March - Scarification

MARCH – at last! Even if the weather is poor, there’s something in the British gardening psyche that says it’s time to get going! And the great thing is that while it may be too early to do much else, it’s a great time to get your lawn set up for a fantastic year ahead. Better still, get ahead now, and you’ll have more time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your work in a few month’s time. 


If there’s one thing you can and should be doing now, it’s to renovate your lawn after its winter sleep. And that means scarifying – and yes, even if you don’t have moss!

Many people think scarifying is simply to deal with moss, but they’re wrong. Instead, think of it is pruning. You see, mowing deals with the top of the grass plant, the ends of the leaf blades and encourages better growth, but it does nothing to sort out the mess lower down, closer to the ground. And it’s down there, with our bents and fescue grasses, that you need to thin out the dead organic matter that forms excess thatch. Some thatch is essential, but too much is disastrous. Scarifying thins this out and prunes the plant to let air and light back into the lower parts and also to regenerate new plant growth.  A double whammy!

Proper scarification is a light intervention – and must be done with the correct machine. Yes it makes a mess but only for a short while; the grass will soon thicken back up all by itself and look healthier than ever. Surely that’s better than having to rely on reseeding?

Start scarification by setting the machine high on the first pass and then lowering if need be on the second pass.  Don’t ever try and remove 20 years of dead material in one go and always do it in a diagonal direction to the main mowing direction.
Once you have finished scarification and cleaned all that mess away, apply a moss control and then a quality feed.  This will allow the grasses to thicken back up, helped by the other form of ‘pruning’ we have to do, mowing. In fact, a great tip when you have finished scarifying your lawn is to try not to change your mowing regime at all.  Apart from maybe the first week afterwards, keep the mower set at your normal height (or a fraction higher) and continue to lightly ‘top off, even the smallest of growth.


You can still hollow tine aerate your lawn too; it’s not too late.  And you can do this before scarifying so that you needn’t worry about filling up those holes (unless you cylinder mow of course, in which case you’ll need to add some top dressing material to restore a smoother surface).


So, seize the moment! Make March the month for getting the ‘hard’ work out of the way. It’ll make the rest of your year much easier – and give you a much happier lawn.