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Help needed - lawn is in a real state after scarifying!

Background:   I use a honda 21” rotary mower with a rear roller.  It is quite heavy but produces a nice cut and stripes. I try to mow in different directions to avoid consistently flattening the grass in the same direction. I haven’t scarified the lawn for a couple of years.

I bought a new scarify which I used this week.  I mowed the lawn first - probably should have cut it shorter to minimise stress (pulling by the scarify) on the lawn.  All seemed to be going well, with plenty of thatch being taken out of the lawn.  Did the whole lawn with the intention of clearing up using blower and bagging and then running the lawnmower over to tidy up.


However, once I started to use the blower I saw the horror under the thatch!!  Clearly, my attempt at mowing in different directions had not prevented the grass from growing horizontally through the other grass.  I also compounded the problem by not scarifying for a couple of years, which meant the aforementioned grass was probably quite long! So, when the scarifier went over the grass it must have pulled it up and wrapped it around the drum and literally pulled great chunks of grass out the lawn leaving bare patches everywhere!  My lawn looks like it has a bad case of alopecia! 

The other side of the lawn after scarifying - what I was expecting/hoping for!

I only used the springs on the scarifier (so basically a rake) on the highest setting and not the blades which are far more aggressive- not sure I would have any lawn left! I am really not sure what to do - I could go over with the blades and then reseed, but the lawn will look horrendous, almost bare!  Also, the timing is not great as the leaves are starting to fall off the trees and they need clearing off the lawn.

As you can see from the photos above some of the areas left just look like thatch to me!  If I took that away, I think it would just be soil!  

Please can you advise as to the best course of action?

Thanks, Mark



  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,045
    If a lawn doesn't look like it's had a good scragging after being scarified it hasn't been scared enough!   It will settle down after some rain, a bit more growth and a cut on a higher setting.

    Those bald patches will be where grass growth has been weakened by weeds, thatch or moss.   Give them a light raking to loosen the soil then sow some seed while it's still warm enough for it to germinate and grow.   If you must cut again, make sure the blades are on their highest setting and keep them there till after the first few cuts next spring so the grass has enough leaf surface to feed roots and make them strong.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 10,386
    To be honest, it doesn't look that bad to me, although l can understand your shock ! The fact it hasn't  been done for a couple of years probably exacerbated the way it's turned out.
    I agree with Obelixx, sow seed now while the temperatures are still comparatively mild. I suspect that come Spring it will be looking good again, although of course it depends on the Winter that we have.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,145
    I'd agree with @Obelixx - it just needs moisture now, and not being cut so short.  :)
    If you're in a colder area, you won't get much growth now, so it may not need cutting at all. In warmer areas it may keep growing for some time, so go by your conditions.

    Unfortunately, the problem with rollers is that they compact the ground, and that can make things worse because of the effect on the grass and the way it grows. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,070
    I scarify my lawn every couple of years and if it doesn't look like yours does I don't think I've done a good job. Some part are worse than others where the moss has been and dead patches where my dog has weed on it
    It does look pretty sparse over winter, but come the spring it's lush and no sign of bald patches.
    I used to give it weed & feed in the spring, but not since I've had a dog - it still comes back looking good.
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Thanks for the replies.

    Would you go over it again, but this time using the blades, or will that put too much stress on the grass - maybe do a thorough job now and get it over and done with, or wait until late spring before scarifying again to give the lawn a chance to recover? 

    I am not about to change the lawnmower as it was too expensive, so I am thinking scarify twice a year to prevent this from happening again?
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,145
    edited October 2021
    If it was mine, I'd leave it @marklAp-XZRd, but I'm not terribly fussy about my grass - as long as it's green, it's fine  ;)

    I don't think it would be beneficial to do too much more to it just now. Best left until spring   :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 10,386
    I would leave it alone now and give it chance to recover  :)
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,045
    Leave it alone now.   Do it at leat once a year in future.  Keep the mower blades higher even after spring tho you can lower them from the highest position.  Scalping grass too short weakens it and lets weeds and moss get in.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,070
    I agree too - leave alone for now.
    See how it looks in the spring and do it again then if you think it needs it - it recovers much faster then too.
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • I contacted a lawn expert at the same time as posting on here.  I explained the situation and showed him the photos.  He only sells lawn fertiliser etc. so no conflict of interest.

    Answers to his questions:

    • Do you water the lawn?  Yes, when it is dry, however, I have neglected it a bit of late.  The lawn is approx. 250m2  and takes a lot of watering.
    • If so how often and for how long in any one spot? In dry conditions, every other day for 15 mins per spot
    • Have you aerated the lawn? No, not for ages
    • If so how and when? Can’t remember the last time
    • How long ago did you last scarify?  Prior to this week, two years
    • Did you use wire or blades? Only every used wires
    • What about the time before that? My old scarifier only ever had wires, the new one has both.
    • How old is the lawn? 20+ years
    • What is it used for? Not much these days, as children are all grown up.  We have just got a puppy though – only for the last 5 weeks
    • What is the size of the lawn? 250m2

    His reply


    Grassroots into thatch when the conditions are better in the thatch than in the soil. Old lawns can be compact which means poor water holding capacity in the soil. Light watering (15 minutes in one spot) means the water is mainly held in the thatch and doesn’t make it into the soil so the roots don’t go there either.

    To correct the bare patches get some seed in ASAP and perhaps cover with polythene to incubate it a little.

    An old lawn becomes very compacted and therefore doesn’t hold air or water well. This means it doesn’t respond well to fertiliser, dries prematurely in the summer, is prone to moss, disease, and weeds, and readily develops an unhealthy thatch layer. You, therefore, have 2 choices:

    Option 1: Spend more time and money on it than normal with increased feeding, weed killing, watering, aerating, and scarifying and still remain disappointed OR

    Option 2: Dig it up and start again. You will then find it very easy and satisfying to maintain and over 3 years this will cost you far less in time and money

    Because there is a large upfront effort (not cost) in option 2 most people elect for option 1. A few years later they realise how daft they were and dig it up!


    I am sure he is right but seems a bit drastic to me....?

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