Getting your lawn to look lush and green is the goal of anyone who takes gardening seriously, and dethatching is a phenomenal part of getting your lawn to that stage! Before undertaking your dethatching project, it is always best to go through any information and learn about all the necessary steps to dethatch lawns. After all, this is not something that many amateur home gardeners do.
Understanding all about dethatching, how it should be done, when is the best time to do it, different ways to dethatch your lawn, and so much more, will help you take better care of your lawn. Here, we will be discussing all the basics that you should know before you get started on dethatching.
What is Thatch?
There is a layer of debris that tends to build up around the base of the blades of grass. This debris comprises matted roots, stems, rhizomes, stolons, and more, known as Thatch. A thin layer of thatch is healthy to have in your lawn as it helps make the grass more tolerant to heat or cold by forming a protective layer around the base. Soil compaction in the presence of thatch is reduced as well.
However, when thatch forms a layer that is too thick, it can block sunlight, nutrients, and air, causing your grass to suffer. Not only that, but it will then become home to many fungi and insects that could carry diseases that will affect the health of your lawn. If the thatch is too thick, the grassroots may end up attaching to it instead of the soil, leading to unhealthy-looking grass and a dull lawn.
Common Causes of Thatch
Lawns that have excessive layers of thatch may find themselves in such a predicament due to these few reasons:
- There is too much acidity in the soil. For the microorganisms to do their work in your lawn, the acidity range should be neutral. Often, lime is added to solve this issue.
- There may not be enough earthworms in the soil. When earthworms are present in the ground, they tend to burrow into it and boost oxygen levels. It causes the organic material to start breaking down, initiating a faster decomposition of the thatch.
- The aeration is inadequate. If the soil is too compacted, then the roots do not make it deep into the ground, where they will have the space to grow.
- Fertilizing your lawn too often can also be a significant cause for the thatch to build up. The natural breakdown is unable to cope with the growth, causing the thatch to grow too thick.
Why Is Dethatching Important?
Thatch can cause many problems for your lawn, and if you are serious about getting your lawn to flourish, you will need to consider tackling your thatch problem. Consider the following benefits of dethatching lawn:
1. Enables Fertilizers to Reach Soil
Since thatch tends to form a layer around the grass base, it prevents any fertilizer from reaching the soil. When you dethatch your lawn, you will find that the health of your plants improves significantly because the fertilizer will be able to do its job without any hindrance.
2. Improved Soil Health
Since it can be difficult for anything to penetrate through a thick layer of thatch, the health of the soil tends to decline. Though your grass may still grow, it will not be healthy until your lawn has been dethatched and your lawn gains access to essential sunlight, water, and air.
3. Sufficient Nutrients
Though it can be easy to assume that thatch can be used as compost for the plants, this is not true. While thatch may include dead plants, it hinders access to essentials that your grass and plants require to survive if it grows very thick. When you dethatch your lawn, your plants will be able to gain the sufficient amount of nutrients that they need to thrive.
4. Makes Your Lawn More Beautiful
Since thatch obstructs many necessary nutrients from reaching the soil, a lawn covered in thatch will have very unhealthy-looking foliage. Dethatching is a great way to eliminate this problem and give your grass and plants a chance to make your lawn look lush again.
5. Water Gets Through
It won’t matter how much you water your plants – with a thick layer of thatch growing around, very little of the water you give your plants reach the soil and nourishes them. Once your lawn has been dethatched, the water will easily penetrate the soil and nourish your plants.
6. Prevents Disease
Thick layers of thatch can be a great place for insects and various fungi to grow and survive. When this happens, your plants could likely become diseased. Getting rid of the thatch will prevent your plants from becoming exposed to any disease-carrying agents.
When To Dethatch Your Lawn?
If you plan to dethatch your lawn, first consider if you have cool-season grasses or warm-season grasses. Depending on which you have, the best time to dethatch your lawn will vary. It would be best if you looked out for when your plants are in their active growth period of the year. At this time, they will grow much faster than usual.
Warm-season grasses, such as St. Augustine grass, Bermuda, and Zoysia, should be dethatched during the summer as this is when they grow the most.
Cool-season grasses should be dethatched between the end of summer, during spring, and early fall. They grow the fastest in these times.
Methods to Dethatch Lawn
Once you know if you have a thatch problem, you can learn the different steps to dethatch lawns.
