Lawn Scarifying

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 2 December 2020 

Scarifying is the process of removing the build-up of thatch and excessive root zone in your lawn and now is a great time to do it.

It helps return a thick, spongy lawn back into a green, tight knit surface and is something you'll need to do at least every 2 years. Keep in mind that the only lawns suitable for scarifying in South Australia are Couch lawns and kikuyu lawns.

Over time, you may notice your lawn getting  thicker and spongier. You may also notice your lawn discolouring each time you mow it. These are indications that it may be time to remove your lawns thatch layer and thin out the root zone.  Thatch is the spongy surface material that builds up in lawns such as couch and kikuyu. The best way to describe thatch is a straw coloured exposed root type material that exists between the soil level and the blades of your lawn as illustrated in the image below.  

The more thatch you have in your lawn, the harder it is to keep green.  This is because thatchy lawns are easy to scalp with your lawn mower. The lawn blades typically only occupy the top 20mm of your lawn. For example, if your lawn is 100mm tall, you would have 80mm of thatch and 20mm of blades. If your lawn is 150mm tall, you would have 130mm of thatch and 20mm of blades.  If your lawn gets too thatchy, when you mow it you are more likely to mow off the lawn blades exposing the brown thatch underneath.  When this happens, most people raise their mower height by a notch or two so that they don’t scalp it next time. The problem is that within a few months, the lawn will grow more thatch and you’ll be back to scalping it again. The answer is to remove the thatch and then change your mowing habits. If you find that you’re scalping your lawn between mows, it’s better to mow more often than it is to raise your mower height.   Raising your mower height only leads to more thatch.

How do you scarify?

Scarifying can be done from about October through to February for Kikuyu and Couch. Scarifying is a multi staged process. It involves removing the thatch, then thinning out the rootzone. You scarify a lawn by using a specialist scarifying machine (more about that later) 

Step 1: Remove the thatch

Removing the thatch is a process where you mow off the surface layer off of your lawn with a regular lawn mower. If your lawn is thick and spongy, it is unlikely that you will be able to remove all the thatch with one pass of your lawn mower. The best approach is to just keep mowing it down notch by notch till you have completely mown the lawn down to soil level. The more soil you can see when you’ve finished, the better job you’ve done. Rest assured, you can’t damage a couch or kikuyu lawn with a lawn mower! This process will completely remove the colour from your lawn – this is expected and normal.  Don't be surprised when you remove an enormous amount of thatch. so it's a good idea to prepare where you're going to put all the clippings. Often, just scaping is enough to rejuvinate your lawn. It will return your lawn to a low, flat surface making it easier to keep green. If you want to go the whole hog, proceed to step 2!

Step 2: Scarify the rootzone

This is where you use a specialised scarifying machine to thin out the root zone. Over time, the rootzone of couch and kikuyu lawns thickens up which can impede the life and health of the lawn. Sometimes called Verti mowing, this pruning and thinning out process removes dead and woody organic matter which re-invigorates the lawn and allows it to grow new, fresh stolons and rhizomes. Scarifyers have a series of vertical blade disks that cut down into the rootzone of your lawn. They can be hired from most hire shops.

Step 3: Apply a wetting agent and then  fertilise

After scarifying and or scaping, treat your lawn with some liquid wetting agent and a complete fertiliser such as Paul Munns Greenkeeper. Liquid wetting agent will ensure that water and nutrient penetrate evenly and deeply. This will help your lawn recover faster.

As I mentioned earlier, at this point your lawn will look pretty terrible. Don't be alarmed at all by this - the warmer it is, the faster the lawn will grow back. After 2 weeks you’ll be able to see a green layer returning and typically after 4 weeks, your lawn will have completely recovered but with no thatch!    

Comments (2)

Soil temp for dethatching Santa. Anna

By: on 9 September 2021
As per the title, what would you suggest as the min soil temp for scarifying Santa Anna and Windsor Green

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Steve Thanks for your query Best time to scarify is from October onwards (when temp is above 25C) consistently Thank you

Lawn Service

By: on 1 February 2020
Do you provide an advisory service where you will examine a lawn on site and advise the owner of the best line of action?

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Sally, we do offer a consultation service for customers who have lawn issues. There are two types of consultation services we provide. One is about $220 and the other $350. Please refer to our website for further detail about it. Thank you....Andrew

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