You might be following healthy lawn practices, but are you checking how much thatch is in your lawn? Thatch is basically a layer of organic matter that forms on your lawn, and it can become a problem for your grass.
Why is thatch bad for grass? Here’s the thing: some thatch can be beneficial for your lawn, but if it becomes thicker than half an inch it can get in the way of your grass being healthy.
Thatch prevents your grass from getting the sunlight, water, and oxygen it needs. This is why your grass can look yellow and not grow properly. Here’s what you need to know about removing thatch from your lawn.
Benefits Of Dethatching A Lawn
There are many benefits associated with dethatching your lawn. These include the following:
Removing thatch helps you to enable your grass to get the nutrients that it needs. Otherwise, the thatch gets thicker and forms a barrier between your grass and soil.
Removing thatch helps your grass to avoid pests, such as insects that can damage it. This is because a layer of thatch can be a breeding ground for these insects.
Removing thatch prevents you from scalping your grass. This is because when too much thatch is present, your lawnmower wheels will dig into the thatch and cut your grass too short. If your grass is too short, this can cause weeds to thrive and it also makes your grass too thin so it’s more susceptible to disease.
How To Dethatch Your Lawn
If you want to remove your lawn’s thatch, you need to follow some important tips. Here’s the lowdown on how to dethatch your lawn.
Dethatch your lawn at the right time
You should dethatch grass during its growing season so that your grass won’t get too stressed out. If you have warm-season grass, you should dethatch during the late spring or early summer.
By comparison, cool-season grass should be dethatched during early spring or late summer to early in the fall.
Choose the correct tool
There are different tools you can use to remove thatch from your lawn. You should choose the one that will work the best depending on the size of your lawn and how much thatch you want to remove. Let’s take a look at the most effective tools to consider.
Thatch Rake: These rakes have curved, short blades that work well to pull up the thatch from the soil. They are affordable but do require you to put in some effort. These rakes work with different blade-angle settings. You can therefore set different depths for removing the thatch, which makes them convenient. A manual rake is ideal for use on small lawns with about half to an inch of thatch.
Electric Dethatcher: This is a corded machine that looks like a small lawnmower. It has rotating, spiky tines that you can set to different levels. You will have to use this tool back and forth across your lawn in different directions so that you can pull up the thatch. It’s ideal for medium-sized lawns that have a mild to medium thatch problem, so they’re more powerful than rakes.
Power Rake: If you’re dealing with a thatch problem that’s thicker than half an inch, you should invest in a power rake. This is also a good tool to use if you have a larger lawn. A power rake has steel flail blades that rotate so that you can pull up thatch. You will need to make two or three passes with it across the lawn. It’s good to use the power rake with its blades set to the highest level when you first use it so that you don’t damage the lawn. Since a power rake is more aggressive, you have to know what you’re doing when you use it. Calling a professional might be better if you’ve never power raked your lawn as you don’t want to cause damage to your grass.
Are There Any Potential Drawbacks Of Lawn Dethatching?
While there are many benefits linked to dethatching your lawn, as we’ve touched on earlier in this article, there are some potential drawbacks of which you should be aware. These include the following:
If you dethatch your lawn so that there’s less than half an inch of thatch, this can be damaging to it. Thatch acts as natural compost and mulch, preventing your grass from requiring more water and giving it microbes it needs to break down thatch into nutrients so you can use less fertilizer on your lawn.
Dethatching, although it can be good for your grass, does cause your lawn stress. If you do it when the grass is dormant or the soil is too wet or dry, this can kill the grass instead of nourishing it.
Dethatching can require lots of labour, but this depends on the tools and methods you decide to choose. For example, power raking can be labour intensive.
How To Prevent Thatch From Getting Out Of Control In Future
If you dread having to dethatch your lawn again in the future, there are things you can do to reduce how much thatch gets produced.
Avoid using synthetic nitrogen
You should use compost instead, as synthetic nitrogen actually encourages thatch to get produced. It makes your grass grow too quickly, so more leaf and root buildup is produced.
It also kills microbes that break down the thatch. Compost is better for your soil because it encourages microbe growth.
Plant grass that’s resistant to thatch
Some types of grass, such as creeping red fescue, creeping bentgrass, and Kentucky bluegrass, are ones that produce more thatch than other types.
If you want to avoid having a thatch problem in your lawn, you should consider avoiding these. By comparison, grasses that produce less thatch include tall fescue and perennial ryegrass.
Water your lawn properly
You should water your lawn deeply but infrequently. This prevents its roots from staying on the surface of the soil instead of growing deeply into it.
Deeper grass roots keep your grass green, thick, and hydrated. This also prevents weeds from being able to grow and thrive in your lawn.
Mow your lawn correctly
While it’s important to mow your grass regularly, you shouldn’t cut more than one-third of its blade height.
