Dethatching And Aerating Your Lawn
Keep grass healthy by controlling thatch
Controlling thatch is one of the most important and most overlooked parts of lawn care. Thatch is simply the layer of dead grass, roots, and debris that accumulates between the soil surface and the green grass blades above. Over time, it forms a thick mat, hindering water and air from reaching the soil and providing an environment that can encourage pests and diseases. Dethatching can help prevent these problems.
Almost every lawn needs dethatching about once a year, or whenever the thatch reaches a thickness of about 1/2 inch. To check, just work your fingers into the grass and note the depth of the thatch layer. Dethatch cool-season grasses in fall, warm-season types in early spring.
If your lawn is small, you can dethatch it with a special dethatching rake. The sturdy, very sharp, crescent-shaped tines slice into the thatch, then rake it up. For larger lawns, you may prefer to rent a dethatching machine. Similar in appearance to a large, heavy gas mower, it has knifelike blades that slice the turf vertically. Make several crisscrossing passes to cut and loosen the thatch, then rake up and remove all debris. Dethatching machines have several settings. For most grasses, adjust the blades to a high setting and 3 inches apart for tougher grasses, such as Bermuda and zoysia, set the blades lower and about an inch apart.
Thatch And Compaction: 2 Problems You Can Fix
Over time, little bits and pieces of grass die and gather just above the soil. This is called thatch. A little bit of thatch can be beneficial. It’s organic material that is broken down by microbes in the soil. But sometimes, thatch builds up too fast for natural processes to break it down. It forms a barrier, keeping moisture and air from going where your grass needs it. A half-inch or more of thatch can weaken your lawn. You have 2 ways to remove it: dethatching and aerating.
Dethatching Your Lawn In Fall
- Written by Perry Carpenter on Nov 08, 2017
Excess thatch in the lawn can really do some damage to the overall look and health of your grass. Although the dethatching process is relatively straightforward, it’s important to remove thatch at the right time to avoid damaging the lawn even further. Here’s a quick guide to dethatching your lawn in the fall.
What Is Thatch?
Thatch is simply a layer of rhizomes and grass roots that clump up over time. Contrary to popular belief, thatch is not caused by excess grass clippings. All grass develops some thatch, though thatch accumulates at different rates depending on the type of grass. Although it’s good to remove excess thatch, a small portion of thatch is actually healthy for the lawn. You have a thatch problem when the layer is thicker than half an inch and water is having trouble getting to the grass roots.
Fall is actually one of the best times to dethatch your lawn because there is plenty of time for the grass to recover. It’s always recommended to dethatch when the soil is fairly moist and the grass is actively growing. Dethatching at the wrong time can significantly damage your lawn because it will not have proper time to recover.
Step 1 – Mowing
Step 2 – Mark Lines
Step 3 – Dethatching Rake
Step 4 – Power Dethatcher
Step 5 – Lawn Repair
Step 6 – After Care
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What Is The Best Way To Dethatch
According to the Ohio State University power dethatchers and power rakes work very well. Dethaching attachments for lawn mowers do not work. The best way to reduce thatch down is to perform core aeration. Core aeration also has the benefit of improving soil structure, solving two problems at once. Core aeration in clay soil really only works in spring when the soil is moist. By fall it can be difficult to get the machines to go deep enough to get a good sized plug.
Diy Or Call In A Lawn Care Pro
If slicing up that turf youve worked so hard on makes you more than a little nervous, its best to leave it in the hands of a professional lawn care service.
But if you can handle a walk-behind mower, you can handle a dethatching machine, Callahan said.
And a dethatching machine is the way to go. A simple leaf rake wont do the trick. Dethatching an entire lawn by hand is a horrendous job and not effective, Callahan said. He recommends renting equipment to save yourself plenty of time and sore muscles. Its not a highly technical process either, he added.
There is one valuable advantage of a professional lawn service, though. Thats the effectiveness of a practiced hand and expensive equipment afforded by an economy of scale.
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Should I Aerate Or Dethatch My Lawn First
Both aerating and dethatching are important practices when it comes to proper lawn care. It helps with root penetration and easy flow of air, water, and nutrients in the core for better root growth. So, should you aerate or dethatch?
If your soil is healthy with enough microbial activity, you may only need to dethatch once a season and probably aerate once or twice a year depending on the type of soil you have.
If youre growing grass in sandy soil, youll need to aerate just once per season, but if it is clay soil, twice a season may be the best option for you.
Essence Of Dethatching Lawns
Here are the essence of dethatching your lawns:
- It allows fertilizer to go straight to the soil
- It enables the new seed to get in contact with the soil when overseeding the lawn field
- It allows better transfer of oxygen in-between the lawns.
