How to buy - Scarifiers

Working widths, machine speeds, performance and collection are all important considerations when buying scarifiers, says Sally Drury.

Q: What factors are important when purchasing kit?

A: Investigate the speed of the machine. Working width and speed of operation are the key factors needed to calculate how long the job will take. But remember that productivity has to be balanced with performance. It is also important that the scarifying reel is easy to adjust for depth.

Q: Which areas will need scarifying?

A: It will partly depend on the grasses present in the sward, the function of the area and the quality of finish required. A build-up of thatch can restrict moisture penetration, affect ball performance, favour the invasion of undesirable species and also provide suitable conditions for pests and diseases.

Bents and fescues are two of the grass species that tend to develop fibre rapidly. Smooth-stalked meadow grass and annual meadow grass are also prone to thatch build-up. Rye grasses tend to be less troublesome, although they may still need attention when growing in mixtures with other species.

Q: What blades should be used?

A: Use narrow blades of 1mm or 2mm for fine turf and blades of 2mm or 3mm for outfield turf. The type of turf also determines the best spacing - 18mm to 20mm for fine turf and 25mm to 30mm for outfields. Blades should be easy to change.

Q: How deep should it go?

A: A lot of factors should be considered when deciding what depth to set the blades. It is likely to vary from site to site, as well as conditions at the time. The main factors, however, are the degree of thatch present in the sward, the amount of lateral growth, weed infestation and the frequency of scarification.

If there is an "inch-thick" layer of thatch and moss it is tempting to set the machine to work deeply and rip out as much as you can. Unfortunately, in practice, it doesn't work like that. A scarifier that is set to work too deeply will not necessarily lift out any extra thatch. In fact, it is more likely to put more stress and strain on the machine and will wear out the blades. The key to tackling thatch is to nibble it away little by little, varying the direction of operation each time.

Q: What about the debris?

A: A lot of debris can be generated during scarification. The collection of this debris should be considered from the start. Most pedestrian machines are offered with box collectors or bags. These do tend to fill rapidly and may mean frequent trips to the trailer for emptying purposes.

There is also a wide selection of tractor-mounted scarifiers/collectors. In many instances these large-hopper units double as flail mowers - further extending their use. An alternative is to use a powered sweeper or vacuum to pick up the debris after scarification.

Q: What's new in scarifiers?

A: The AG40 and AG50 pedestrian scarifiers have been designed and engineered by Efco to provide machines suited to both domestic and to professional situations. Both machines have spikes of hardened steel, with the model AG40 having 16 fixed spikes over a 40cm working width and model AG50 having 28 floating spikes over a 50cm width. The units have reinforced steel decks and are belt-driven. Power for these push machines comes from 6hp Robin or Honda engines.

Made by the South African company Protea, the 500SVG is now available in the UK from Rivendell Projects. The machine weighs 65kg and is powered by a 6hp Subaru engine. It is being offered with a choice of reels, including general verticutter, pin-type scarifier and groomer. An offset verticut reel is supplied as standard. The price is £1,191 ex VAT.

Tracmaster, based at Burgess Hill in West Sussex, has improved its LS17 lawn scarifier with redesigned blades which it describes as being "waisted" rather than straight-edged. The company says that this shape of blade should keep its edge for longer and provide better performance. The blades are also thicker - 1.6mm instead of 1mm - and the rotor assembly can be removed, reversed and re-installed to double the blade life. The LS17 comes with a large collection bag.

A scarification reel is one of the optional attachments for the Maredo Turfcare System introduction last year by Lloyds & Co of Letchworth. Developed to be of interest to fine-turf mangers, the power unit features a 6hp Vanguard engine and has a dual PTO drive to give speeds of 1,000rpm and 3,000rpm.

Functioning as a"mini-tractor", the power unit offers three-point linkage for the attachments. Other reel options include overseeder, aerator and vibrating spiker. A Maredo-Lloyds cassette system has also been introduced for use with triple mowers.

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