You can improve your lawn very quickly by pulling out the thatch. You will often be amazed by how much of it you can get out of your lawn! Thatch is a naturally occurring layer of interconnected dead and living stems, leaves, grass clippings, surface roots found between growing grass and the soil under it. (Living stems and roots are called rhizomes and stolons.) Thatch can also be made up of moss, dead sod and weeds. If you leave it in your lawn, it chokes out the good grass and turns the lawn yellow.
How Does Thatch Develop?
A high-maintenance lawn tends to have more quickly developing thatch than a low-maintenance one. Compaction, high acidity, unbalanced fertilization, overuse of fungicides/insecticides, and improper care (never aerated, not mowed often, or too much mulch) can also increase thatch growth.
What is a Lawn Dethatcher?
A lawn dethatcher, also known as a power rake is a tool used to remove thatch from your yard. It looks like a lawn mower but has several vertical spinning blades that slice into the thatch layer while pulling some material to the surface. Since dethatching should only be done as needed and most people won’t need to dethatch a lawn every year, it makes them rather expensive to buy ($1200-$1800) It makes more sense to rent one or hire a professional when your lawn needs dethatching. Another option is to buy a dethatching rake or a lawn mower dethatching blade.
How does thatch affect my lawn?
A normal amount of thatch improves turf resiliency when faced with heavy use, drought or high heat because it will hold in extra moisture and shield the soil from the sun. But if it gets thicker than an inch, it impedes water, fertilizer, air and other nutrients from getting to the roots. If thatch dries out, it will decrease the drought resistance of the grass, and if it stays wet, fungi and disease may grow there, which will be hard on grass already declining because of poor access to water and nutrients. A thick layer of thatch makes the lawn more susceptible to pests, unfavorable weather and weeds while also decreasing the effectiveness of regular care and maintenance.
How can I tell if the thatch is too thick?
To know if there is too much thatch, cut a small, deep plug of grass and dirt and check the spongy layer above the soil. If it is more than one inch thick, it is time to dethatch the lawn. If it is between 1/2 – 1 inch, it is a good idea to consider dethatching soon.
How do I remove the thatch?
At this point, a power dethatcher will do the best job of removing the thatch. Mechanical lawn dethatchers are best used during cool weather in the fall or early spring when the soil is not too wet. You want the grass to have time to recover before the weather gets adverse. You can use a hand dethatching rake any time. My favorite is the Ames True temper dethatching rake.
How do I use a power dethatcher?
Before using a lawn dethatcher, mow the grass to half of its normal height. You can hire a professional or rent a power dethatcher to do it yourself. They cost around $60 to rent for half-a-day or four hours, which is long enough to thatch most residential lawns. At the rental company, have them help you set the depth and blade spacing. You want the blades to cut about ½ inch into the ground. Blades spacing is about 1-2 inches apart for tougher warm season grasses and around 3 inches for the thinner, more delicate cool season grasses. Go over the grass with crossing patterns for the best results. Do not try to remove all the thatch at one time.
What do I do after dethatching?
After dethatching, it is best over seed to help fill sparse areas. Many lawns will not look great for 2-3 weeks after, but then will look better than they did before. Topdressing with a thin layer of topsoil (around 1/8 inch) like the dirt under the grass is not necessary but can improve the lawn condition. Be sure to water well. Other ways to cut thatch build-up include reducing nitrogen fertilization, adding proper soil amendments, frequent mowing, and leaving mowed clippings on the lawn (only if they are not too long since if they do not decompose quickly they will turn into thatch).
*Looking for a dethatcher or a lawn aerator?