The autumn clear-up generates a lot of useful waste that can be recycled into a free, home-grown, supply of organic compost you can use as mulch or as soil-conditioner in spring, with the added benefit that it reduces the amount you need to put in the recycling bins.
Annual weeds, mowings, fallen leaves, old bedding plants, tomato plants, thatch, moss raked out of the lawn, tea leaves, vegetable trimmings, dead flowers, hedge trimmings and damp shredded newspaper are all ideal for composting. Add to these moisture and beneficial bacteria from manures, water weeds from your pond, garden soil or a proprietary compost starter, and let the composting begin!
A plastic bin is ideal for the smaller garden. The bin will trap the heat inside and the contents will ‘cook’ efficiently. Stand the bin directly on the soil so worms can get in. Build materials up in layers, sprinkle each layer with earth and firm down. When the bin is full, finish with a covering of soil. It’s important to put in substantial amounts at a time, if necessary accumulating material in plastic sacks until you have enough. Have a second bin you can use whilst the first is rotting down.
If you have a larger garden with a lot of compostable waste you may prefer to make compost heaps. The drawback of traditional heaps is that only the centre ‘cooks’ properly; the outside layer acting as insulation (the uncomposted layer can be used to start a second heap once the first is usable). A heap can be built all at once (the ingredients mixed together first and watered, then piled up and covered with a tarpaulin or old carpet), or in layers over time.
Both methods should result in usable compost after 6 months in winter or 3 months in summer.
Autumn is the perfect time to scarify, rake and aerate your lawn. The worst of the heat will have passed but there will still be enough sunshine to help your grass recover. More to the point, all of those pesky weeds will have already dispersed their seeds, so you won’t need to worry about spreading clover or broadleaf plantain all over the lawn.
For those of us who aren’t ‘in the know,’ scarification is the process of raking up the mat of dead thatch that forms between your grass and the soil every summer. This thatch layer is comprised of decomposing turf, and forms whenever your grass starts growing faster than nature can break down the debris. Unfortunately, thatch prevents moisture, oxygen and nutrients from reaching your lawn’s roots, which makes its removal very important if you want to get the most from your garden next spring.
Aeration is similar, but different. Rather than removing dead matter, this process focuses on punching small holes (or slits) into the soil. These holes let oxygen, water and nutrients filter down to the roots of your lawn, where they can nourish individual blades of grass.
As you can probably imagine, both processes can be tremendously beneficial for your lawn; paving the way for a growth spurt come spring, and helping to repair the damage done over the long, hot months of summer.
It is important that both processes are carried out carefully though. Scarification can cause immense stress to your lawn if it’s done too vigorously and ineffectual aeration can end up doing more harm than good.
In fact, improper aeration, carried out with a hand fork, can actually cause soil compaction in its own right, while trying to scarify your lawn with a handheld rake can end up tearing healthy grasses out of the ground, without ever actually scratching the surface of the thatch layer.
A good machine goes a long way towards solving both of these problems. Modern scarifiers are designed to chug along at just the right depth, and their tines are carefully spaced to ensure that any damage is minimised. Powered aerators also benefit from a from a focus on ease-of-use, and supply the sort of consistency that you’d really struggle to emulate by hand.
Here, we’re going to walk you through the different types of scarifier, aerator and powered lawn rake so that you can pick out the perfect machine, and get to work repairing your lawn.
For each type, we’ll pay particular attention to things like
The power source
The optimum lawn size
So that you can find a machine that really suits you.
Battery Powered or Electric Scarifiers
Electric scarifiers are generally very lightweight. They’re nice and easy to push around your garden, and they don’t require the kind of muscle that’s needed to scarify with a heavier, petrol-driven machine. That’s not to say that they’re ineffective though. Armed with an array of fine steel blades, a good electric scarifier will cut through a year’s worth of light thatch with ease.
