Which lawn scarifier is best?
Throughout the winter, dead grass builds up, creating a thick layer of thatch. In the spring, when the time comes to beautify your lawn in preparation for summer barbecues and time outside, turn to a scarifier to remove the thatch. Scarifying your lawn — or removing that layer of dead grass that collects during the winter months — is an important part of maintaining your lawn. If the thatch is left in place, it will block water and nutrients from reaching the roots of your turf.
For an easy-to-use scarifier that won't cost you a house payment, consider the Sun Joe 12-Amp Scarifier and Lawn Dethatcher. With five options for depth and the tight construction of this machine, it's perfect for maneuvering around your lawn as you prep it for the summer.
What to know before you buy a lawn scarifier
Thatch can also reduce the airflow around your grass, quickly leading to moss growth. When moss takes hold, it will continue to grow, and it tends to be a problem that is not so easily remediated.
Knowing how deep to scarify is crucial in creating a beautiful, healthy lawn. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends you keep your thatch layer less than ⅜-inch deep. If you scarify too deeply, it can damage your lawn in a way that takes a whole year to repair. The goal with scarification is to break up the thatch and aerate your lawn just enough to encourage new, healthy growth.
Manual vs. electric
There are two types of lawn scarifier you'll choose from manual and electric. A manual scarifier could be something as simple as a lawn rake, although that requires some backbreaking work. Other manual models are push scarifiers. These are useful for small yards and don't require much maintenance.
An electric scarifier is your best option, especially if you have a larger yard or want to avoid too much labor. These come in corded and cordless models. They require more maintenance, including winterization, like any yardwork machine.
Generally speaking, plastic-based machines tend to be less durable than their metal counterparts. If possible, invest in a metal machine with great reviews about its durability. Otherwise, you’ll be replacing parts every year.
Because you don’t want to scarify too deeply, it’s important you pay attention to the working depth of a scarifier before buying it. Double-check whether it has an adjustable working depth. This will allow you to customize your scarification every year based on the thickness of your thatch.
The secret to a great scarifier is in the teeth, both the number of teeth and type of teeth. For the best scarification, you want the greatest number of teeth. While more teeth will leave your lawn looking more eaten up, it means thorough scarification, leading to more rapid growth.
What to look for in a quality lawn scarifier
Any quality scarifier has an adjustable working depth. The more options, the better. Your thatch will vary in thickness year after year. If you can adjust how deeply your scarifier works, you can avoid ripping your lawn up more than necessary and damaging the delicate roots of your grass layer.
Many scarifiers have a built-in collection bag or compartment. This may seem like a little feature, but it makes a huge difference once you’ve scarified your whole lawn and have to pick up the debris. With a collection compartment, you can have that debris neatly stowed away until you’re ready to empty it.
One of the reasons for scarifying your lawn is to increase the airflow to the roots of your grass. As the roots get more air, you can avoid areas rotting, and it will increase growth. The best scarifiers also have aerators, which allow you to use one machine for two lawn chores and provide the best opportunity to boost the airflow around your grass’s roots.
If you have a lawn, you know how quickly your lawn maintenance tools and machines can fill your garage or shed. Adding a scarifier to your collection will take up space. If you get a quality scarifier, you’ll likely enjoy better storage options. Many have telescoping handles or parts that fold up to allow you to store your scarifier in tighter places.
To make sure you don’t have to replace your scarifier’s teeth every year, look for one with quality stainless-steel teeth. These are, in themselves, more durable and efficient, but they also indicate a more quality, longer-lasting machine that’s made with the best materials.
An often-overlooked feature is a set of airflow inlets. These will prevent your machine from getting clogged before the job is done by using air movement to lift and move the debris off the grass. Newer and better-made machines have airflow inlets.
How much you can expect to spend on a lawn scarifier
To purchase a scarifier, budget $100-$500. The price will depend on the model you choose, whether you go with a manual or electric scarifier and the features it has. The size and power of the machine also impact the price.
Lawn scarifier FAQ
Is a lawn scarifier worth it?
A. If you want a beautiful, green blanket of grass year after year, a lawn scarifier is definitely worth the expense. It will more easily keep your lawn from being overrun with moss, along with aerating your lawn, better hydrating it and more efficiently fertilizing it. All around, a lawn scarifier leads to stronger, faster, healthier growth, especially if it becomes a yearly habit.
When should you not scarify your lawn?
A. There are a few times you should skip the scarification. If you've just laid down grass seed or new sod or turf, wait a year before scarifying to allow the grass to establish itself. If it's been a rainy spring, avoid scarifying when your lawn is already wet. If you choose to wait until fall to scarify, make sure you scarify before the first freeze. If the first freeze has already happened, plan on skipping the scarification process that year.
What does a lawn look like after scarifying?
A. There's no denying your lawn will look a little rough immediately after it's been scarified. You're using a machine with teeth to rip apart a layer of dead grass and aerate your turf. While your lawn will look ragged at first, it leads to a healthier lawn with brighter green coloring that's typically more even.
What’s the best lawn scarifier to buy?
Top lawn scarifier
[ Sun Joe 12-Amp Scarifier and Lawn Dethatcher ]
Our take: This compact scarifier is a great option for new homeowners and those looking to start taking their lawn care to the next level.
What we like: This scarifier is on the smaller side at about 13 inches wide, making it highly maneuverable. It features five options for working depth, meaning a good amount of customization each year.
What we dislike: This scarifier reportedly doesn't do well if you have particularly rocky soil.
Where to buy: Available at Home Depot
Top lawn scarifier for the money
[ Greenworks 14-inch 10-Amp Corded Dethatcher ]
Our take: For a rugged scarifier made for comfort but that won't break the bank, this is the scarifier for you.
What we like: You'll enjoy the ergonomic design and padded grip of the handle, especially after you've scarified your whole yard. The 14-inch width gets the job done faster, and three options for working depth give you more control.
What we dislike: It doesn't have a collection bag attachment, so you'll have to rake up the debris.
Where to buy: Available at Amazon
Worth checking out
[ Earthwise 16-inch 13-Amp Corded Electric Dethatcher ]
Our take: This adjustable scarifier is made of high-quality materials and has a two-year warranty.
What we like: This scarifier has a 16-inch working depth and a removable debris catcher.
What we dislike: If your thatch is too thick, this machine might struggle to remove it.
Where to buy: Available at Amazon
- If you've recently planted grass seed or laid new turf, it's recommended you wait a full year before scarifying. This lets the new grass become established since scarifying chews up your lawn a bit.
- Once your grass is established, plan on scarifying once every year. At a minimum, scarify once every couple of years. Your best bet is to scarify in the spring. This leaves your lawn looking a little ragged at first, but with the ample sun of the summer and boost in airflow and water from scarifying, your lawn will turn out green and gorgeous.
- Another option, if you don't like the idea of your lawn looking ragged, is to scarify in the early fall. This is a practical solution if done in September or October. Your lawn won't look so chewed up at the beginning of summer, and it can still be effective as long as you do it well before the first frost.
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Kasey Van Dyke writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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