Is Raking Bad For Your Lawn
Although people often rake and bag leaves to prevent their lawns from being smothered and to make yards look better, in most cases, youre fine not moving them. In fact, many environmental experts say raking leaves and removing them from your property is not only bad for your lawn but for the environment as a well.
Assessing Your Thatch Layer
To determine if your lawn has an excessive amount of thatch, look at, feel, and even measure the thatch layer. What you’re looking for is a thatch layer that’s thicker than 1/2- to 3/4-inch, which means it’s time to dethatch.
Get down on your belly and comb your fingers through the grass. You should be able to see some soil through the grass blades. You should also be able to poke your fingers through the thatch layer and into the soil fairly easily. If the soil is very hard to see or get through, you probably have an excessive thatch layer. Also check how the turf feels underfoot springy and spongy means too much thatch. Finally, you can take a “core sample” of your turf by opening a vertical slice of it with a shovel and measuring the thatch layer with a ruler.
Testing The Thatch Thickness
First, you should plan to dethatch if the thatch layer ever gets too thick. To measure the thickness of your thatch layer, just follow the steps below:
- Use a shovel to dig up a small portion of your lawn
- Expose the side of the section and look at the layers of soil and grass
- Identify the thatch layer by looking for what looks like abnormally loose soil, mulch, or decomposing material
- Measure the thickness of the thatch layer
A thatch layer around a half-inch is beneficial for your lawn. If your thatch layer is thicker, its time to dethatch.
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When Should You Dethatch Your Lawn
As previously mentioned, a small amount of thatch can be good. Be sure to check your thatch layer before you decide to dethatch. You can do this by digging up a small amount of your lawn grass and soil. Then measure your thatch. If your thatch is more than an inch, itâs time to dethatch.
However, like most lawn health initiatives, the timing must be right. You should try to dethatch your lawn around your grassâ peak growth time. When your grass is growing, it helps your lawn to recover faster from dethatching. For cool season grasses, this is going to be early spring or early fall. For warm-season grasses, itâs best to dethatch in late spring through early summer.
How Do I Dethatch My Lawn
There are several ways to dethatch a lawn. For lawns with moderate levels of thatch, aerating may do the trick. Or use a cavex rake which has unusual semicircular tines. Those knifelike blades cut through the sod and pull out thatch. For large lawns with serious thatch problems, the most effective solution is a vertical mower . Resembling a heavy-duty power mower but with a series of spinning vertical knives, it cuts through thatch.
Dethatching often creates a large volume of debris that must be removed. If the debris is weed-free and you have not used herbicides or pesticides on your lawn, compost it. Or check to see if your city has a composting program for yard waste.
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Dethatching With A Power Rake
Power rakes are similar to walk-behind lawn mowers and have rotating tines that slice into the grass/turf. These tines dig into the thatch and go all the way into the soil to pull pieces up and loosen/rake your lawn thatch, bringing it to the surface of your lawn.
These power rakes are mainly good for thin layers of thatch. Power rakes are not a great option for sensitive or young grass. You would want to use this on strong grass that you arent worried to rip out, and I usually recommend overseeding afterward.
Most people who use a power rake will rent a professional one from their local hardward store or box store, but you can purchase one if you know youll be detatching your lawn pretty regularly.
My Lawn Dethatcher Setup
I personally own this Greenworks Dethatcher, and it works really well. I dont like that its corded, but I own a Dewalt portable power station, so when its time to dethatch my yard I just strap that on top, and plug the Greenworks power rake right into that which makes it cord-free, running on my Dewalt batteries.
Im really happy with this set-up, but I probably wouldnt recommend the Greenworks Dethatcher to someone with a large yard who doesnt have a battery-powered generator setup like mine. Dragging a cord around a big yard can be frustrating.
If you have a small yard, the Greenworks tool is a great value and probably a better option than renting.
Factors That Affect Thatch
Several factors determine the rate of thatch development in your lawn:
- Choosing vigorously growing grass varieties
- Applying excessive amounts of nitrogen, especially in spring
- Growing species that are known to produce large amounts of tough, fibrous tissue
- Compacted soil conditions leading to shallow root development
These factors decrease the rate at which thatch decomposes:
- Acidic soil conditions
- Poor soil aeration and waterlogged soils which limit microorganism activity
- Pesticides such as insecticides or fungicides that restrict microorganism or earthworm activity
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What Do I Do After I Dethatch My Lawn
Traumatic experiences like dethatching the lawn can leave grass plants battered, dry and vulnerable to disease.
A significant amount of dethatching will be necessary to get a lush, healthy lawn. As a result, lawn care after dethatching is essential to a turfs successful recovery.
Root repair and deep growth are necessary to restore and maintain turf quality.
A healthy root system is a key component of a cation exchangeable, pampered, vigorous turf.
