Everything to Know About Thatch


Lawn thatch is a term you may have heard thrown around, or maybe you’ve even seen it up close a few times, but how much do you truly know about it? The lawn care pros at Spring-Green have compiled a guide to help you get schooled up on thatch. Everything you need to know has been gathered up in this easy-to-read format so you can get your overview quickly and then return to your busy life. Of course, we’re here for you to help you with any and all your lawn care needs related to thatch or otherwise.

Lawn Thatch 101

So, What Exactly Is Thatch? Thatch is a mix of dead and living plant matter that typically forms at the base of your grass, right at the point where the grass stems meet the soil. Some popular types of grasses are more likely to experience thatch buildup than others. It’s common for grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, Bermudagrass, and creeping fescues to get thick thatch that requires dethatching. On the other hand, tall fescue or perennial ryegrass rarely have thatch problems.

What Causes Thatch? Normally, organic matter, such as small grass clippings or mulched leaves, breaks down quickly. However, sometimes these materials and others can go too slowly, causing a buildup layer that leads to thatch growth.

Should I Be Worried If I See Thatch in My Lawn? A common question homeowners have is whether thatch is good or bad for their grass or plants. The answer is – it depends. If the thatch layers grow beyond one inch of thickness, they become barriers to the health of your lawn and plant life. Thick thatch can block the needed water and fertilizer from reaching grass roots leaving your lawn and plants vulnerable to heat and stress. As you continue to water your thatch covered lawn, the irrigation can trap moisture, creating a breeding ground for disease and insects.

How Do I Get Rid of Thatch? If your lawn’s thatch has grown to over two inches of thickness, you may call in the professionals to get rid of it. Excessive thatch removal has to be done gently to avoid damage the roots of your grass. If your thatch has not gotten overly thick, you may be able to take care of it yourself.  You can dethatch your lawn in three ways:

  1. Dethatching Rakes – Manual dethatching rakes are one option to get rid of the thatch in your lawn. These special rakes have curved blades that can be used to dig into your lawn and pull up thatch. These are good for small dethatching areas and for general maintenance of small areas.
  • Power Rakes – A power rake is another option if you have a larger area to dethatch. Power rakes are similar to a push mower but have rotating devices that pull out the thatch. Power rakes are a good choice for lawns with thinner thatch layers and tough grass that can take the powerful removal of thatch.
  • Vertical Mowers – Verticutters, also referred to as a vertical mower, are a third option in the DIY thatch removal effort. They have vertical blades sharp enough to dig down through the thatch layer to pull out the thatch forcefully. The downside is they often pull out the grass as well. Verticutters are a good option if you are completely overhauling your lawn.
thatch raking

Can I Prevent Thatch from Popping Up? While there is no fool-proof way to prevent thatch from occurring, there are a few steps to take to prevent it.

  • Keeping an eye on your lawn’s soil pH balance, for example. Lawns with low soil pH are more prone to thatch.
  • Another common factor to thatch overgrowth is too much fertilizer or using products with too much pesticide.
  • One final tip is to monitor the thatch growth and deal with it at its beginning stages. If left too long, the thatch becomes harder to remove and the damage to the grass becomes more significant.

Are There Special Steps I Should Take After I Dethatch? When you finish your dethatching work, be sure to rake up all thatch debris and water your dethatched lawn thoroughly. This is also an ideal time to seed your lawn, now that you’ve cleared the space for new, healthy growth. As a preventative maintenance step, you can also start to test your soil to ensure its pH is at optimal levels.

Spring-Green, the lawn care leader since 1977, can help you determine the why, when and how around dethatching your lawn. We’ll help you get your lawn back on track and then provide the guidance to keep it there.  Count on our team of pros to help you enjoy a beautiful, healthy lawn – thatch-free.

Get in touch with a Spring-Green pro today.

DIY Core Aeration – Is Aerating Your Lawn Worth It?

core aeration

Of all the beneficial things you could do to ensure a healthy, beautiful lawn, core aeration is second only to fertilization. By disrupting the surface of the lawn and the soil beneath it, core aeration allows more air, water, and nutrients to reach the turf’s root zone. This in turn encourages better lawn root development below the surface and—you guessed it—healthier, thicker, greener plant growth above. Compacted soils are loosened, restrictive layers of surface-level thatch are broken, and your turf uses these improvements to its natural advantage, growing stronger and healthier as the surface repairs itself.

Virtually all U.S. regions and all common turfgrasses can benefit from regular aeration. What differs somewhat is the timing. According to information provided by Bayer Advanced, the best time to aerate a lawn is prior to a period of vigorous growth, during which the lawn can best recover from the disruption intentionally created by the aeration process. For cool season grasses, that time is late summer into early fall, making sure to allow at least a month of growing time before the threat of frost sets in. For warm season grassses, late spring to early summer is your best bet.

DIY (Do It Yourself) Core Aeration

Is core aeration worth it for your lawn? Yes, absolutely! Is it worth doing it yourself? Let’s weigh the options of do-it-yourself (DIY) aeration versus having the work done by a professional lawn care service.