Generally speaking, electric scarifiers are ideally suited to gardens in the 100 to 250 m3range, and can be relied on to remove thatch from most small domestic lawns. Because they work at a relatively shallow depth, they’re also a great fit for damaged or stressed grass that wouldn’t be able to handle a heavy-duty machine.
You can’t beat electric scarifiers for care or maintenance either: Their simple motors rarely fail, and there’s no need to mess around with filters or fuel before you get to work. If you stick to cordless models built by brands like Cobra, you’ll also find that they often boast one-size-fits-all batteries that can be swapped in and out of different machines with ease. This really cuts down on faff, and ensures that you’re well-rewarded for sticking with a single manufacturer.
AL-KO’s EnergyFlex SF 4036 cordless scarifier is a fine example. Boasting 12 steel blades and a central, five-point height adjustment lever that makes it nice and easy to alter the depth of cut, it’s well equipped to tackle any small lawn. It also benefits from AL-KO’s normal high build quality and we find that it’s one of the better scarifiers when it comes to maneuverability too.
Best of all though, AL-KO’s EnergyFlex SF 4036 has a nice big collection bag, which means that it won’t leave a trail of dead thatch in its wake. If you’re looking for a nice, simple scarifier that’ll strip thatch from a small lawn, AL-KO’s cordless option is exactly the sort of machine you should be looking at.
A heavy-duty option, petrol scarifiers are well suited to lawns over 300 m3in size. They’re also the only option if you are caring for an ornamental lawn, as their smaller, electric cousins can’t really supply the kind of power needed to deliver an impeccably clean cut.
There are some downsides though: All of that extra power does make petrol scarifiers a little bit harder to use, and they do also tend to be quite a bit heavier than their electric cousins. This means that some gardeners may struggle to push them up and down the lawn, and it also means that they put more strain on the soil.
Note: If your lawn is stressed, we’d always advise that you avoid using a heavy-duty scarifier, as they can cause permanent damage.
Still, if you’re looking for something that’ll definitely get the job done, you can’t go wrong with a petrol scarifier. They can carve through densely matted thatch with ease, and they do tend to last a bit longer too – thanks to their hardwearing motors and the fact that they’re designed to operate under relatively heavy load. We also love the fact that you don’t have to worry about the battery running out halfway through the scarification process.
Cobra’s S390H petrol lawn scarifier is a perfect example. This hardwearing machine’s blessed with a really hard-wearing frame and a powerful, 135cc Honda engine. More to the point, it’s equipped with 16 scarifying blades, and has a working width of 36cm which makes it ideal for larger gardens.
As with the AL-KO model mentioned before, the Cobra S390H is also adjustable, which means that you can set the cutting height to ensure that you are getting deep enough to pull up thatch, without banging the tines against the soil. It’s little features like these, coupled with the power and performance that make petrol scarifiers the go-to option for anyone with a bigger lawn, or anyone looking to make a long-term investment in a piece of durable garden machinery.
There’s no real difference between a petrol scarifier and a petrol power rake. Both machines are designed to remove thatch, and help boost the health of your lawn. That said, some manufacturers do use the term ‘power rake’ to refer to larger, heavier-duty petrol scarifiers.
Billy Goat is a prime example of this. Their petrol power rake is bigger than most petrol scarifiers, and it boasts a much larger engine too. Because the intention was to build a machine capable of dealing with really dense thatch, you will also find that the Billy Goat petrol power rake comes with an interchangeable flail reel that can be used to exchange the normal steel tines for flexible, weighted lengths to dig out thatch that’s more than ½ an inch thick.
Strictly speaking, this isn’t something that you’d really need in a domestic setting. That said, if you have a very large lawn, things like the extra-wide 20” working width may well come in handy.
Most dedicated aerators are designed for lawns in the 300-1000 m3 range. As such, they are normally heavy-duty, petrol-powered machines with a strong focus on being able to tackle uneven terrain, or deal with hours of non-stop use.
