ time.
3. Deal with moss
Moss lawns are all the rage. But if you don’t want the moss to compete with the grass for the nutrients in the soil, it’s time to deal with it.
If done properly, scarifying should remove most of the moss. But you may still notice patches of it. To kill unwanted lawn moss, use a selective moss controller.
Moss controllers usually contain iron sulphate, which can kill the moss within a few days without damaging the grass. They are available as granules, typically as a fertiliser that also promotes lawn health.
Important: Using a store-bought moss killer? Check its fertilising effect if you plan to fertilise your lawn after scarifying otherwise you may risk over fertilising the grass.
You can also kill moss with a homemade moss killer. Mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar (distilled) into 4 litres of water. Spray the mixture with a garden sprayer only on the moss.
Don’t spray the grass as the vinegar may kill it too. You may have to spray the moss repeatedly for all of it to die. Make sure to rake the dead moss and throw it away. Don’t compost it.
4. Mow the lawn
Mowing will help to cut any tufts that stick out, levelling the lawn. It can show you which areas you need to focus on when adding top dressing and overseeding (see Steps 6 and 7).
Use a mower with a catcher bag as it will remove leftover clippings from thatch, weeds or moss. These could be difficult to remove otherwise, hence the value of mowing after lawn scarification.
Important: Don’t mow when the soil is wet, or you may damage the lawn. Also, avoid mowing soon after applying a non-selective moss killer to the lawn. It may spread the moss killer over the lawn and damage the grass.
Aeration essentially means poking holes into the soil. Aerating a scarified lawn improves water drainage and helps the soil breathe better. It can prevent disease and help the lawn recover faster.
You can aerate your lawn manually with a fork, but that involves some serious work. For best results, use a lawn aerator. Lawn aerators come in many shapes and sizes. Your options include push spike rolling aerators, manual plug core aerators, and even lawn aerator shoes.
For larger lawns, use an aerator/scarifying machine. It runs on petrol or electricity and can save you a lot of time. But pay attention to the settings you’re using. Aerating too much may end up damaging the roots of the grass.
6. Consider adding top dressing
Adding top dressing helps to fill any uneven spaces left after scarification. This includes patches from where you removed weeds or moss.
It can also improve the quality of the soil. What’s more, adding topsoil will help any new grass seeds you plant to take root and grow. It facilitates scarified lawn recovery.
Tip: Don’t compact the soil you add as in the next step you’ll be seeding your lawn.
7. Plant new grass seeds
If you notice bare patches or low spots in your lawn after scarifying, seed them first before over seeding the rest of the lawn.
Broadcast the rest of the seed over all the lawn. It adds to your workload, but it will help rejuvenate your lawn. Overseeding after scarifying leads to richer, more beautiful grass.
Work the seeds gently into the topsoil or cover them with a fine layer of topsoil. You don’t want the birds to peck at them before they have the chance to grow.
Important: Choose the same type of grass as your lawn grass to promote even growth and shading.
8. Apply lawn feed to fertilise new seeds
For convenience, you can fertilise a scarified lawn straight after you plant new grass seeds. Grass seeds don’t need fertiliser to grow in the first weeks but the fertiliser will help the rest of the lawn to recover.
Use a general-purpose fertiliser for spring/summer or autumn, depending on when you scarify your lawn. The best fertiliser after scarifying will have potassium to help the lawn bounce back.
If you’re dealing with thatch overgrowth, you may have been over-fertilising your lawn. Consider skipping the fertiliser to give the soil time to recover its balance.
Important: Avoid using fertilisers with weed killers in them if you overseed. It may kill the grass seeds.
9. Water the lawn
Last but not least, water your lawn carefully. If you use a hose, add a sprinkler so that the stream of water won’t disturb the new seeds.
Continue to water your scarified lawn so that the soil doesn’t turn a light colour. Watch the weather forecast and make sure the lawn has enough water.
Adequate watering promotes the growth of grass and helps it recover faster. It also helps the soil to settle.
Top tips for scarified lawn recovery
Make it easier for your lawn to recover after scarification by doing the following:
- Mow your lawn before scarifying it. It helps remove dead grass and enables the scarifier to work more easily.
- Avoid over fertilising a scarified lawn. It may damage the grass and lead to brown or yellow patches.
- Avoid walking, running and other activities on the lawn until it recovers. Children and pets running in a picture-perfect twilight don’t count!
- Wait until the grass regrows to about 2.5 inches before mowing. This will give the scarified lawn time to recover.
- Mow with the blades at a high setting. Don’t switch to a lower setting until after the grass has become established.
Scarified lawn before and after
Your lawn may look bare and sad after scarifying, but that’s only normal. Give your scarified lawn time to recover and it will look amazing.
Once it recovers, a scarified lawn will look greener, richer, and healthier, provided you take good care of it. All the new, vigorous growth will add colour and vibrancy to your lawn.
A lawn needs around 4 to 6 weeks to recover after scarifying in spring. If you have to over-seed large portions, it may take a bit longer for it to come into full beauty. If you scarify in autumn, it may take until next spring to see the full results.
Treating a lawn after scarifying is not scary
You can bring a scarified lawn back to life without breaking your back or losing sleep. Once you identify potential problems, deal with weeds and moss, mow the lawn and aerate it.
Then get it ready for new growth by adding top dressing, planting new grass seeds and fertilising it. Water it if it doesn’t rain enough, and after about 4-6 weeks, your lawn will look better than it did before scarification.
Now that you know what to do after scarifying a lawn, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Don’t skip any steps and don’t let a bare, thatchy, scarified lawn make you cringe. Scarifying your lawn is necessary to keep it healthy and looking its best.