You may have just completed a project: dethatching your lawn.
The following are some thoughts on what you could do next with your newly cleaned up lawn:
- aerate compacted soil to improve water penetration
- overseed your lawn to fill in bare patches
- apply fertilizer to boost your grasss health and beauty
- keep the weeds out by using a pre-emergent weed killer
- rake up leftover dethatching material
Fall Is The Best Time To Dethatch Your Lawn
Keeping your lawn lush and green is all about timing. There are plenty of techniques you can use to help create a healthy lawn, but most of their usefulness is dependent on the time you apply them.
One question we commonly receive is when the best time to dethatch your lawn is, late spring or early fall?
Dethatching is a necessary part of lawn maintenance because it allows for your lawn to gather the necessary nutrients for continued growth. Thatch is the grass and other debris that builds up on the soil beneath your grass and can often act as its own source of nutrients. If left for too long, it can harm the growth of your lawn.
Dethatching is simply the removal of this excess debris from your lawn to allow for more moisture and easier access for nutrients to your roots.
Hometurf offers dethatching services for as low as $99.95 using equipment and methods that present the least possible risk to your lawn. We also clean up the excess material left after dethatching.
As for when you should schedule dethatching, both late spring and early fall can work, but we find late fall to be the most effective.
Late fall is usually when the most amount of debris has built up at the base of your lawn, at a time when your lawn needs to gather as many nutrients as possible. By dethatching at this time, youre allowing for your lawn to get as healthy as possible before winter so it can bounce back quickly in the spring.
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How To Pick Up Thatch After Dethatching
The first thing you need to do after dethatching your lawn is to pick up the thatch. This can be done with a rake or a garden vacuum. If you have a lot of thatch, then you may want to hire someone to do this for you. Once the thatch is removed, you will need to fertilize your lawn. This will help the new grass grow in and make your lawn look nice.
Should I Aerate Or Dethatch First
It is best to dethatch first before aerating your lawn. This way, youll remove the excess debris and promote healthy root development. Aerating is best done when theres the problem of compaction. Both dethatching and aerating your lawn will improve air, nutrient, and water penetration into the root zone of your grass.
- Thatch is the main problem these two processes address. It occurs when your turf accumulates too much dead organic matter than can be broken down.
- It starts as a shallow layer of debris that makes your lawn feel spongy. If your lawn does not have enough microbial activity to break down the organic matter, thatch buildup occurs.
- Soon enough, your lawn will start suffering from thinning and slow growth due to poor water, air, and nutrient penetration through the thick core of thatch.
However, if the amount of thatch is low you can just remove it using a dethatching tool or a power rake.
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How Long Does It Take For A Lawn To Recover From Dethatching
The healing process can take 3 to 4 weeks, and you must be patient until the lawn is restored.
Keep in mind that the grass will be different in texture, color and density after mowing.
It is best to wait until healthy grass is established before scheduling any activities on the lawn.
Dethatching as a process, is rather disruptive to the lawns natural rhythm.
Ripping, tearing and removing the dense underlayer of thatch is bound to make your lawn more likely to experience a shock or trauma due to the abrupt void of so much dead leaves, rhizomes, stolons and roots.
So be gentle with your lawn during this time and dont be in a rush to do any recreational, athletic, or construction activities on your lawn until it is fully restored.
Postponing any such events not only ensures the grass bounces back better and quicker, it also avoids overburdening and ruining your turfgrass.
How To Tell If Your Lawn Needs Dethatching
There are three ways to tell if your lawn needs dethatching 1. By touch – if your lawn is extremely bouncy underfoot then you are likely to have a thick layer of thatch on your lawn.2. By sight – you should be able to see the soil between the grass blades. If you cant, and you cannot poke your finger through the grass to see the soil you are likely to have a thick layer of thatch.3. Measurement a simple way to tell the level of thatch on your lawn is to dig up a small section of the lawn using a trowel about 3 inches thick. Look at the turf sample and look for the layer of thatch that is sitting on top of the grass / soil. If its 1.5cm or greater it is time to dethatch your lawn. .
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When Should I Dethatch My Lawn In Texas
You want to dethatch when theyre in active growth spurts. Cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, can be dethatched in the spring, or late summer spring and early fall, matching their most-active growth seasons.
Herein, how do I know if I need to dethatch my lawn?
Walk on the lawn to see if it feels firm or spongy.The first thing that gives you a hint at whether or not your lawn needs to be dethatched is the feel of it. Walk around for awhile and see if the ground feels firm. If it feels spongy, or almost bouncy, thats a sign that the thatch has gotten too thick.
Additionally, when should I Dethatch fescue? The best time in most areas is late spring or early summer, when these grasses are growing and producing new runners. Cool season grasses such as bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass are less likely to need dethatching, but if they do, the best time tends to be early fall. Reseeding may be necessary after dethatching.
