Many types of Zoysia grass are highly resilient, producing extensive rhizomes, stolons, and leaves which resist decomposition effectively. Consequently, Zoysia tends to gather thatch. If not properly managed, this accumulation of thatch can lead to the suffocation and demise of your lawn.

It is imperative to dethatch your Zoysia grass lawn to keep it in top shape. Dethatching for this grass type should be done in early spring when the grass is at its peak growth and can recover quickly. The nighttime temperatures should be above 60 °F.

Failure to dethatch Zoysia grass can result in insect and disease infestations as well as drought damage. Avoid dethatching your Zoysia grass lawn during its dormant season, as it may not recover.

Below are the main characteristics of Zoysia grass that make it the ideal turf for your lawn.

  • Zoysia is a warm-season grass that has a high tolerance to drought, foot traffic, pests, and diseases.
  • It can tolerate light to moderate shade.
  • Zoysia grass has low water and maintenance requirements.
  • The grass spreads by stolons and rhizomes, so it develops thatch that can kill the lawn if left unchecked.
  • It grows slower than most grass types, but it delivers a dense, carpet-like lawn, making it a top choice for most homeowners.
  • Typically, Zoysia grass stays light to medium during its active growing season but turns brown during winter dormancy.
  • It has better cold tolerance than Bermuda and other warm-season grasses.
Characteristics of Zoysia grass

When is the best time to dethatch Zoysia grass?

The best time to dethatch Zoysia grass is in the spring when the grass is showing vigorous growth. If the grass is thinning out or has bald spots, aerate and overseed after dethatching. You can also fertilize the lawn to add nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil.

A thin thatch layer of about ¼” can be beneficial to the lawn in the following ways:

  • Protect the lawn from harsh weather.
  • Help the soil retain moisture.
  • Suppress weeds
  • Moderate temperature extremes.

However, if the thatch exceeds a thickness of ½”, you should consider dethatching your lawn.

How to check for thatch in Zoysia grass

If the thatch thickness on your Zoysia grass lawn exceeds ½”, you should dethatch it. Here is how you can check if you have a thatch problem:

  1. Cut several turf plugs about 3 inches deep.
  2. Examine the profiles of the plugs. If there is thatch, it will be visible as a distinct layer of brown or spongy material laid out horizontally.
  3. Measure the thickness of the thatch layer.
  4. Do not dethatch your lawn if the layer is ½” thick or less.
  5. If the thickness is greater than ½”, dethatch your lawn.

A small thatch layer can help the grass retain moisture, but if it grows thicker, it prevents water and nutrients from reaching the soil.

How to check for thatch in Zoysia grass

How to dethatch Zoysia grass?

Zoysia exhibits dense growth, which often leads to thatch. If the thatch layer becomes greater than ½” thick, it is time to dethatch. Here are steps to guide you during the dethatching process.

1. Examine Zoysia grass plugs

Cut a small, three-inch-deep hole in your lawn, then measure the depth of the thatch layer. You can use a trowel or sharp knife to remove the turf plug. Plan to dethatch your yard if the thatch layer is more than 12 inches thick.

2. Dethatch your lawn

Rent a vertical mower or dethatching rake from your local equipment supplier. Since dethatching is done once or twice a year, renting the equipment would be more economical than buying it.

Adjust the cutting blades’ depth depending on the thickness of your thatch layer.

Dethatch the lawn by passing back and forth with your dethatcher. Pass over the yard at least two times to ensure you cover all areas. You can start in the east-to-west direction and finish in the north-to-south direction.

3. Rake the lawn

After dethatching, use a lawn rake to remove the debris. If there are areas where the dethatching rake cannot reach, use the rake to remove the thatch in those areas.

4. Aerate your lawn

In most cases, dethatching goes hand-in-hand with aeration. It is, therefore, essential to aerate your lawn after dethatching to allow enough air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the soil. Aeration reduces soil compaction and boosts the overall health of your yard.

5. Water and fertilize your lawn

After dethatching and aerating your lawn, fertilize and water deeply. Deep, infrequent irrigation is better than shallow, frequent irrigation as it encourages the grass roots to grow deeper and stronger. If you need to overseed, this is the best time to do so.

6. Prevent thatch build-up

Maintain a regular lawn care routine to prevent thatch from accumulating. Aeration also helps in preventing thatch build-up.