The Difference Between Scarifying and Raking

Oftentimes, the terms ‘scarifying’ and ‘raking’ are used interchangeably.

Sometimes you see videos or read articles showing you how to scarify but they’re using a rake. Other times they use a machine with blades.

So which is it?

The fact is, scarifying and raking are quite different procedures.

When to scarify or rake will depend on;

  1. The time of year, and
  2. The problem you’re facing or trying to prevent.

So if you’re asking yourself, ‘What’s the difference between scarifying and raking?’ this article will explain all.


What Does a Scarifier Do?


Scarifying is also known as ‘de-thatching’.

It’s the process removing thatch from just under the surface of your lawn using vertical blades. You can use either a hand-held tool or a powered machine.

This results in a firmer lawn surface and it also allows water, air and nutrients to penetrate into the soil.

The vertical cutting action of scarifier blades also prunes the shoots and runners of grass plants which encourages new growth. This results in a thicker, denser sward.

It also helps to control shallow rooting weed grasses like Annual Meadow Grass, as well as creeping weeds like Speedwell and Clovers.

After you’ve scarified, you can also use a scarifier to cut into the soil surface to create a perfect bed in which to sow new grass seed.

When to Scarify or Dethatch Your Lawn

Scarifying or de-thatching is a much harsher treatment than raking.

If you have a significant amount of thatch in your lawn then you could end up with more bare soil than grass when you’re finished.

As such, you should do it in the autumn when there’s plenty of warmth, sun and moisture combined with fewer weed seeds.


What Does Raking Do?


Raking is more associated with the removal of moss from a lawn.

It uses either a springbok rake or a powered lawn rake which tears moss from the surface of the lawn.

If you’re doing a full lawn renovation, you can rake the moss away before de-thatching. This will make the removal of thatch quite a lot easier.

However, raking also removes the top layer of dead roots, stolons and rhizomes from the lawn before it ever becomes thatch.

Raking is also much gentler than heavy scarification so recovery is much quicker.

This means you can use a rake to mechanically control and slow down the build-up of thatch. As a result, you won’t have to de-thatch your lawn as often.

When to Rake Your Lawn

Because raking is much more gentle on your lawn than de-thatching, you can do it more often.

You can rake both in spring and in autumn to remove moss and control the build of thatch.

As a result, it reduces the need to de-thatch as often.


In Conclusion

So to sum up in a nutshell, these are the differences between raking and scarifying;

  • Scarifying or de-thatching should be done in the autumn and removes thatch from your lawn.
  • Raking can be done in both spring and autumn and removes moss from your lawn. It also controls the build-up of thatch by removing dead grass roots, shoots and runners.

A Quick Word About Scarifying and Raking Tools

Depending on the size and condition of your lawn you might choose to use manual tools or power tools.

Either is fine but if you choose to do it manually be prepared for some really hard graft, blistered hands and some soreness the next day!

For me though, the best scarifier is a powered machine with changeable cassettes for both raking and de-thatching.

Not only can you do both jobs with the same tool, but they also make the job much easier and far quicker.

About Tim Stephens

I'm a professional gardener with degrees in Horticulture & Landscape Gardening. I want to help you create the garden of your dreams. I want your garden to look like it’s maintained by a professional. As if I was there doing it all for you!

2 thoughts on “The Difference Between Scarifying and Raking”

  1. Thanks Tim, straight to the point, I looked at a couple sites which prevaricated and confused. Should have come straight here. Thanks again

  2. That cleared that up nicely. I have inherited a heavily mossed lawn, I have put down moss killer, left it 3 weeks. Today I purchased a power rake/scarifier and put it to the test, it was a little over whelmed by the amount of dead moss. I think it may take a dozen or so passes to get rid.


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