Most people don’t view dethatching as unnecessary lawn maintenance activity and tend to ignore it until it’s too late.
Lawn dethatching is an important lawn maintenance activity and a by-product of thick lush lawn. A very poor thin lawn will not have thatch buildup, but a lawn that is healthy will eventually build up thatch that needs to be removed periodically.
Removing thatch buildup known as dethatching allows water, nutrients, and oxygen to penetrate the soil and roots for better long-term lawn health.
Dethatching is done to improve the overall health of your grass. If done properly, your grass will have better access to water, nutrients, oxygen, and the sun for better growth.
While dethatching, the machine or rake will selectively slice through thick thatch and also lift unwanted plant material such as young weeds, fallen leaves, and dead roots. However, healthy young grass below half an inch in thickness will be left intact to flourish.
Dethatching has the following direct benefits for your lawn:
Dethatching Improves Drainage
Dethatching essentially creates more space between grass thus allowing water to seep into the soil. You can also improve water absorption further by aerating your lawn immediately after removing the thatch.
Dethatching Allows for Better Nutrient Absorption and Sun Penetration
Give your grass a better chance of absorbing nutrients from liquid fertilizers and mulch by getting rid of thick thatch. This is because too much thatch forms a dense cover that does not decompose and also blocks nutrients from seeping into the soil. You will have a harder time applying liquid fertilizer to a lawn that has thick thatch as most of it will remain on the surface and evaporate.
At the same time, dethatching will allow more sun rays and oxygen to hit the base of healthy young grass thus aiding nutrient breakdown and better health. Too much thatch makes it harder for young plant shoots to grow.
Dethatching Gets Rid of Young Weeds
While dethatching, you will also be able to slice and uproot young weeds that are embedded in the thatch. This means you won’t have to spend more money in the future to remove weeds using chemicals. For instance, you can get rid of young clover using a dethatching rake or dethatching machine.
Dethatching Makes Your Lawn Safer for Pets and Kids
Too much thatch can act as a cover for dangerous objects that can hurt pets and young kids. At the same time, thick thatch is generally unsafe as it tends to entangle and trip people walking or running on it. It’s always good to keep the thatch to a minimum so as to make it safe and more comfortable for foot traffic.
Dethatching Gets Rid of Pests and Mosquitoes
Thick and dense thatch can act as a breeding ground for pests and disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes. This is especially bad if the thatch is also causing waterlogging as insects tend to thrive in such environments. Keeping thatch to a minimum will eliminate the pests and their breeding ground.
Dethatching Improves Curb Appeal
While you might not appreciate the effects immediately, dethatching will improve the appearance of your lawn. The grass will look greener, fresh, and more uniform after a few days especially if you dethatch in the growing season. The brown thatch at the base of your lawn grass will disappear too.
There are several other direct and indirect benefits you might get after dethatching your lawn. Dethatching can also be necessary when you want to aerate and hydroseed your lawn to extend its life and appearance.
Is There A Natural Way to dethatch?
You can also try other less intrusive alternatives such as core aeration or hand raking if the thatch is not too thick instead of dethatching. Core aeration involves using a machine to loosen the soil so that water and nutrients can seep through. It does not get rid of excess thatch and should ideally be done after dethatching.
The only natural but more labor-intensive way to prevent thatch formation is to prevent it from accumulating in the first place. Do regular raking, especially after mowing and weed removal. Some types of grass such as ryegrass and fescue also tend to form less thatch and do not require frequent dethatching.
Also, be careful not to over-fertilize as this causes the grass to grown too fast and thick thus forming thatch. It is recommended that you do not use more than eight pounds of nitrogen fertilizer on two thousand square feet of lawn per year to prevent thatch formation. Refer to the guidelines on your fertilizer of choice on the quantities you need to use depending on the type of grass and climate in your location.
How Do I Know When My Lawn Needs Dethatching?
Early signs that your grass needs dethatching are brown dead stems, bad drainage, and unexplained dry patches on the lawn. An increase in the number of insects and other pests on your lawn may also be a sign that your lawn needs dethatching.
Here are some other ways you can determine if you need to dethatch:
Thick Thatch (Above ½ In Diameter)
Thatch that is less than half an inch in diameter is not bad. You will know that you need to dethatch if the thatch has grown thicker than half an inch and appears dense from the surface. You may need to dig a section of your grass and check the thatch layer if you want to be more accurate.
Accumulated Dead Plant Material
If there are too many dead plant materials that you can barely see the healthy grass from above, then you need to dethatch immediately. Too much dead plant material may prevent healthy grass from reaching the sun and nutrients.
In the rainy season or after sprinkling your lawn, you may be able to tell if the thatch layer beneath the grass has grown too thick if you observe waterlogging. A thick thatch layer prevents water from seeping into the soil.
Spongey, Bouncy Grass
Walking on a lawn that has too much thatch feels like walking on a sponge or thick mattress. While this might seem like a good thing, it could be a sign that the thatch layer below the surface is too thick and has a lot of soft dead plant material that cannot decompose.