I like having a green lawn. I do. It makes me happy to walk barefoot outside and feel the soft blades of grass between my toes. You know what I don’t like? What my lawn looks like right now, in the middle of April, when it should be coming back to life. Hay. Harsh, horrible, hard hay with little blades of green peeking through here and there. Makes me sad to pull into my driveway and see such brown ugliness. Yet, sometimes it’s our own hard work and desire for a lush green lawn that can actually backfire and cause something called thatch.
What is thatch?
Lawn thatch is simply the layer of dead grass, roots, and lawn debris that accumulates between the soil surface and the green blades above. If left untreated, it will form a thick mat which hinders air and water from reaching the soil. What causes thatch? Overwatering, overfertilizing with too much nitrogen, and mowing too high. I’ll be honest, it made me a little sad to know that all the things I tried to keep under control in order to enjoy a pretty lawn somehow created another chore for me to tackle.
How do you know if your lawn needs to be dethatched? The best way is to plop yourself down on your lawn, look closely at it, and press your fingers into the grass, feeling for the depth of the thatch layer. If it’s more than 1/2 inch thick, it’s time to dethatch your lawn. Ideally you should dethatch cool-season grasses in the early fall or early spring and warm-season grasses in late spring or early summer.
How to Dethatch
There are a few tools to help you with this chore. If your lawn is small, a special dethatching rake can be used. A dethatching rake has very sturdy, very sharp, crescent-shaped tines that will slice into the thatch and then rake it up. For a larger lawn, it would be worth your while, and the rental fee, to look into a dethatching machine. A dethatching machine looks similar to a large, gas mower and has knifelike blades that slice turf vertically. Before you begin, flag all irrigation heads and any other lawn objects that you don’t want damaged. Run the dethatcher over the lawn in a pattern that covers the entire area only once. Your lawn will, for the time being, look terrible and sort of “chewed up” but don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like that. Rake up the debris with a leaf rake and water the lawn. Now would also be a perfect time to overseed and fertilize your turf. In about 3 to 4 weeks, your lawn will have recovered and show signs of new growth.
Another option to consider is the use of a product by Alpha Biosystems called Alpha Thrive All-Natural Liquid Dethatcher. This product helps to eliminate the need for power raking and the labor it involves. It provides a concentrated dose of microbes to the soil which are strong enough to accelerate the break down of the debris that causes thatch. Liquid Dethatcher is a chemical-free and non-toxic solution that creates a rich, natural fertilizer by converting thatch to organic matter. It is not harmful to beneficial insects (i.e. earthworms, ladybugs, spiders) and is safe to use around children and pets when used as directed. Application of Liquid Dethatcher three times a year, Spring, Summer, and Fall, will result in a stronger lawn that will be able to withstand stress, excessive heat, and disease and you’ll notice your lawn’s condition improving in just one season.
Keep thatch away for good!
Now that you’re an expert on thatch and know how to get rid of it, how do you prevent it?
- Infrequent, deep watering encourages good root development and hinders thatch.
- Application of a high quality, slow release nitrogen fertilizer encourages growth but not excessive growth that leads to thatch.
- Aerating your lawn once a year or once every two years as well as mowing the grass frequently to a height of 3 inches tall also helps to keep thatch at bay.
Keeping up with each of these less intense chores will prevent the intense job of dethatching your lawn from becoming a regular chore. Good luck!
Have you had success with any of these products or tactics for dethatching your lawn? If so, tell us about it below!