Their primary function is to punch regular holes into the surface of your lawn, and they rarely feature any modifications for ease-of-use or comfort. That said, the one push aerator that we stock here at More Than Mowers does boast a few extra features that help it to stand out from the crowd.
For starters, the Billy Goat self-propelled aerator uses a special Lift N Lock disengagement system to ensure that it rolls smoothly over your garden. Things like the folding handle, the outboard drive wheels and the fact that it’s a self-propelled machine also help to make sure that it’s nice and easy to use on a day-to-day basis
So if you are in the market for a dedicated aerator, we’d definitely recommend taking a look. There’s no better way to ensure that your grass is getting the oxygen it needs to flourish, particularly if you have a very large garden.
Designed with the domestic gardener in mind, these lightweight machines offer a really cost effective way to bring the benefits of both scarification and aeration to small gardens.
Combination scarifiers/aerators are slightly less effective than two, dedicated machines, and they do tend to resemble electric scarifiers in terms of their power and strength. That said, a good, modern example will be more than capable of tackling a lawn that’s between 100 and 250m3 in size.
There are some advantages too: As with dedicated electric scarifiers, these handy little machines can be used on stressed lawns, or little patches of grass that have suffered from excessive thatch buildup, which makes them a great tool for correcting any overfertilisation issues.
There’s the cost to consider as well. Despite offering twice as much functionality, they generally cost about the same as the average. They’re nice and easy to store too. In fact, most options come with interchangeable cassettes that can be swapped out in a matter of seconds, which means that you only need space for one machine in your shed.
We really like how simple and straightforward it is, particularly if you’re just trying to keep on top of the basic stuff. It’s also a very affordable option that benefits from all of the high build quality and robust framework that you’d expect from an AL-KO machine.
Better yet, it has a very vibration-friendly frame, and a nice big bag attachment to make sure your garden’s left looking pristine. If you’re looking for something that’s convenient, adaptable and easy-to-use, you should definitely take a look.
Hopefully, this guide will help you to pick out the perfect scarifier, aerator or rake for your lawn. There’s an option for every type of garden imaginable, and we’ve tried to showcase the pros and cons of each to make sure that you can shop with confidence.
That said, we do know that picking out a machine can be quite daunting, so if you do have any questions about this article, or about scarifiers in general, remember that you can always reach out by calling us on 01380 828961 or using the contact form on our site.
We’re always happy to share our expertise, and we take real pride in our ability to help customers find the perfect product, so please don’t hesitate to ask!
Grass takes a real battering over summer, and if you have children or pets it will be even more downtrodden. Some serious maintenance is called for in autumn.
The aim is to provide the best conditions possible – balanced fertile soil with plenty of soil life – so that less time needs to be spent on problem control.
After our long, hot summer wait until there’s been enough rain to soak the ground and the grass is growing again before embarking on our six-step fitness plan (better to wait until October if it’s still dry).
Mow as usual.
Scarify – rake out moss, weeds and thatch with a lawn scarifier. If you didn’t do this in spring you may rake out large quantities of rubbish and the lawn will look patchy, but it will soon recover.
Mow again, at right angles to the first mowing. This chops off the weeds raised by raking.
Aerate the lawnby spiking to let in air, this improves drainage and alleviates compaction.
Add a special low-nitrogen autumn formula to toughen the grass up ready for winter.
Top dress. Not essential if you have good soil, but well worth doing if you garden on clay, chalk or sandy soils. Sprinkle the grass with a thin (5mm) layer of turf dressing or your own compost, topsoil and sand mixture, then work it in with a stiff garden broom so that most of it disappears.
If you have broken lawn edges, bald patches or bumps and hollows, September is a good time to deal with them. New lawns from seed can be sown from around the middle of the month, but delay laying turf until October or November (see article March 2018).
It used to be assumed the arrival of autumn heralded the end of the growing season, but not anymore. Mild autumns have extended the growing season so we can expect another month or two of colour to enjoy. There may be an autumnal nip in the air, but September looks likely to be a relatively dry month with temperatures above average, so its back into the garden with the aim of keeping the summer garden going as long as possible.
