Confessions of a Lawn Dethatcher

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Confessions of a Lawn Dethatcher

I have a confession to make. The first time I ever dethatched my lawn – I absolutely loved it! There is something incredibly fun about using a power tool that operates differently than what you are used to with a lawn mower.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s discuss exactly what thatch is and why it can be bad for your lawn. Thatch is formed on the top layer of soil in your lawn. It is made up of dead organic matter left from caste off grass parts. Thatch is naturally decomposed by organisms that feed on it, but sometimes they can’t keep up. That is when you start to have problems. The problem with too much thatch is it loses water, incubates diseases, protects bugs, hinders feeding, and in extreme cases causes scalping from mowing.

How Can I Prevent Thatch?

There are several things that can cause excess thatch and you can prevent all of them to a certain extent. Some of these causes include:

  • Mowing Infrequently
  • Mowing tall grass can contribute to the collection of thatch.

  • Overfertilizing
  • Stick to a solid fertilizer program and try to never exceed the recommended application rates.

  • Watering Too Frequently and Too Shallow
  • This causes conditions that drive out the organisms that feed on thatch.

  • Low or High Soil PH
  • This also negatively affects the organisms which leads to more thatch. A litmus test will reveal whether your soil’s PH is normal or not. You can apply lime or sulfur to fix a PH problem.

We should also note that Zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass are very prone to developing heavy thatch. Pay special attention to these two grass types.

How to Determine If Your Lawn Needs Dethatching

You can determine if your lawn needs to be dethatched by looking for dry and dead patches of grass in between healthy plants. If your lawn has a bouncy feel to it, then you probably need to dethatch. However, the best way to determine if you need to dethatch, is to remove a small plug from the lawn and measure to see if the thatch layer is longer than 1/2″. If it is, then you better get started dethatching, your lawn is suffering.

When and How to Dethatch

The ideal time to dethatch is before your grasses peak growth period. The best time for cool season grass is in the Fall and warm season grass it is in the Spring. You can perform the job with several tools including: a cavex or dethatching rake, dethatching lawn mower blade attachments, or a power unit like a vertical mower. I wouldn’t recommend using a lawn mower attachment because of the strain it can cause on your unit. Cavex rakes are best for small lawn because they are labor intensive.

It is best to dethatch when the soil is slightly moist from a light rain or watering. Make sure to mark possible damage spots like sprinkler heads, cables, or phone lines. Mow your lawn to its recommended lowest height and then begin dethatching. You can make several passes to get more thatch. You can expect a lot of clean up if your lawn is large or heavily thatched. You should probably perform this task at least every 4 to 5 years even if you don’t notice any of the symptoms of heavy thatch.

Author Bio

Matt Morrison is a lawn expert, homeowner, and website hobbyist from Texas. He enjoys working on his own lawn and helping others make their lawn the best it can be. You can read more of his articles here.

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One comment

  1. Nice article just bought a Sun Joe Aerator11 amp dethatcher. Unfortunately been raking like crazy. So awaiting The Sun Joe Dethatcher in the mail soon.

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