Thatch is the layer of living or dead stems, roots and leaves that accumulates between the layer of growing grass and the soil. Thatch is more prone to grow on the high maintenance lawns than the low maintenance ones.
This buildup of dead organisms is a common scenario for the lawns. Some grounds tend to thatch more than the other. This will eventually lead to uneven ground and restrict the water or nutrients to reach the ground.
Not all layer of thatch is harmful to the lawn. A thin thatch layer, with a thickness of ½-inch, is beneficial for the lawn. This layer helps the soil to retain its moisture and give protection against the fluctuation of temperature.
However, thatch with a layer of 1-inch or more becomes a barrier and it blocks the wat for the water and fertilizer to reach the soil properly. Therefore, when the thatch grows thick, the grass and the plant suffer as they don't receive a sufficient amount of food or nutrition.
What is Thatch in a Lawn?
Thatch builds up as the friendly microorganisms that decompose the organic matter are reduced in number. The in growth of thatch is a sign that the lawn lacks in the development of beneficial microbe activity.
An excessive layer of thatch can restrict the movement of water, air, and fertilizer to the roots of the grass. This eventually reduces the drought resistance of the lawn and builds up the thatch. As the thatch dries up the lawn quickly, it’s harder to reset it and moist it down.
Having a minor level of thatch is good for the lawn’s health. It indicates that the lawn is well taken care of and also help to increase the resiliency of it. A thatch layer around ½-inch helps to provide insulation against extreme temperature and varying moisture levels.
When to Dethatch the Lawn?
Checking the lawn's thatch layer is a crucial part of dethatching. It enables you to decide whether you need to dethatch the lawn or not. Bear in mind that not all lawn requires dethatching. The best method to check the dethatch level is to dig up a small wedge from the lawn.
You can also understand by seeing the condition of the grass. Brown and sickly-looking grasses also indicate that the condition of the lawn is not well, and it needs dethatching. Make sure that you dethatch the warm season grass after they green-up during spring. Also, dethatch the cool-season grasses during early summer or late fall.
You also need to find the proper timing for how often to dethatch the lawn. Zoysia, Bermuda and other spreading grasses produce more amount of thatch. Bluegrass and ryegrass are known to produce a moderate amount of thatch.
However, the amount of thatch produce depends on quite a lot the quality of the soil as well. If the lawn thatches very frequently then try to thatch every year. If the thatch is medium level, then try to dethatch the lawn every two years.
Problems Caused by Thatch in a Lawn
How to Dethatch a Lawn?
The process to remove the thatch depends on the thickness level of the thatch. You need to opt for different mechanisms depending on the growth of thatch. If the dethatching process is done properly then it will rejuvenate and restore the lawn’s health. You can go forward with the process by mechanical means or also do it manually. There are several machines available that help to get rid of thatch.
Using Specialized Machines
Specialized machines such as vertical cutter and power rake are some excellent ways to remove thatch from the lawn. You can hire or buy the machines for long term usages. These machines are especially suitable if you have a large lawn and the layer of thatch is very thick. However, before you start working on the lawn, make sure that you set the recommended cutting height and take help from the professionals if needed.
Mowing the lawn low for a couple of times will automatically reduce the thatch level. Along with mowing, it will also help to reduce the layer of thatch over time. Avoid this method during winter as the soil contains less moisture during that time and it may affect the quality of the lawn as well.
You can dethatch the lawn using manual tools such as rakes. They are quite effective, and you’ll be able to quickly dethatch the lawn as well. The rake digs into the soil and then pulls it up. However, avoid manual thatching of the level of thatch is high and the lawn is big.
Tools Required for Dethatching
You can use both motorized and non-motorized tools for dethatching. Below are some of the most commonly used dethatching tools that deliver efficient and effective results.
As you can guess from the name, these machines work their way up by slicing through the lawn. While they slice the lawn, they pull up the thatch from it. Along with lawns, this machine also works effectively in the sports field as well.
If your lawn is heavily thatched and you’re looking for a professional machine to take care of it then the slit seeder is the best choice for you. They have a spinning blade that helps to dethatch and another set of blades that circulate constantly to lay down grooves. With their innovative technology, you will be able to dethatch and plant seeds at the same time.
Sod cutters are designed for a vigorous and extensive dethatching that are required on highly thatched lawns. They have a thick blade that can penetrate deep into the soil and take out thatch in strips. However, sod cutter is going to make quite a mess on the lawn and be prepared to completely renovate the lawn.
Rakes come in both manual and power versions. The manual version is suitable if you have a mildly thatched lawn. However, for large lawns, we don't recommend you go for a manual rake as that will make you tired easily.
Power rakes comfortable to use and they also perform the job effectively. They incorporate an adjustable flail blade that can penetrate deep into the soil. There is a slight risk associated with the power rakes as they tend to take out the live plants along with the thatch. This may deteriorate the condition of the lawn in the long run.
How to Prevent Thatch from Occurring?
Prevention is always better than cure. If you take proper precautionary measures to keep away thatch, then it will save you both time and money in the future. Some grasses are more likely to develop thatch compared to others. For those kinds, you need to make sure that there are enough microorganisms in the soil and the soil contains enough moisture.
Also, places where there are more foot traffics, those are more susceptible to developing thatch. So, water your lawn properly and provide nutrition to the soil so that it doesn’t develop thatch. Adding adequate fertilizer and a good mowing technique will reduce the chances for thatching to a great extent.
What are the Benefits of Dethatching?
- Dethatching has several benefits and they’re an integral part of keeping the lawn in a good shape. You should dethatch at least once a year to keep the lawn in a tip-top condition. The benefits of dethatching the lawn are stated below.
- Thatch is a buildup of dead organisms and they stand as an obstacle for the nutrients to reach the soil effectively. Dethatching allows you to get rid of these organisms and clear the path for the nutrient to reach the soil.
- Water is one of the most essential components for the healthy growth of any kind of plant. Thatch prevents water and air from reaching the soil properly. Once you dethatch, the lawn will be able to get an adequate amount of water and air.
- Thatch makes the grass go brown and lifeless due to the shortage of essential nutrients. As dethatching allows nutrients and water to pass, the grasses will grow beautifully. Thus, increase the overall beauty of the lawn.
- No matter how much fertilizer you apply, a lawn full of thatch will act as a barrier and not let them penetrate properly. Dethatching will take out the dead plants and organisms which will ensure that the roots are getting proper nutrition from the fertilizer.
Thatch is like the plague for lawns. To keep your lawn in a healthy condition, it’s important to promote the optimum amount of thatch level. Make sure that the beneficial microorganisms can grow properly to ensure that there is a healthy balance maintained in the soil.
In this article, we have an in-depth discussion on what is thatch and how to dethatch a lawn. We also talked about many other important topics that are essential for understanding why thatch occurs and the possible method of cure.
Don’t forget to provide the lawn with enough nutrients and adequate order. Also, make sure that you take care of the lawn after the detaching procedure to keep it in the best shape.