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Dethatching

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Home Lawn 101 Dethatching

Why, When, and How to Dethatch Your Lawn

Removing excessive thatch is an essential part of maintaining healthy grass

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What is Dethatching?

Dethatching is the removal of excess thatch, which is a matted layer of living and dead organic matter that naturally accumulates between the grass blades and the soil. While dethatching is not a service Fairway Lawns offers, it is something you may want to do if your lawn really needs it.

Why Should You Dethatch Your Lawn?

Thatch is not all bad! When the thatch layer is the right size (about 1/2 inch), it functions like mulch by moderating the temperature of the soil and helping it retain moisture. As microbes in the soil break down the layer of organic material, nutrients are released back into the soil. A thin layer of thatch reduces soil compaction, increases tolerance for cold and heat, and can reduce water loss through evaporation.

However, too much thatch hinders grass growth in many ways:

  • Fertilizer applied on the surface gets tied up in the thatch layer, reducing the grass’ response to fertilization.
  • The un-decomposed layer of dead plant parts creates a good environment for disease organisms and insects to multiply and thrive. This can increase pest and disease problems and reduce the effectiveness of an insecticide or fungicide, should you need one.
  • Water penetration is greatly reduced by thick thatch layers, resulting in a lot of water simply running off.
  • The root system of the turf is shallow under heavy thatch and the grass can’t make effective use of the water in the soil because most of the root system is in the thatch layer.
  • The grass becomes weak, more easily susceptible to drought, and more easily injured by any stress conditions.

When Should You Dethatch Your Lawn?

While an ideal layer of thatch is about 1/2 inch, sometimes the organic matter doesn’t break down or decompose fast enough for how quickly it accumulates, causing it to become too thick — about 1 inch or more. There are a few ways to determine if you have too much thatch buildup:

  • Try to poke your finger through to the soil; if you can’t because it is too hard, then your thatch layer is probably too thick.
  • Check to see if your lawn is green on top but brown below.
  • Walk across the lawn; If it feels spongy, it may be due to thatch.
  • Use a knife to cut several small plugs from your lawn and measure the thatch (the layer of spongy brown material between the grass and the soil).

If you think your lawn may need to be dethatched, check with your lawn care technician or a field manager to be sure, and if so, make sure you don’t do it at the wrong time of year for your grass type! Dethatching is stressful on your grass, so it should only be done when your lawn is at its strongest during the year and conditions are best to promote rapid recovery of your grass type. If your lawn is dormant or stressed by drought, dethatching it could do irreparable damage.

Know the Right Time to Dethatch Your Yard

  • If you scalp your warm season lawn in the spring and mow your lawn properly and frequently enough, you shouldn’t need to dethatch. However, if you do need to, it should be dethatched in late spring or early summer after it has completely greened and is growing rapidly.

  • It comes into its prime time for growth in early spring and in early fall, so dethatching in late August to early October is ideal. Things that will factor in include your region, when the grass is growing vigorously, and when weeds are less likely to germinate.

How To Remove Thatch From Your Lawn

There are several ways to dethatch your lawn, including:

  • Aeration loosens the soil and allows air, water, nutrients, and your grass’ roots to penetrate more easily, creating a better environment for your lawn’s root system.

    We offer liquid aeration with Sup-R-Soil, which reaches deeper soil and loosens it better than other lawn aeration tools.

    We offer mechanical aeration in certain regions in the fall, in conjunction with the fall overseeding of cool season grasses.

    You can mechanically aerate your lawn by renting an aeration machine. You run it over your lawn and it pulls out cylindrical plugs of soil.

  • A convex rake that has semicircular tines, which are like blades. By using the same motion you would to rake leaves, those knifelike blades cut through the sod and remove thatch.

  • The electric version of a thatching rake that you push like a lawn mower. Instead of blades, it has rotating tines that dig into thatch and lift it out as you push.

  • A mower that has vertical blades that cut into the soil and pull up the thatch layer (as well as plenty of grass roots). This process makes a rather big mess and you will need to bag up a lot of organic material. Only lawns with thicker thatch or those in need of total renovation would benefit from this aggressive approach.

How Often Should You Dethatch Your Lawn?

Dethatching does not need to be done frequently; you might only do it every two to three years, depending on your grass type and growing conditions. Some fast-growing grasses like St. Augustine grass and Kentucky bluegrass are more prone to having thicker thatch, especially if they are grown in compacted or heavy clay soil.

Preventing a Thatch Problem

Since a thatch problem is the result of new organic matter accumulating more quickly than it can decompose, avoid practices that cause your grass to grow too quickly. Lawn care practices that will help reduce the severity of thatch include:

  • Watering deeply, thoroughly, but infrequently
  • Using the right type and amount of fertilizer for normal growth
  • Maintaining proper pH levels and adjusting them if needed
  • Aerating your lawn on a regular schedule to make room for new growth

If you are uncertain of your yard’s needs, the lawn care experts at Fairway Lawns are here to help. Our technicians can determine what lawn services are required to get your property healthy and looking its best. Contact us today for affordable, professional lawn maintenance services.