Should You Mow the Lawn Before Scarifying?

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There is much more involved in properly maintaining your lawn beyond just mowing and regularly watering it. Many lawn care experts suggest scarifying or dethatching your lawn. Scarifying your lawn refers to the process of removing organic material build-up, or thatch, which usually consists of dead grass roots, runners, and more.

Scarifying is important because it gives your grass plants room to take root and take in water. If you don’t scarify your lawn at least a few times a year, it could be prone to drought and disease. But what is the best way to scarify the lawn, and do you need to mow the lawn first? Here’s what you need to know about the best scarification processes.

Should You Mow the Lawn Before Scarifying?

Most experts recommend mowing the lawn before scarifying. It adds a few extra steps to the process, but when you set up your lawn, you knew that it would require effort to maintain it and keep it looking good! In the grand scheme of things, mowing your lawn doesn’t add that much work, especially if the result is a beautiful, healthy lawn.

Mowing the lawn before scarifying has many benefits, ranging from the aesthetic to the practical. Here are more details about when you should mow the lawn before scarifying and why you shouldn’t skip this step if you want a gorgeous, healthy lawn.

Cases When You Should Mow Before Scarifying

In most situations, you should mow the lawn before scarifying.

Mowing the lawn before going over your turf with a dethatcher or rake will make the process far more effective. If the grass is too long, then the dethatcher cannot dig deep enough to get at the excess dead grass and remove it. The result will be a patchy, uneven lawn or clumps of dead organic material that you did not get to on the first go-around. If you’re going to the trouble of scarifying your lawn, you might as well do everything in your power to make it work the first time around.

Mowing your lawn first makes sense from a practical point because it allows the rake and dethatcher to be more effective. It also improves the aesthetics of your lawn. When the scarifying process works more evenly, it leads to a gorgeous, lush lawn. If you don’t mow the lawn and the dethatcher can’t reach the dead grass in every spot, you’ll have random dry or bald patches when your lawn grows in.

In most cases, you should mow the lawn before scarifying. A good rule of thumb is that you want your grass to be 2–2.5 inches tall before scarifying. If your grass is any longer than that, it is time to get mowing.

Cases When You Might Not Need to Mow Before Scarifying

Although most experts recommend mowing before scarifying the lawn, there are a few cases when you should put the lawn mower away.

The most important caveat is your grass length. If your grass is shorter than two inches, then don’t bother mowing it even shorter. If your grass is too short, then the dethatcher risks pushing the dead grass into the soil or ripping out the live grass along with the dead organic matter.

If your grass is too short for mowing, you can try scarifying without passing over your lawn with a mower first. The grass should be short enough that it won’t get in the way of your dethatcher or rake. You can also wait a week or two for the grass to get longer just so you’re sure that you won’t damage your lawn during the scarification process.

Is It Worth the Extra Time?

When you think about it, mowing the lawn actually doesn’t take that much extra time. You can even split it up into two days of work so that you don’t spend your entire day on the lawn (experts recommend mowing a few days earlier anyway). The short amount of extra time you spend mowing will pay off when you see how much better the results are.

Mowing the lawn before scarifying actually saves you time in the long run. Mowing gets rid of a lot of extra grass and debris, meaning that scarifying and clean-up will go much faster. It also ensures that the job will get done properly, and you won’t have to waste time scarifying again.

Extra Steps to Prepare the Lawn Before Scarifying

Besides mowing the lawn, there are a few other things that you can do to prepare the lawn before scarifying. 

Planning and choosing the right timing for scarifying your lawn is one of the most important steps for ensuring your success. Scarify your lawn in early fall or late spring to give it time to recover by summer. Make sure that you pick a date far enough removed from frost so that it doesn’t damage your lawn. 

Make sure that your lawn is moist but not soaking wet. If it rains, reschedule your scarifying for another date. Wet grass will stick to your rake or dethatcher, so then the healthy grass will get pulled out along with the old matter.

Finally, overseed the lawn about a week before scarifying (and repeat the process after you finish scarifying). Overseeding will fill in any bare spots and help your lawn stay healthy, even if you accidentally tear up too many bare patches.

Scarifying Your Way to a Healthy Lawn

Getting rid of clumps of dead grass with a rake or dethatcher is crucial to ensuring that you have a healthy lawn and that healthy grass has space to grow. To ensure that the scarifying process works properly, most lawn care experts recommend mowing the lawn beforehand so that the grass is 2–2.5 inches high.

Mowing the lawn first adds an extra step, but it ultimately saves you time because it makes the process of removing the dead grass easier and it makes the results look better. Take a day or two out of your year to take care of your lawn and reap the results for the rest of the year!

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