Spring Lawn Prep - What is Thatch?

Spring Lawn Prep - What is Thatch?

Thatching is an often-misunderstood term and process. Let’s spend a moment talking about what thatch is and how to take care of it.

What it is.

"Thatch” is the build-up of dead grass material right at the soil level. Grasses that reproduce from rhizomes are the biggest contributors to thatch build-up. These would be grasses that are primarily grown in the southern part of the country. These grasses may need to be de-thatched every year or two. Here in the northwest, we grow cool-season grasses that reproduce by seed. So, thatch is not nearly as big a problem for us. For us, de-thatching should be done every four years or so.

What it Does

As thatch builds up in our turf several problems begin to manifest. Our grass will need to grow through the thatch layer. Our grass will expend more energy to get through the thatch layer. It is kind of like your grass is trying to grow through a very porous sponge. This sponge also traps moisture, so less of your irrigation is getting down to the roots of your grass. Thatch is also a great place for damaging pests to live. Chinch bugs become a huge problem in a lawn with lots of thatch.

Get Out of Here

There are some ways to get rid of thatch in the lawn, in my opinion, some are better than others. I have used lawn mower attachments in the past, and I won't beat around any bushes. I hate them. They are very hard to get on and they don’t do a great job. Going this route might be a little cheaper and if you feel confident in changing out your mower blade go for it. I will pass on this method. We sell a de-thatching rake. These are nice if you have a small area. I would not recommend this for a large lawn, though, way too much work. My preferred method is a motorized de-thatcher. You can rent these at any machine rental company for four to eight hours. As you go over the lawn with this machine thin blades go down and cut the thatch layer and pull it up above the top of the grass. Whatever your method, raking up the material will be necessary You might need an extra dumpster or two. You may even need to take a trip to the dump.

Over Seeding

Once the arduous task of dethatching is complete you are left with grass that looks like a bad haircut. However, you have a great opportunity to over-seed your lawn. Once this new seed comes in you will be amazed at how great your lawn will look for the rest of the season. You won’t need to water as much and as the new seed grows and you fertilize, trust me it will be worth it.

When Should You Thatch Your Lawn?

There is a lot of debate about when you should thatch your lawn. Some people will say you should do it in spring. While others say, you should do it in the fall. The bottom line is you can thatch your lawn in either season. If you give yourself time to reseed the lawn, neither season is wrong. We don't recommend thatching in the summer, as the heat of summer adds additional stress, which will cause more harm than good. Likewise, don't thatch in the winter while your lawn is still dormant. If you can't reseed, it is not time to thatch. Also, you know, snow. My rule of thumb is to do what will be the best for your lawn when you can. 

Future Care 

Thatching the lawn is a project that requires a little elbow grease. Fortunately, you can prevent thatch buildup by encouraging a healthy soil biome. Zamzows Lawn Program, especially Zamzows Huma Green, will not only give you a healthy green lawn, but they are also the perfect way to feed the beneficial microbes in your soil. A healthy microbiome will decompose thatch before it becomes an issue. So, feeding regularly with naturally formulated fertilizers and soil conditioners like Zamzows Huma Green will prevent thatch, so you won't have to go through this process again.