How to Dethatch Your Lawn
There are a lot of simple habits you can undertake to help your lawn thrive. They often cost nothing, and are fairly simple to do. Dethatching is a great example of a once or twice a season activity that's often overlooked, but has a huge impact to the overall health of your lawn.
Detatching is simply raking dead material in your lawn. Doing this simple activity will instantly ramp up the effectiveness of any water, fertilizers, and soil conditioners you put on your lawn.
If your lawn is more than 2 years old and you don't know when it was last dethached, plan to do it now, and at least twice every season going forward.
Why is thatch bad for your lawn?
Thatch is a tangle of dead grass, dead roots, and decaying matter that builds up at the base of your lawn, directly above the soil. Some of it breaks down over time, but it usually accumulates and creates a spongy barrier between your soil and the air. And that’s exactly the problem. This ‘sponge’ builds up and leads to a lot of issues over time…
- Thatch heats up your lawn. All of that dead material traps heat and acts like insulation. It’s like wearing a blanket in the heat of the summer, and soil temps rise as a result. If your soil temps rise too high, your grass will go dormant to protect itself from the heat.
- It doesn’t allow water or fertilizer to get down into the soil. If you have a heavy thatch layer, a lot of the water and fertilizer you’re applying to the lawn is directly absorbed by the thatch layer, and only a small amount gets to the soil where you actually need it. In other words, if you have a heavy thatch layer on your lawn, you’re effectively wasting the money you spend on lawn care products and irrigation.
- Thatch makes your lawn more prone to disease. Turf grasses need air circulation to prevent fungus and disease. This is especially important as air temps and dew points rise. If your thatch layer is preventing that air circulation, your lawn will retain moisture, which is a recipe for disease in the heat and humidity of summer.
- The color is impacted. If your lawn is filled with compacted brown spongy material, it’s not going to get that pop of dark green you’ll see on healthy turf.
How to Dethatch:
1. You'll need to get a thatch rake, which can be easily found at a hardware store or amazon. Just makes sure you get one with metal tines like this one. Or if your lawn is larger in size, you may want to opt for something automatic like this one from Greenworks.
2. Mow your lawn a little shorter than usual. This will help when you're raking.
3. When the grass is dry, rake the lawn using your thatch rake. You should feel the tines digging in and you'll probably pull a good amount out material of the lawn. It may feel like you're damaging the lawn, but the thatch layer often binds together and is difficult to pull up. Bonus - this will be a great workout if you opt for the standard (non-automatic) rake!
4. Once you've finished raking (or you've had enough) you'll need to get all the thatch off your lawn. You can rake it off the lawn, or just run your lawnmower and bag the clippings. It will pull up all the thatch.
Finally your lawn can breathe a little easier!