How many times have you come across the phrases scarifying, de-thatching, raking, verticutting and grooming on various lawn care websites, blogs, forums and in books. All these different terms can be pretty confusing to say the least, however, they are all types of scarification
They are all similar, in the fact they prevent and remove organic matter such as thatch and dead moss from the lawn. The only real difference is the fact they are used at varying depths and frequencies on the lawn.
Also called de-thatching, scarifying would be used to remove a large amount of thatch by penetrating deep into the turf. A machine used for deep scarification would be petrol powered for maximum performance. It would also be fitted with heavy duty blades or knife like tines for durability. The tines/blades can either be fixed or flail like. As this type of machine is more aggressive to the turf, then the tine/blade spacings are set further apart to compensate for this. Although this type of scarifier can be used in the spring, it really comes into its own in the autumn when deeper scarification is of great benefit to the lawn.
Verticutting also called vertical mowing is a refinement of scarifying, in that it is less aggressive. The blades are finer and are not designed to penetrate as deep as those on a scarifier. Verticutters have more blades (than a scarifier), with the spacings being closer together to leave a finer finish on the lawn.
They should be set to just touch the surface of the lawn and flick through the grass sward. Their aim is to prevent thatch build by removing any lateral growth (stolons) and leave the lawn with a clean tidy finish. Verticutting will also help remove annual meadow grass seed heads and promote finer grasses, such as bent and fescue. It can also be helpful in weakening and removing certain weeds such as, clovers, trefoils and speedwell.
Unlike deep scarifying, verticutting can be undertaken at any time during the growing season, avoiding drought and periods of weak growth. For a typical lawn containing a high percentage of ‘weed grasses’, such as annual meadow, rye and Yorkshire fog, regular verticutting can be undertake every 2 – 4 weeks, depending on grass growth. On a lawn that is predominantly bent or fescue a less aggressive approach should be taken.
Grooming the turf is the least aggressive of all. A groomer simply flicks through the grass, it does not penetrate into the thatch layer. In many cases groomers are fitted to top of the range cylinder mowers, behind the front roller and in front of the cutting cylinder. They can be a small reel with fixed tines that rotate through the grass sward. Alternatively a simple wire comb, again fitted between the front roller & cutting cylinder is used, which simply flicks the grass and lateral growth upright prior to mowing.
The tines/blades are finer and closer together than the others, leaving a very tidy finish. These can be used each time you mow, growth permitting, as they are not aggressive to the lawn. Groomers should only be used to flick through the grass, never set them into the base of the lawn. This can damage both lawn and the mower.