There’s an abundance of autumn-flowering climbing plants that will add interest and rich colour into your garden and we’ve chosen three of our favourites.
Parthenocissus tricuspidata’Veitchii’ (Boston Ivy). One of the best of the large climbers for stunning foliage colour, its large maple-like leaves turn from bright green to dramatic shades of crimson and scarlet. Very vigorous and easy to grow, it can reach up to 15m so is perfect for a large tree or for growing against the house. It’s self-clinging and will thrive in any situation from full sun to deep shade.
Clematis tibetana‘Bill MacKenzie’. Attractive golden-yellow nodding flowers are followed by large, wispy seedheads. The flowers and seedheads overlap for a while creating a stunning display. It’s vigorous, growing up to 5-6m, so is suitable for growing up a tree and it will also cope with a north wall. Full sun or partial shade.
Fuchsia ‘Lady Boothby’. This vigorous hardy fuchsia gives an abundant display of red and blue flowers through summer and well into autumn. Growing to 2.5m, it’s great for covering a trellis, arch or fence and could be grown in a container. The shoots may need to be tied in. Requires partial shade and well-drained soil.
Looking after your hedges, bushes and shrubs can often be an overlooked task in the garden. It is easy for these to spread rapidly and if neglected can result in an untidy looking garden even if your well-manicured lawn looks great! However, if you’ve ever tried cutting a hedge manually with shears, you’ll know what hard work it can be and it’s hard to get a neat looking finish to the hedge this way. This might be all you need for a small hedge of course but if you have several hedges to cut then a powered hedgetrimmer makes the task a lot easier. Choosing the right hedgetrimmer depends on a number of things:
What type of hedge do you have – thin branches or thick branches?
What height are your hedges?
Consider where your hedges are. A corded hedge trimmer may not be an option if too far from a power source
How formal/informal do you want your hedges to be?
Who will be the person using the hedgetrimmer – need to consider the weight they can carry, ease of use, comfort etc.
Hedgetrimmers are available as electric, petrol and cordless battery powered.
As these require a mains connection and are limited by the length of cable they are best suited to a smaller garden. If bushes and shrubs are relatively small this may be all that is needed to keep them neat. Electric hedgetrimmers tend to be cheaper and more lightweight (no fuel to carry or battery). They are also better for the environment and quieter than the petrol alternative. Another benefit is that they are cheaper to run as there are no regular servicing costs. However, you will need to consider the type of bushes you need to trim – thicker, woodier branches might require more power. The Cobra LRH40E 39cm 15in Electric Long Reach Hedgetrimmer is a lightweight and powerful hedgetrimmer with a 10m cable and priced under £100.
Petrol hedge trimmers can be a better choice for cutting large hedges and especially one’s with tougher cutting requirements. Being unrestricted in their use and with much more power available these tend to be the choice in larger gardens and/or for professional hedge maintenance. However, they are more expensive, tend to be heavier, are noisier and will require servicing. If you are considering a petrol hedgetrimmer, we recommend the Mitox Premium Petrol Hedgetrimmer 750DX / 23cc / 75cm– this is a premium quality hedge trimmer, powerful, lightweight, affordable and offering great value at only £229.
More people are turning to cordless these days for their garden tools and hedge trimmers are no exception. Lithium-ion batteries offer all the power of petrol and yet are convenient, quieter and cleaner for the environment. They are ideally suited to most domestic hedge maintenance tasks, providing the manoeuvrability around the garden and many have excellent cutting performance. The only thing to consider will be the battery runtime of the machine.
The EGO Power+ HT1500E Cordless Hedgetrimmer offers a well-balanced design for more comfortable operation. A two-speed selector lets you choose the right speed for every task and the large cutting capacity means you can get to work on larger hedges with thicker branches and stems.
