Who wouldn’t enjoy a barefoot walk through a lush, green lawn? Grass is arguably the most popular groundcover for homeowners who appreciate its excellent ground protection and desirable curb appeal. For those DIY-ers who also enjoy caring for their lawns, dethatching should definitely be on the to-do list.
Grass is a beautiful three-tiered terrarium, if you will. A root system on the bottom supports the thousands of long, green blades that grow above a tightly woven layer of leaves, stems, roots and decomposing material known as thatch. As long as the thatch layer gets no thicker than 3/4″, it contributes to lawn health by:
- Mulching naturally to slow water loss
- Allowing sunlight and fertilizer to feed the grass
- Protecting the soil and grass from insects and disease
- Decreasing compaction and improving foot tolerance
- Insulating grass crowns from temperature swings
- Letting grass root into the soil rather than growing into nutrient-lacking, too-thick thatch
Does Your Lawn Need Dethatching?
Dethatching rids your lawn of too much thatch and can be done with a dethatching rake or a dethatcher, a mechanical gardening tool that rolls over the grass and thins out thatch with rotary blades, tines or prongs. If a lawn has a springy feel underfoot, then often that means it has a too-thick thatch layer.
Other ways to determine if your lawn needs dethatching:
- Measure thatch for that ¾-inch cut-off by removing a small, three-inch layer of grass and soil or just pry up a small section of turf.
- Look at your lawn. Is soil visible between turf crowns? Can you touch the soil through the visible thatch layer? If not, it’s probably too tough and needs to be thinned.
Certain grasses tend to form thicker thatch layers and do so quickly, such as St. Augustine grass, Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass, Bent grass and aggressive Kentucky bluegrass varieties. Also, dethatching is best done at the height of the grass’s growing season. Since warm and cool season grasses grow most vigorously at different times during the year, know what kind of grass your lawn is before dethatching.
When to Dethatch Your Lawn
Choose a cooler day to dethatch when grass is actively growing and the soil is moist, not dry.
After dethatching, the grass usually needs 45 days to grow back fully. If your area is experiencing a drought, watering restrictions or intense heat waves, postpone dethatching until it passes.
- Late spring to early summer – warm-season turf like Bahia grass, Bermuda grass, Buffalo grass, Centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, Zoysiagrass
- Early spring or early fall – cool-season turf such as creeping bentgrass, Fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, Rough bluegrass and Ryegrass
How To Dethatch Your Lawn
Step 1. Mow the grass to about half the usual height
Step 2. Mark irrigation heads and other objects in the lawn so that they are visible during dethatching
Step 3. Adjust the blade settings of the dethatcher so thatch is removed without disturbing the soil beneath, about ¼-inch above the ground
Step 4. Roll the dethatcher over the entire lawn to loosen the thatch from the ground
Step 5. Remove all the loosened thatch with a rake
Step 6. After dethatching, water the lawn and add fertilizers to the soil
About the Author
Tempe Thompson is a sales and inventory expert at Runyon Equipment Rental. She has over 35 years of experience and has accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise. She could talk for hours about how to use all of Runyon’s tools and equipment, in addition to suggesting which type corresponds to a certain application.