In the spring and fall, many of our customers begin asking Weed Man to come and dethatch their lawns. Dethatching has been a fairly common practice in lawn care for many years, and I still read articles online regarding it. However, if you are looking to dethatch your lawn with an actual dethatching machine, then my response is you likely don’t need to do it.
The first item we need to address is: what is thatch? Thatch is comprised of leaves, stems and roots — some are dead and some are living. It lies on top of the soil as a tightly woven layer beneath the visible grass blades. As long as it doesn’t get thicker than 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch, thatch actually contributes to lawn health in many ways. First and foremost, it helps keep the grass plant from losing water while decreasing soil compaction. It also protects the lawn from swings in temperature by insulating the plant and is very beneficial in helping the plant tolerate foot traffic, especially in sports fields.
In most cases, lawns don’t have enough thatch to warrant removal of it, and dethatching actually ends up injuring the turf. A healthy lawn requires at least half an inch of thatch, which helps protect the crowns and roots of the grass plants. Dethatching leaves the crowns and roots exposed to the elements and results in poor visual quality of the lawn.
On a number of occasions, I have seen homeowners practically ruin their lawns doing a dethatching, and it ended it up taking almost an entire year to get the lawn back to where it was previously. Dethatching is so hard on turf because, in addition to thatch, a dethatching machine often removes crowns, leaves, and, in some cases, the roots of grass plants.
The best thing you can do to help your lawn and keep thatch to a minimum is aerate regularly. Aeration helps the break down a lawn’s thatch layer. Additional benefits include:
- Alleviated soil compaction. Compacted soils make it difficult for roots to grow, limiting the movement of air, moisture and fertilizer throughout the soil.
- Improved water penetration. By relieving soil compaction, water penetration is increased and water runoff is reduced.
- Deeper roots. A deeply rooted lawn is much healthier and better able to withstand drought, disease and insect stress.
Keep those lawns healthy,