beginners guide to lawn dethatching

Beginners Guide To Lawn Dethatching

Lawn dethatching can be crucial to keeping your grass and soil healthy. Even if you are mowing and doing everything else necessary for your lawn, thatch can build up. Over watering and over fertilization can cause excess thatch. Detaching removes the thick layer of dead plant material (thatch). This allows air, water, and nutrients to reach your plants and soil again. Dethatching allows your lawn to drain better as well.  By learning why dethatching is important, as well as when and how to dethatch, it will be easier to keep your lawn healthy. 

a lawn before and after dethatching

Why is Dethatching Important? 

Thatch is a mixture of dead and living plant matter that gathers at the base of grass. A small amount of thatch is actually beneficial. It only becomes a problem when  thatch builds up. Thatch is thick and prevents moisture and air from getting to your plants and soil. You’ll start to see them diminish in color and strength. If the thatch builds up for too long, not only can it kill your grass, but it will damage the soil. Once it damages the soil, even replanted grass is not likely to flourish. A build up of thatch can also be a nesting ground for insects. It can breed disease and mosquitoes if you don’t dethatch. 

When Should You Dethatch Your Lawn? 

As previously mentioned, a small amount of thatch can be good. Be sure to check your thatch layer before you decide to dethatch. You can do this by digging up a small amount of your lawn grass and soil. Then measure your thatch. If your thatch is more than an inch, it’s time to dethatch. 

However, like most lawn health initiatives, the timing must be right. You should try to dethatch your lawn around your grass’ peak growth time. When your grass is growing, it helps your lawn to recover faster from dethatching. For cool season grasses, this is going to be early spring or early fall. For warm-season grasses, it’s best to dethatch in late spring through early summer. 

Specialized rake for dethatching a lawn

How to Dethatch? 

The easy answer on how to dethatch would be to hire a lawn care professional. Especially if your thatch is more than 2 inches, hiring a professional might be best. A thick amount of thatch often needs more than one dethatching. If you want to do it yourself there are a few different options and tools. Before you start any of them, it is best to mow your lawn down. 

Manual Dethatching

For manual dethatching, all you need is a dethatching rake. This method is best for a small amount of thatch on a small lawn.

Power Rakes

Similar to a mower, power rakes dig into thatch at the soil and pull it out. This is also good for a small amount of thatch. You want to be careful as it can be destructive to your grass. It’s best used on strong grass that can take it. 

Vertical Mowers

Vertical mowers, like power rakes, pull the thatch up from the soil. They often take grass roots along with it. Vertical mowers are good if you have a thick layer of thatch. 

Regardless of what tool you choose to use, there is some aftercare that is necessary. After you finish dethatching, it is important to finish by raking up all the excess thatch on your lawn. Then water and fertilize your lawn thoroughly. 

Downsides of Dethatching

Thatch has many beneficial purposes. It only becomes damaging when too much builds up. The right amount of thatch protects your plants from extreme temperatures. It also keeps moisture in the soil and prevents weeds. If you can keep your thatch at a small amount, there is no need to dethatch. The problems discussed above that thatch can cause only becomes an issue when there is too much of it. 

If you do need to dethatch,it is important to remember that dethatching can be damaging. Dethatching tears and rips dormant turf. This can affect its ability to recover, especially after a hard winter. Using power equipment to dethatch can bring up weeds. These weeds can then infiltrate your lawn. If you dethatch excessively, or when it is not needed, it will end up causing more harm than good.