- It also increases the health condition of the lawn by becoming more greenish.
One of the important parts of dethatching is to clean up the debris after aerating and leave the thatch plugs on your lawn.
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Dethatch Or Aerate Before Overseeding
Both aerating and dethatching are recommended before overseeding because they improve grass-to-soil contact for proper germination. In most cases, youll only need to dethatch to remove the debris that is covering the soil and preventing grass seed from germinating properly.
However, if you have compacted soil in your lawn, you may want to aerate the core to allow deeper penetration of water into the soil. Deeply and well-watered soil promotes healthy and deeper root development of the new grass seed.
After overseeding, topdress the area with about 1 yard of compost per 1000 square feet to increase the rate of grass seed germination in your lawn.
When Is The Best Time To Dethatch My Lawn
You should generally think about dethatching your lawn when the thatch has reached a depth of about 1.5cm.
Lawns should be dethatched when conditions are best to promote rapid recovery and it works only for warm-season grasses that have rhizomes – Buffalo, Kikuyu, Couch and Zoysia.
Dethatching should be avoided for cool-season types of turf like fescue as this practice will probably spell the end of your lawn.
The best time to dethatch warm-season lawns is late spring or early summer after theyve completely greened and are growing rapidly and can recover quickly from the stress. Do not do this in the cooler months as you will cause significant damage to your lawn and it will not be able to recover during winter.
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Is It Better To Dethatch Or Aerate
When deciding on whether to dethatch or aerate your lawn, there are a few items you must take into consideration. To begin, thatching and aeration shouldnt be used as a substitute for one another. Both provide unique benefits and the two should be used in combination to develop a healthy, lush lawn.
Aeration involves the removal of soil cores, including their thatch layer, creating a path for water and nutrients to access compacted soil. This process helps prepare the thatch for removal and speeds up the breakdown of existing thatch on the lawn. Dethatching, on the other hand, helps to slice through thatch and into the soil, removing the barrier of accumulated organic matter that has begun to suffocate the lawn.
How Do I Dethatch My Lawn
Thatch rakes or convex rakes are readily available, but they require manual pulling through your lawn. If you are up for a little bit of a workout and/or have a smaller size lawn, these can be a great option. They are very effective.
Power rakes are also effective and involve a little less manual labor. Power rakes can be rented at most local home improvement stores. Be sure to note your particular grass variety when renting the rake, however, so you do not damage your lawn.
If you have a riding mower, you can also purchase a variety of dethatching attachments that you simply drag behind the mower.
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How Often Should You Dethatch Your Lawn
The number of times to dethatch your lawn for the most part depends on the type of grass you have, and the growing conditions. Some types of grass such as Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass tend to produce more thatch, whereas cool season grasses like Bluegrass and Ryegrass a moderate amount of thatch, and Tall Fescue produces the least thatch.
However, its worth noting that regardless of the grass type, your lawn will need dethatching probably once a year, or when the thickness of the lawn thatch reaches about half an inch.
You can also use dethatching blades on your regular lawn mower if your yard is medium-sized. Dethatching is unwarranted if the thatch is less than half an inch, and doing so at this height will possibly damage healthy lawn grass.
You also will not need to go to all this trouble if you install an alternative lawn material like ground covers or artificial turf!
How To Use A Dethatcher To Get Rid Of Thatch
A lawn dethatcher is a small machine thats fitted with spring tines, which rotate and dislodge the thatch layer. Dethatchers are a great choice for less than half an inch thick thatch, and are easy to use. You just start up the machine, set the blade height and then simply pass it over the areas of grass that need dethatching.
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How To Know When To Dethatch Your Lawn
Thatch that is more than half an inch thick is terrible for your grass. You should regularly check the thickness of the thatch layer in your lawn to determine whether or not your lawn needs dethatching.
If the thatch is more than half an inch, then dethatching will work best for your lawn. Besides, the process will maximize the ideal conditions of grass thriving and make your lawn more attractive.
You should closely examine your lawn even if it looks healthy. Thatch build-up comes without warning, and by the time you realize it, your lawn has excess thatch.
Are you wondering how to know when to dethatch your lawn?
What Period Of The Year Do You Need To Dethatch
Dethatching of lawn varies because of the difference in the weather conditions, the conditions of the soil, and the types of grass are what determine when to dethatch.
Personally, I prefer to dethatch my lawns during the springtime.
Because I normally carry out dethatching on my lawns before application of any treatment like fertilizer, lime, watering, and overseeding.
If you overseed or fertilize before dethatching, you will end up removing everything. Because this involves removing excess soil.
