If your lawn is looking bad, you may need to examine it for thatch buildup. Typical symptoms of thatch buildup are: dead spots that can’t be revived with watering, the grass is thinning out and dying, or your lawn looks brown after mowing.
Lawn thatch is nothing but dead grass which forms a layer between the soil and new growth. It can comprise of roots, debris which when it becomes excessive can actually strangle and retard the growth of new grass.
Since thatch cannot hold moisture, the soil becomes dry and infertile. Thatch becomes a storehouse for insects and diseases. Thatch growth is also promoted by excessive Nitrogen from fertilizers (read article on `Fertilizers’).
The presence of lawn thatch gives turf an uneven look, and once the new grass starts growing, it is very difficult to de-thatch. Secondly, the thatch prevents fresh grass from getting adequate water supply as it forms a waterproof layer choking the stem of the grass plant and preventing it from getting water from its roots.
With a lack of adequate water supply, grass can turn an unhealthy shade of yellow and its sickly appearance will be compounded by all those pests which love to attack sick plants.
Hence, a good understanding of thatching and de-thatching will ensure that your lawn looks great.
- 1 What is Thatch?
- 2 How to Fix the Lawn Around Your Home
What is Thatch?
It’s a naturally occurring buildup of decomposing organic material that sits in between the grass blades and the soil. It’s usually a brownish color. Most healthy lawns have at least a little bit of thatch, actually, which is okay. Thatch creates a barrier that can help protect the soil and conserve water. However, too much thatch buildup can actually prevent water and nutrients from getting into the soil if it isn’t decaying fast enough.
What Causes Thatch?
As I mentioned before, thatch is the byproduct of the natural decomposition of the lawn but can harm your lawn if it’s decomposing too slowly. Thatch can be exacerbated by overwatering and over-fertilizing your lawn, but it isn’t actually caused by leaving grass clippings on your lawn after mowing. Really, those grass clippings break down quickly because of their high water content and can actually be quite beneficial.
How Do You Recognize Thatch?
That spongy-looking messy tangle of dead leaves, grass, stems, and roots is thatch. But often it is difficult to tell the difference between thatch and weed. To ensure that it is thatch, check the soil and try to push your fingers into it. If you feel a pushback or it is really tough to penetrate the soil, it is likely thatch.
How Can I Get Rid of Thatch?
There are a few different methods of dethatching you can use. They vary in price and labor.
The cheapest but most labor-intensive method is to buy a special thatching rake from your local lawn and garden store. These look like rakes with blades attached to the prongs for cutting through the thatch.
You use this by simply raking your lawn vigorously in one direction to bring up the layer of thatch. Be sure to remove the dead thatch from your lawn and dispose of it accordingly (you may compost it if there aren’t any pesticides in it).
Another method is to get your hands on a gas-powered dethatcher, which is similar to a lawnmower. Also known as a power rake or vertical lawnmower, it is usually reserved for larger yards or commercial purposes. You can usually rent one from a lawn and garden store for a few hours, though.
You simply push the dethatcher across your lawn as it slices through the thatch with rotating blades. With these machines, you may want to go over your lawn a second time from a 90° angle to make sure you get all of the thatch.
What Time of Year Do I Dethatch My Lawn?
The best season to de-thatch is autumn, as it is during autumn that plants are naturally shedding their leaves. At this time, grass may soon recover and grow back. However, in spring, the roots are firm and the grass is in a growth mode, and de-thatching becomes an impediment to its natural growth.
Because dethatching is essentially ripping through your lawn, it’s important to do it at the time of year when your grass is least vulnerable. Also, your grass will need about a month to recover completely. The main question you need to ask yourself is whether your grass grows during warm or cool months.
- Zoysia, Bermuda, and Buffalo grass should be dethatched in late spring or early summer. Too much heat will put a lot of stress on the grass, but dethatching too early may risk a late spring frost that could damage your lawn even more.
- Bluegrass, Rye, and Fescue should be dethatched in early fall.
How Often Should I Dethatch?
This not only depends on the type of grass you have but soil characteristics as well. Soil that has a lot of clay or sand can produce a lot of thatch, as does soil that is often cold and wet. The easiest way to see how much thatch your lawn produces is to cut out a small section of your lawn and examine it as a cross-section.
If there is more than ½ an inch of thatch, you can dethatch every 1-2 years. If you’re looking at 1½ inches, you’ll want to dethatch about twice per year.
How to De-Thatch?
If it is early stages, then using a rake will help. But if the thatch has really penetrated the soil and it is tough to wedge it out, then you will need to use a `de-thatcher’, which is a power rake.
A thatch hand rake is an easy option in the early stages. With its knife-like teeth, it can drag out the thatch easily.
Another option is the vertical mower which you can rent for use. The vertical mower is very effective in bringing the thatch out of the soil and it is by far the most convenient option. However, the mower might end up mowing a bit of the healthy grass too, and hence, you will have to re-seed these areas (read article on `Seeding your lawn’).
Another alternative is `coring’ which is done by using machines called coring machines. Coring machines create cores or holes in the ground as they drill out thatch. The open holes allow moisture to enter; this helps in preventing further decomposition of any thatch that might still be buried underground.
