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How to Dethatch Your Lawn

How to Dethatch Your Lawn

Every homeowner wants a healthy and attractive lawn. However, as lawns age, too much thatch may accumulate and diminish the health, vivacity and attractiveness of your lawn.

What Is Lawn Thatch?

Lawn thatch is a loose layer of dead and partly decomposed leaves, grass clippings, stems, shoots and roots that have built up in the grass between the zone of green vegetation and the soil surface.

Why Should You Worry about Thatch?

When a thatch layer is more than a ½" deep, grass roots and newly sown seeds will root in the thatch and not in the soil. And since thatch has little water-holding capacity and poor insulation properties compared to the soil, summer heat and winter freezing are more likely to kill the grass. Additionally, excessive amounts of thatch will advance the incidence of diseases, such as Pythium blight, throughout your lawn.

Preventing Lawn Thatch

Thatch may build up over several years before visible damage occurs. However, with proper lawn maintenance, you can control and slow its formation.

  • Fertilize your lawn regularly but moderately to preserve vigor of grass without excessive growth. Too much fertilization, particularly with nitrogen fertilizers, at the wrong time of the year can result in excessive shoot growth.
  • Mow regularly, but make sure you cut at the recommended height to maintain the health of your lawn and prevent shock. While the frequency of mowing is dependent on the type of grass, rate of growth and the use of the turf, it's healthier to schedule your mowing so you're not removing more than 1/3 of the grass at any particular time.
  • Water your lawn regularly, but not excessively, to encourage deep rooting. Excessive irrigation can promote lawn thatch by creating waterlogged conditions that can prevent the breakdown of thatch by microorganisms.

Removing Lawn Thatch

Before removing lawn thatch, ensure your turf is healthy and free from drought stress. Also, make sure the thatch depth is more than a ½". You can dethatch your lawn by hand or use a machine. If you decide to dethatch your lawn with a thatch rake, make sure to rake in one direction to avoid hurting the grass roots. Whatever process you end up choosing, use a metal leaf rake for cleanup after removing the thatch layer from your lawn.