Spring Lawn Prep - What is Thatch?
Thatching is an often misunderstood term and process. Let’s spend a moment to talk 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 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 a number of 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 a number of 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 pretty confident in changing out your mower blade go for it. I will pass in 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 to 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.
Once the arduous task of dethatching is complete you are left with a grass that looks like a really bad haircut. However, you have a great opportunity to overseed 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.