Lawn rakers and scarifiers: Lawn rakers and scarifiers FAQs

Why rake and scarify your lawn?

Even if you cut your lawn regularly at the recommended 25mm cutting height, dead grass clippings can gradually build up to form a dense layer of dead grass (thatch) on the soil surface beneath the grass tips.

If left, this thatch will impede drainage and the lawn will feel spongy and remain damp. It also stops air getting to the base of the grass, which affects the health and vigour of the turf.

Moss can build up in damp or shady lawns, which again can stifle the grass. Sometimes grass stalks are flattened by feet or the mower and are not cut when you mow, which adds to the layer of thatch.

Finally, fine lawn grasses are spread by stems that go horizontally along the ground (stolons); severing these helps to produce more individual plants and thickens up the turf.

We've tested powered machines that will make light work of this task. Find out which are our Best Buy lawn rakers and scarifiers.

Lawn rakers and scarifiers both look like lawn mowers. Turn them over and you’ll see the difference.

What is a lawn scarifier?

A lawn scarifier is a machine that cuts through the turf, removing moss and dead grass. It aerates and helps to revive a tired or spongy lawn.

Scarifiers have fixed knife blades attached to the cylinder. These remove moss and thatch, but at the lowest setting cut through the base of the sward into the underlying soil to help aerate it. By cutting through the grass stolons, the offshoots are separated into lots of individual plants, which helps to thicken up the turf and improve its health. 

Use a scarifier once a year; ideally in autumn or late spring when the grass is growing vigorously. 

Find out which are our Best Buy scarifiers.

What is a lawn raker?

Electric lawn rakers have a plastic cylinder lined with sprung metal tines. These comb the lawn vigorously, teasing out moss, thatch and horizontal grass stalks. At the lowest setting they’ll get right down to soil level. 

They are also useful, on a high setting, to rake up and collect autumn leaves from your lawn. 

For a perfect lawn, you should rake it every couple of months during the growing season. 

See our for our verdict on the machines we’ve tested.

2-in-1 lawn rakers/scarifiers 

Some machines come with both types of cylinder, which means you can choose between regular raking and a once-a-year scarification. Two did well in our tests and we’d recommend them for their greater versatility. 

How to rake your lawn

Regular raking, say every other month, when the grass is growing will help to keep a lawn in good condition.  

A spring tine rake will do the job, but can be exhausting work. As it combs through the turf, it pulls out moss, thatch and other debris so it can be collected. 

A rake will also raise horizontal grass stalks so they can be cut by the mower.

A powered lawn raker will make light work of this task. We’ve tested powered lawn rakers; to find out more go to our lawn raker and scarifier reviews.

How to scarify your lawn

Scarification is a more severe treatment, useful once a year or when a lawn has been neglected or is in poor condition. 

You'll need a powered machine and, as a result of our tests, we can help you buy the best lawn scarifiers.

●  A fortnight before, apply a moss killer to kill any moss; otherwise scarifying will just spread live moss about. The moss should go black and die within a week or so.
●  Choose a day when the turf is dry.
●  Start by cutting the lawn with the mower on a low setting.
●  Set the scarifier on a high setting to begin with and go over the lawn a couple of times.
●  Repeat at right angles and gradually lower the blades so that they're just cutting into the underlying soil.
●  A vigorous scarification can be combined with over seeding and top dressing to give a tired lawn a real boost.

Over seeding is simply scattering grass seed over the lawn to help fill any gaps. Top dressing is spreading a thin layer of a mixture of sharp sand, sieved compost and soil. This fills any holes and covers the grass seed, helping it to germinate. 

You’ll be amazed how much material can be removed and may be worried that the lawn looks awful immediately afterwards. As long as there is plenty of live grass left it will recover in weeks, and be denser and healthier as a result. The material removed can be added to your compost heap.

Hiring a lawn scarifier

Before you invest in a powered scarifier or lawn raker, consider hiring one. 

Does it do what you expected and would you use it regularly? Can you see a definite improvement in your lawn?

You can hire an electric lawn raker for about £10. 

We haven’t tested petrol scarifiers, which start at about £300. If you have a large lawn, consider hiring one for £45-£60 a day.

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