No matter who does it, the work is performed using a specialized core aeration machine. This is a powerful and somewhat heavy motorized device that drives hollow tines several inches into the ground, extracts plugs of soil and plant material, and then deposits them on the surface as it moves forward. The desired result is a visible pattern of holes in the ground and plugs laying on the turf. Over time, the holes will be filled in with loosened soil, new roots, and grass plants, while the plugs break down and assist in the decomposition of the thatch layer that builds up on the soil surface.

This would be a piece of cake if the machine did all the work and the operator merely had to throw a switch on or off, but such is not the case. The machine operator controls where the machine goes, taking special care to avoid damage to irrigation heads, pavement features, flower beds, children’s toys, and other common obstacles. The operator must also determine whether soil conditions are favorable before commencing the operation. The key concern here is moisture. Soggy soil will clog the tines whereas overly dry soil will be difficult at best to penetrate. Aerating during a prolonged period of drought or excessive heat may do more harm than good.

The application of additional grass seed to an existing lawn, sometimes called overseeding or reseeding, is best done immediately following core aeration of a lawn. Fertilizer applications are also more effective at this time. This is because the openings caused by the aeration process make it easier for the new seed and/or nutrients to penetrate the soil. Obviously the individual applying these materials must know what to apply and at what rate.

Better To Do It Yourself or Hire a Professional?

So which provides the better value for core aeration, DIY or using a professional lawn care service? Consider the following.

● Who will transport the core aeration machine to and from your property?
● Who will determine whether conditions are favorable to aerate your lawn?
● Who will ensure the safe and effective operation of the core aeration machine?
● Who will be responsible for any damage incurred to properly identified obstacles?
● If applicable. who will be responsible for properly overseeding/reseeding your lawn?
● If applicable. who will be responsible for properly fertilizing the lawn after aeration is completed?

When properly performed, under favorable conditions and at the appropriate time, core aeration will most assuredly benefit your lawn, whether you do it yourself or bring in a lawn care professional. With that said, if you have questions or concerns about core aeration or any aspect of caring for your lawn, please do not hesitate to contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green. We have a wealth of professional lawn care experience to share with you.

Be Nice to Your Lawn and Have it Core Aerated

Lawns around our houses, businesses, churches, hospitals or lawns that are used for sporting events, playgrounds or parks are not natural systems. Therefore, they need to be maintained in order to grow and stay healthy. Lawns that are not properly maintained are thin and usually full of weeds (not just dandelions). By caring for your lawn and ensuring it is growing well, you are making a big difference environmentally such as:

  • Reducing pollution
  • Preventing floods
  • Providing oxygen

Your lawn is a GREAT thing.

The turfgrass varieties planted for lawns are great, but they are susceptible to more stresses than in their natural environment. Most of these turfgrasses are not native to North America, but were brought here from Europe, Africa or Asia. The soil preparation for the new grass, whether it is sod, seed or springs, is usually not that good. These grasses are expected to perform not under the best growing conditions. That is why they need fertilizer, pest control products and other mechanical processes to help them adapt to their environment.

One of the best things that can help any lawn is to core aerate it by using a machine called a core aerator. Nowadays, there are many styles of core aerators including walk-behind models, ones that are pulled by a small tractor and there are even ones that are a stand-on type. Most homeowners have their lawn care or maintenance company perform this work, but many hardware or rental stores carry small walk-behind models as well. Core aerators weigh several hundred pounds and a pick-up truck is the best way to transport them.

When a core aeration machine travels across a lawn, it removes small cores or plugs of soil and deposits them back on top of the ground. This opens up the lawn for more air, water and nutrients to penetrate into the root zone and allows for better root growth. Having a good root system is important for growing a healthy turf.  core aerated lawn

Besides providing better root growth, core aeration helps reduce thatch levels as well. Thatch is a layer of roots, rhizomes and other organic material that builds up at the soil line.  Thatch acts like a sponge and absorbs much of the water and nutrients applied to a lawn, which is where many of the roots will grow. A sponge will quickly dry out in the sun and so will a thatch layer. It is also a home for insects, diseases and weed seeds. Core aeration will help to mitigate these problems. The cores that remain on top of the lawn will slowly break down through normal mowing and watering. The microorganisms in the soil will intermingle with the thatch and begin to decompose it naturally. Thatch can take years to build up to detrimental levels, so one aeration will not be enough. It may be necessary to aerate twice a year – spring and fall.

The best time to core aerate a lawn is when the roots are actively growing. For warm-season grasses, the roots are most active after the lawn comes out of dormancy in the spring. Therefore, aerate in April through June. For cool-season grasses, the most root growth occurs in the fall so therefore the fall is an optimum time to aerate. Roots are active in the spring as well, so aerating in the spring can also be completed. A lawn can be aerated at any time of the year as long it is moist enough to allow the tines to enter the soil, however the lawn may not benefit as much if it is aerated when the roots are active.

Cool-season turfgrasses can benefit from annual overseeding. The best time to do this is in the late summer to early fall. Core aeration prior to overseeding provides a place for the seed to be in contact with the soil and allows for better germination. Just about every cool season turfgrass lawn will benefit from an annual overseeding.

Besides fertilizing, one of the best things you can do for your lawn is to core aerate it. It is the only process that physically changes the structure of your lawn. Be kind to your lawn and have it aerated.

Have questions about the maintenance for your lawn or want to get started with core aeration and oeverseeding for your lawn? Contact your neighborhood Spring-Green for more information.