Once de-thatching is completed, it is wise to apply a soft layer of soil, which will help enable microorganisms to penetrate the ground and destroy any remaining hidden thatch.
Thatching Lawn – In the Spring
Over time, our lawns have buildup from several different things. Layers of different types of plant life, dead and alive, all mixed. The thatch is located between the soil and the grass itself; think of it as the padding under your carpet but above the subflooring. Thatching Lawn In The Spring can help give your yard a facelift to be healthy and green again.
Most of us who tend to our own lawns, forget about thatching. Probably because it’s not easily seen. Thatching is a buildup done over time of different plant life that has settled between the soil and the grass. Thatch can be good as it can act as a mulch and helps to cushion the grass from foot traffic and to conserve moisture that the grass can use if watering is not done appropriately.
If you can’t see the soil in your yard below at the base of the grass, then you probably have a thatch problem and needs to be addressed. The thatch can stop airflow through the grass to the soil which in turn can harm the soil, therefore, harming your lawn. Earthworms are great in helping aerate your lawn but if the thatch is too thick they are unable to keep up.
Some other ways to determine if you need to be Thatching Lawn is if the lawn is spongy or leaves your imprint when stepped on or grass dries easily in hot weather even with ample watering. Another great indication of thatch is to take a sample of all the layers from the grass to the soil – at least 3 inches to get a good reading. This will visibly show you all the layers and how thick the thatch is.
When to thatch your lawn varies where you live and what type of grass you have. Usually, Thatching Lawn should be done every 3 – 5 years. Before beginning to remove the thatch, or de-Thatch, if the ground is very dry, water the lawn the day before to soften the thatch.
To de-Thatch, use a rake (a metal rake is best) and simply begin to rake your yard doing your best to remove the thatch but not your grass. You will have to use some muscle in the Thatching Lawn process but it will be worth it in the end.
If you are unable to manually, de-Thatch, you can rent a de-Thatcher at your local home improvement store. Also, some mowers have a de-Thatch blade available; you may want to check yours before renting a de-Thatcher.
The basic concept of de-Thatching is you want to get the debris that is caught between the soil and your grass. If you begin to see dirt, you may want to adjust the machine or the pressure you are applying. Thatching Lawn In the Spring is a good time for the process as this will keep your grass from dying in the heat.
How to Fix the Lawn Around Your Home
You’ve heard people tell you that you need to dethatch your lawn, but what is dethatching, and what is this thatch anyway, that you supposedly have too much of in your lawn? Perhaps you thought it was what Islanders used for roofing! Well, this article will help clear this up for you.
Important of Lawn Thatching
Thatching a lawn is very important. Just like everywhere and everything in nature, plant parts die, fall on the ground, and eventually decompose to become a new matter that is part of the soil. The same thing happens on your lawn, only you probably don’t notice it as much.
But sometimes, if the lawn is not healthy and too much of it is dying at once, or sometimes if mulching gets to be too much that it causes to be a problem, all these dying matters will not be able to decompose properly. Instead of decomposing and becoming part of the new soil, it just sits there and builds up and builds up.
It becomes a growing layer called thatch that interferes with grass growth. If you have a problem with thatch, you need to get it out by using a power rake.
Every lawn has a certain degree of thatch, in fact, without it, you wouldn’t get new soil that is healthy for all plants. But too much thatch can actually kill the lawn. As thatch builds up, it acts as a barrier between the soil and the rest of the world.
This is not a good thing, because suddenly the grassroots aren’t getting as much water, or nutrients, or even air. As these essential survival needs become less plentiful, the grassroots shrink, staying closer to the surface to grab what they can. Without deep roots, the grass can’t fight off lawn diseases and weed seedlings.
It can die very quickly due to a lack of water. Even if you think the lawn is getting plenty of water, most of it is running off as the thatch layer acts as a raincoat of sorts. Then in a hot spell during the summer, the lawn is suddenly very brown.
If this is what’s happening in your lawn right now, your lawn is most likely to have thatch problems. You need to get rid of thatch immediately and save your grass. Be sure to get rid of thatch that is thicker than one-half inch to ensure the healthiest lawn.
Use a Thatching Rake
Thatch rakes are great tools for tearing out thatch from a lawn. There are two types of thatch rakes, manual and machine. In this article, we will talk about manual thatching rakes. Manual thatching rakes are a great investment and they are pretty cheap.
They do take a lot of time to work, but if you are only doing a light dethatching or have a small yard, manual thatching rakes are great. A light thatch even in a medium-sized yard can be done in just a few hours.
Even if you hire someone to power rake your lawn with a power dethatcher, these machines will not be able to get to at least six inches away from the edges.
Or if you have a lot of landscaping and small areas that are thinner than the dethatcher, you’ll have to do it by hand anyway. In areas where moss grows prevalently, all of your moss must get killed and removed, or it will just come back full force before the new grass can even grow in.
So you must rake up not only across the lawn but in the edges as well where a power rake cannot reach. You might as well use a wonderful tool called a manual thatching rake.