If you have higher hedges then a long-reach, extendable hedge trimmer is a good option and depending on height you should be able to reach the top from standing safely on the ground. Different lengths can be obtained by adjusting the long shaft and the blade on the end can be rotated to cut the hedge at different angles. Long Reach Hedgetrimmers are available in electric, petrol or cordless models. Many of the petrol and cordless models can be bought as a multi-tool – often being sold with a main power head with different extensions such as chainsaw, brushcutter and pruner.
Generally, the average domestic user will need a double-sided hedgetrimmer. These are easier to use as the blade tends to be shorter and allows the user more manoeuvrability when trimming bushes and shrubs. Single sided hedgetrimmers have longer blades and tend to be used mainly for commercial applications. They are better suited to cutting long extensive lines of hedgerows on large estates and park land.
For advice on choosing a hedgetrimmer, please call Nigel or Sam on 01380 828867.
The drought this summer and the threat of hosepipe bans are a reminder that it’s more important than ever to think about the need to conserve water when choosing what to grow in the garden. Including some water-retentive plants helps to keep the garden colourful in dry conditions, and even if we don’t have a drought it cuts down on watering.
Many plants from around the world are naturally adapted to dry conditions. They often have small leaves or needles that are waxy or have fine hairs. Foliage is grey or silver, and some have fragrant foliage such as herbs where the oils help prevent the plant from drying out.
It’s still important to water them in well in the initial months to ensure they establish a strong root system. They are often sun-lovers but there are also some that do well in shade.
Good trees and shrubs for dry areas are Buddleia, Fig and Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus is also evergreen and a fast-growing tree with scented foliage. Pittosporums are medium to large shrubs that are also evergreen, slower-growing and bear flowers in late spring. The Mediterranean herbs Rosemary, Sage and Lavender are useful and very easy to grow.
The list of perennials and biennials is long, but some favourites are the beautiful and long-lasting Sea Hollies, Artemisias, Cistus (Rock Rose), Nepeta (Catmint), Geums, Agapanthus, hardy Geraniums (Cranesbills), Sedums and Verbascums. Osteospermums can flower from spring through to the autumn if dead-headed, providing ground-cover and a nectar feast for butterflies.
Leaving the garden to get by without you when you go away doesn’t have to be too much of a problem with a bit of forward planning, and some last-minute effort.
Phone a Friend
The ideal solution is a trusted garden-loving friend to tend the garden whilst you’re away. Unfortunately, few of us have such a paragon, and if we find a helper it’s more likely to be a time-pressed neighbour. Resist the temptation to write pages of notes and make everything as simple as possible for them.
Leave full watering cans by the tap or the hose connected
Group pots together so that your helper doesn’t have to go and find them
Make it clear what definitely needs watering and what it would be good to water if they have time
Tell them to help themselves to the harvest (as well as being good manners this encourages continuous fruiting)
Don’t expect too much – no one is going to love your garden as much as you do
Always bring a present home
Return the favour!
Whether you have someone who can pop in or not, there is much you can do to prepare for your time away by getting your weeding, mowing and hedge-clipping up to date before you go.
Pots are prone to drying out, so if possible place them where they will be in shade for most of the day. Place them in saucers to catch the water and thoroughly soak before covering the surface with mulch or sink the bottom few centimetres of the pots into damp garden soil.
Consider investing in an automatic watering system– there are many on the market. A simple home-made system can be made by standing several containers around a raised bucket of water, so the water level is higher than the top of the pots, then give each pot a ‘wick’ – a wet dishcloth or similar with one end tucked firmly inside the pot and the other end secured in the bottom of the bucket. Soak the pots before you go.
Water globes are widely available, or you can make your own – fill a bottle and immediately plunge the neck into already-damp soil, screwing it well in. The soil will gradually draw the moisture down.
The thirstiest containers are hanging baskets, and these tricks also work for them. Take the basket down and dig a depression in the soil in a shady border that you can sink the basket in.