Similarly, is dethatching a lawn necessary?
Thatch builds up over time, so its not necessary to dethatch every year. Plan on dethatching every five years or so if your lawn needs it. You might want to give your lawn a quick check every year just to see how much thatch has accumulated.
Do lawn mower Dethatching blades work?
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Its Time For Power Equipment
A dethatching machine has blades that cut through and remove thatch to the soil surface. Those with knives or blades are preferred over those that use rake-like tines. Rent a dethatcher from a big-box store or equipment rental company. Theyre heavy, so youll need a truck and a friend or two to lend a hand.
Follow the manufacturers instructions for using the dethatcher. Make sure the lawn is slightly moist, but not wet. Rock-hard soil is difficult to penetrate. Go over your lawn once, like your mowing. If theres a lot of thatch, you may need to make another pass in the opposite direction to remove it all.
Youre going to have a lot of material to rake and remove. Depending on the size of your yard and the amount of thatch, it could be a SIGNIFICANT amount. You can add the debris to your compost pile or use it as mulch around trees and shrubs ONLY if it has not been treated with an herbicide. Itll add organic matter to the soil as it breaks down. After raking, thoroughly water the lawn. Avoid a lot of traffic on the lawn, over- or under-watering, and chemical applications until normal growth has resumed.
Prepare yourself. Your lawn is going to look, well terrible, awful, ratty, or ragged for several weeks after dethatching. If it does, you did it correctly!
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Can Dethatching Harm The Lawn
Mann suggests caution when dethatching your lawn. Theres the possibility of removing too much plant material at once, which would significantly increase recovery time, he warns. Also of concern is desiccation. With so many wounds, grass plants may dry out and die.
If your lawn is already compromised, dethatch with a rake or dethatching machine with rake tines. This method removes the layer of thatch without penetrating the soil beneath, so there is less chance of further damaging your grass.
Otherwise, opt for a dethatching machine with thin blades that cut through the thick layer of thatch into the soil. Scarifiers are much more effective in removing thatch, but also more aggressive and only recommended if your lawn is in good health.
Dethatch Or Aerate Before Overseeding
Both aerating and dethatching are recommended before overseeding because they improve grass-to-soil contact for proper germination. In most cases, youll only need to dethatch to remove the debris that is covering the soil and preventing grass seed from germinating properly.
However, if you have compacted soil in your lawn, you may want to aerate the core to allow deeper penetration of water into the soil. Deeply and well-watered soil promotes healthy and deeper root development of the new grass seed.
After overseeding, topdress the area with about 1 yard of compost per 1000 square feet to increase the rate of grass seed germination in your lawn.
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Aeration: Breathe Life Into Your Lawn
The soil your lawn is growing in compresses over time. Compacted soil causes some of the same problems thatch does. The soil can become so dense water has a difficult time seeping in, grass struggles to grow, and roots gasp for air.
Aeration is the process of making holes in the lawn, which loosens the soil to improve drainage, making it easier for water, air, and fertilizer to reach the roots. It gives the roots some room to grow deeply. The result is a thicker, healthier lawn. Unfortunately, homeowners very often neglect this important maintenance practice.
There are two methods of aeration: tine or spike aeration, and core or plug aeration. Tine aeration uses tines to pierce the soil. Unfortunately, it can also further compact the soil some dont consider it to be aeration at all. Core aeration removes plugs of soil from the lawn and is the preferred method. Core aeration can also keep the thatch layer in check. Aeration equipment thats pulled behind mowers tends to be ineffective.
When heavily traveled paths on the lawn start to look weak and theres a thatch layer of an inch or more, its time to aerate. Lawns in good condition, with a half-inch or less of thatch, generally dont need to be dethatched and should only need to be aerated every other year.
Your Grass Type Usually Dictates When You Need To Dethatch
Cool Season Grass DethatchingIf your home is in a location with cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, Creeping Red Fescue, or Creeping Bentgrass then the early spring or late summer is the ideal time to dethatch because these grass types will be going into high growth mode at those times.
Warm Season Grass DethatchingIf your turf grass is made up of warm season grasses such as Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, Centipede, or Zoysia then you should plan your dethatching efforts after the late-spring green-up phase, just before these grasses enter the early summer season, which is when their growth is at their peak.
Plan to dethatch prior to best growing season for your grass. It is ideal if the grass will have at least a month and a half of peak growing season left after dethatching to recover from the damage caused by physical thatch removal.
You never want to be dethatching when your lawn is dormant or stressed from the weather as it possible to damage it severely and take a year or more to recover.
If you plan on applying liquid thatch removal products then the timing changes considerably for all grass types. I recommend see this post on how liquid thatch removal products work for best practices.
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