Although you might think you have to remove the grass clippings after mowing, if they’re small they will decompose very quickly and bring nutrients back into the grass so that it can thrive.
But, the grass clippings have to be evenly distributed across the lawn and not appear in clumps, otherwise, they can contribute to thatch.
Steer clear of pesticides
It’s better to try to avoid using chemical pesticides on your lawn as much as possible. This is because these products interfere with the microbes in the grass which help to decompose thatch.
Dethatching vs Aerating: What Are The Differences?
You might wonder if you should dethatch or aerate your lawn. While we know what dethatching entails, let’s look at what you need to know about aerating your lawn.
Aeration is when you prevent the soil from becoming too compacted. This prevents the soil from getting too hard, which can actually suffocate your grass roots. During aeration, you remove plugs of soil from the surface of the lawn so that there’s more space in the soil for grass roots to grow and spread.
Here’s how lawn aeration varies from dethatching:
Instead of pulling up thatch layers, aeration punches holes into the soil.
Instead of removing dead organic matter so that nutrients and oxygen can get into the soil, aerating the soil reduces compacted soil so that these essentials can reach the root zone to nourish your grass.
Aeration is recommended when your soil is too compacted, whereas you should dethatch your lawn when the thatch is more than half an inch in thickness.
It makes use of different tools, such as push aerators, manual aerators, or tow-behind plug aerators, which are quite different from dethatching tools.
Two Types Of Lawn Aeration
There are two types of soil aeration: core and liquid aeration.
Core aeration: This is when a machine pulls out soil plugs to open up the soil. One of the problems with core aeration is that it can leave holes in the ground for a few weeks. Core aeration involves making plugs in the soil that are about three inches in depth. This means you can’t really use it for a larger portion of your soil.
Liquid aeration: This is the type of aeration that makes use of biostimulants and oxidizing materials. It breaks up topsoil so that more oxygen can reach the topsoil and it also enables the roots to grow deeper into the soil. It’s easy to apply to your soil because it takes the form of a natural liquid solution. This solution also helps to encourage microbe activity which helps to break down organic matter in the soil.
Which type of soil aeration is better?
It’s been said that liquid aeration isn’t always as effective as core aeration if you’re dealing with a very compacted lawn. However, it still helps you to achieve more oxygen in your grass.
Dethatching vs Aerating Your Lawn: Which One Should You Choose?
It’s clear to see that both dethatching and aerating your lawn can help to make your grass grow healthier. But, which one should you choose?
The interesting thing is that they both have their benefits, and you should actually consider doing them at the same time.
Basically, it’s good practice to dethatch your lawn before you aerate it. This removes excess organic matter and debris. Then, it helps to aerate your lawn so that the soil isn’t too compacted.
These two methods of lawn maintenance will help you to encourage oxygen, nutrients, and water to better penetrate the grass roots. While you might think that aeration can remove soil plugs, so it’s probably removing thatch as well, this isn’t going to be true for all the thatch you have in your lawn.
Core aeration will remove some thatch as a result of how it pulls out cores of soil, but you might still have some left behind, which is why it’s ideal to dethatch and aerate your lawn.
You should also do both before you overseed your lawn. This is because they make it easier for the grass to make better contact with the soil so that grass seeds can germinate.
You will remove the thatch that’s getting in the way of the grass growing when dethatching your lawn, and then aerating the soil will help to encourage deeper water penetration into the soil.
How to tell how much thatch your lawn has?
With a shovel, remove a three-inch deep sample of lawn. Measure the brown layer between the grass blades and soil. If it’s greater than half an inch, this should be removed.
Should you remove plugs after aerating your soil?
The soil plugs that you’ve removed after aerating your lawn can be left without you having to pick them up. This is because they will break down naturally and they infuse your soil with nutrients.
How soon should you fertilize after dethatching your lawn?
If you apply fertilizer after you’ve dethatched your lawn, this can encourage weeds to grow and they will try to compete with your grass for nutrients and oxygen. You should therefore wait until your grass is lovely and green.
To have a healthier lawn, you should ensure you prevent thatch from building up too much as this can stunt the growth of your grass or make it look unhealthy.
In this article, we’ve looked at what you need to know about dethatching your lawn, such as its pros and cons as well as how you should go about doing it. We’ve also looked at what aeration is and whether or not you can use it instead of dethatching methods.
Rebecca Vargas is an experienced gardener and landscaper and has been rendering professional services for many years. Her services cover both private homes and commercial properties. Leveraging that rich experience, Rebecca Vargas now dedicates a chunk of time to show just about anyone how to maintain their garden and yard, whether at home or workplace. GreenIQ is his way of reaching and teaching millions of homeowners across the globe about proper gardening and lawn care practices.