1. Dethatching Rakes
These rakes have short tines and sharp blades made to dig into the lawn and pull out the thatch. These are best used for lawns that require very light dethatching as it is very laborious work to dethatch lawn by hand.
2. Dethatching Liquids
This is a relatively new method for dethatching. The liquid is meant to be sprayed onto the lawn. There are different types of dethatching liquids – some even have a two-in-one function where they dethatch the lawn while fertilizing the soil.
3. Dethatching Tow-Behinds
These are ideal if you need to dethatch a large lawn or large areas, such as fields, in need of thorough dethatching, and you own or can rent a tractor, ATV or rider. These will comb through the knotted thatch as you tow them across the lawn.
4. Dethatching Machines
These machines are very similar to push lawn mowers in appearance, but they have different purposes. The sharp blades cut through the layers of thatch and pull them out. Dethatch lawn with the mower if your lawn is failing and you are thinking about renovating it.
Tools Required for Dethatching Your Lawn
If you have managed to identify thatch and have decided that your lawn needs some dethatching, grabbing the correct tools is the first step to getting the job done. Here are some of the different tools that are required for the process of dethatching your lawn:
1. Dethatching Machine
Depending on the size of the area and the thickness of the thatch, you need to pick from the different dethatching tools available. Decide on if you wish to use a manual dethatching tool or opt for one of the machines.
2. Leaf Rake
Once the dethatching has been completed, there will be residue around your lawn from the pulling up of the thatch. Use a leaf rake to clear out the unwanted mess from your lawn.
3. Wheel Barrow
Gather up the gathered thatch into a wheelbarrow to make transporting it more convenient. You can use the residue to make compost. If you have managed to gather plugs of soil, you can use this as topdressing.
Getting a seeder or a seeding machine can help you immensely to get seed in quicker. When it comes to dethatching, a machine called a Slit Seeder performs a two in one job – this is because they have two sets of blades for two different reasons. The spinning blades perform the thatching, while the circular blades create grooves in the soil for planting grass seeds.
5. Watering Hose
A freshly dethatched lawn will need the healing power of water once you have put in more seed and topdressing. It will help the ground to settle and encourage better growth of your grass and plants.
How Often Should You Dethatch Your Lawn?
You will need to keep an eye on the amount of thatch build-up that occurs in your lawn. Some grass varieties will need to be dethatched at least once a year. Others do not have much build-up and so will need to be dethatched only once every few years.
How to Take Care After Dethatching Your Lawn?
Your lawn is going to need some time to heal after you dethatch it. The first thing that needs to be done is to remove all the thatch uprooted from the lawn. You will then need to seed your lawn and give it proper fertilizing and watering.
If you have plugs of soil taken out during dethatching, you can use these as topdressing. Avoid using any of the thatch material that plant-like. By performing top dressing, you are blocking the spaces that weeds may have taken root. If you have dethatched at the right time, you will be able to see a healthier lawn begin to flourish within a month.
There is so much to learn about thatch and how to go about correctly dethatching your lawn. Here are some of the frequently asked questions about thatch:
1. How Do I Know When Thatch Becomes Too Thick?
Figuring out if the thatch in your lawn is too thick is relatively simple. If your lawn is a bit spongy, and you cannot see the soil through the blades of grass, you most likely have a lot of thatch. You can also measure the thatch by cutting out a wedge-shaped sample from your lawn. If your thatch is more than half an inch, you will need to dethatch your lawn as the thatch is too thick.
2. What is the Difference Between Dethatching and Aeration?
Though many may think they are similar, dethatching and aeration are two different things. Dethatching involves removing the build-up of dead plant roots between the topsoil and grass. Aerating, on the other hand, involves punching holes into the lawn. It allows nutrients and water to go deeper and nourish the roots properly.
3. Can You Dethatch Your Lawn When It Is Wet?
It is not advisable to dethatch your lawn when it is wet. Doing so will cause you to pull up the roots of healthy grass and plants. You will then be left with a thinning lawn.
Maintaining your lawn frequently is the best method is preventing thatch from rebuilding. Ensure that you check for thatch and remove it before it grows out too much. By doing this, you can keep a check on the growth of thatch in your lawn and nip it in the bud before it gets too difficult to manage.
If you feel your lawn is in current need of dethatching, but you are not confident you can do it, you can turn to the professionals. They will have the proper knowledge, experience, and tools to help you get your lawn free from the unwanted layer of thatch that keeps your lawn from looking its best.