In the vegetable garden, water everything deeply as late as possible, then spread the soil with clippings, compost or other mulch to keep the soil beneath damp for as long as possible. You can give vegetables some shade using netting or cloth. Pick anything ripe, and if you’re away for long remove young beans, peas and courgettes as if these mature on the vine the plants will stop fruiting.
Greenhouse crops should be given a very thorough last-minute soaking and the doors and ventilators left open. You could also apply an extra coat of shading paint to keep temperatures down.
Lastly, as with valuables inside the home, make sure garden machinery and other valuables are locked away and out of sight.
The recent dry weather has made for tough growing conditions and combined with hosepipe bans and the holiday season some of the usual flowers that bloom in August may have come to an early end. The strong and well-adapted will have survived, and there is much to enjoy. With the dry weather there’s little mowing to do so let’s hope you can sit back and enjoy the garden.
Hibiscus syriacus. These hardy hibiscuses are tall flowering shrubs that are slow to come into leaf but well worth the wait. Flowering prolifically between August and October, their exotic looks are a delight in the late-summer garden and they require very little attention. Good varieties are ‘Blue Bird’, ‘Woodbridge’ and ‘Red Delight’.
Helianthus (Sunflowers) are the some of the easiest annuals to get children started on gardening and they can make the rest of us smile too. Right now they are in full flower and will have reached their maximum height, which can vary from metres tall down to very dwarf varieties that are suitable for patio pots. Giant sunflowers produce one enormous seed head on a single stem, but branching varieties that can be used for cut flowers are also available. When the flowers have faded leave the seedheads standing for free birdseed.
Clematis Viticella cultivars start to flower late in the season when many of the other large-flowered Clematis are running out of steam. Viticella’s have the great advantage of being resistant to Clematis wilt, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re pruned or not. ‘Minuet’ bears mauve flowers edged in white, ‘Alba Luxurians’ has greeny-white flowers and ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ bears wine-red star-shaped flowers with yellow anthers. It is a fully-hardy compact variety suitable for growing in a pot.
Most gardeners have at least one shady spot in their garden. Whether the shade is cast by buildings or trees, these areas can be difficult to plant as they often also present the challenge of dry or damp soil. But there are plants that love these conditions. Plant well and this area of the garden can be a cool and relaxing oasis away from the summer sun.
Before you start, always enrich the soil, incorporating plenty of organic matter to retain moisture. Mulch after planting, and water well for the first few months. If you have a tree or large shrub casting shade you can remove the bottom layer of branches to let in more light.
Light or colourful foliage will lift the gloom, and pale flowers will stand out and brighten up the darkest corners. These plants will thrive in shade and continue to look good in the summer months.
Three evergreen shrubs for shade include:
Aucuba japonica (spotted laurel) varieties with spots and splashes of gold on their glossy green leaves, with the bonus of red berries in autumn;
Elaeagnus ebbingei ‘Eleador’ has leathery variegated green and yellow leaves with small fragrant flowers in autumn and winter berries;
It’s peak flowering time and gardens are a riot of summer colour. Perennials and annuals are in full swing, hanging baskets and containers need constant watering and you may already have had your first glut in the vegetable garden. Amidst all this activity there are some old faithful’s, which are often taken for granted but deserve closer inspection.
Petunias are firm favourites for hanging baskets and containers, with saucer-shaped or frilly rosette flowers available in a myriad of colours to complement any planting scheme. Surfinia varieties are very reliable and are scented, but in exposed positions, one of the Million Bells varieties will be more weather resistant.
Lavenders are equally at home in a modern design or a traditional cottage garden. These versatile semi-evergreens make excellent dwarf flowering hedges, and of course, the flowers are useful for cutting or drying. The flowers and leaves of French lavenders also have culinary uses.
The cone-shaped flowers of the often maligned Buddleia davidii, or Butterly Bush, are a magnet for bees and butterflies at this time of year. It needs hard annual pruning if it’s not to grow too tall and straggly, but a little care and deadheading are repaid by glorious long-lasting colour and honey-scented blooms all summer long.