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Here Are Some Of My Favorite Lawn Care Products
Thanks a lot for making it to the end of this post! I hope you found it useful. Here are some lawn care products that I use and that I think youll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, Ill earn a commission.
In all honesty, these are some of the basic products that I use and recommend to everyone.
Lawn Maintenance After Dethatching
After dethatching your lawn your work isnt over.
You will have a somewhat patchy, thin and slightly unhealthy looking lawn. It is quite important to get your lawn back to looking beautiful in all its green glory. After dethatching, plan to overseed your lawn. Pick a good quality seed and consider adding a professional grade fertilizer.
It is also important to continue to test your lawn every 2-4 years. For most lawns, dethatching every third year will be sufficient.
There are also a few things to add to your lawn. First you will need to make sure to test the pH of the soil .
Also plan to keep it nutrient rich. Your lawn may not return to normal immediately, but just continue to nourish it and water it properly. One good way to keep the pH in proper form is to add ground limestone rock .
Limestone rock naturally contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. These both work to make the soil less acidic. Even though these are considered essential nutrients, you should continue to use fertilizer as well. If you check on your lawn and continue to follow these steps your lawn should continue to thrive for years to come until the next time you will have to dethatch.
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Why Does Thatch Develop
A thin layer of thatch is healthy for your lawn. But a thick layer can cause significant damage. Normally, organic matter should decompose at about the same rate that it builds up. This leaves your lawn in balance and prevents a thick layer of thatch. But some conditions may throw off that balance.
One factor in thatch growth is the health and condition of your soil. In a healthy lawn, microbes in the soil help break down organic matter before it can pile up into a thick thatch layer. But when the soil is dead or sterile, there arent enough microbes to break down the growing layer of organic matter, and the thatch layer thickens. Poor pH balance can contribute to poor soil health that leads to thatch buildup. If soil pH is too low, it may be necessary to add lime. Soil that is too acidic is a poor environment for microbes. Soil can also be too alkaline, with a high pH. The ideal pH for turf growth is about 6.8, or slightly acidic. Anything higher or lower than that will lead to a less healthy lawn.
Cultural practices can also contribute to thatch growth. Over-fertilizing with a high-nitrogen fertilizer and overwatering can cause the grass to grow too quickly. As the grass grows faster than the microbes can break down the thatch layer, it thickens.
How To Use Power Rakes To Remove Thatch
If you have more than a half inch thick thatch layer, then a power rake is the tool you need. This tool can remove up to four times the amount of lawn thatch compared to a dethatcher, but should be used early, as it can be very unforgiving on your lawn.
Power rakes work by loosening the thatch using spinning flails that spin at a very high speed. The thatch that is loosened is then picked up by the tool, leaving your soil much more exposed than before. Before you power rake your lawn, its a good idea to run a test pass on a small area, and then another test pass, where both are in different directions.
These are expensive items to buy, and dont see much use in a regular size yard, so maybe you could make inquiries with your local TruGreen lawn care franchise or independent lawn care service provider, as this could save you some cash.
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Fall Is The Best Time To Dethatch Your Lawn
Keeping your lawn lush and green is all about timing. There are plenty of techniques you can use to help create a healthy lawn, but most of their usefulness is dependent on the time you apply them.
One question we commonly receive is when the best time to dethatch your lawn is, late spring or early fall?
Dethatching is a necessary part of lawn maintenance because it allows for your lawn to gather the necessary nutrients for continued growth. Thatch is the grass and other debris that builds up on the soil beneath your grass and can often act as its own source of nutrients. If left for too long, it can harm the growth of your lawn.
Dethatching is simply the removal of this excess debris from your lawn to allow for more moisture and easier access for nutrients to your roots.
Hometurf offers dethatching services for as low as $99.95 using equipment and methods that present the least possible risk to your lawn. We also clean up the excess material left after dethatching.
As for when you should schedule dethatching, both late spring and early fall can work, but we find late fall to be the most effective.
Late fall is usually when the most amount of debris has built up at the base of your lawn, at a time when your lawn needs to gather as many nutrients as possible. By dethatching at this time, youre allowing for your lawn to get as healthy as possible before winter so it can bounce back quickly in the spring.
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Dethatching Tools: What Youll Need
Like most lawn care tasks, there are both simple and more complex ways to go about dethatching your lawn. If you have a small propertyor are just detaching a small areamany of the manual tools below will work just fine. Power dethatchers, however, are always best for large lawns, especially if you want to save yourself some time and energy.
Lawns in need of a serious dethatching require professional care. Your local TruGreen team will have the tools and experience to remove thick thatch without damaging your existing turf.
If youre planning to tackle the project yourself, here are some important tools for the task.
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