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Spencer Rental Presents:  Lawn Dethatching

How you can remove the thatch from your lawn to keep it looking beautiful:

What Is Thatch?

Unless you're a roofer by trade, you may not be familiar with what Thatch is. That's O.K., that's why we're here to help! The reason why you may not be familiar with what thatch is is because it accumulates on the surface of your soil just below the grass line and usually out of sight. Thatch is a layer of grass stems, roots, clippings, and debris that settle on the ground and either slowly decompose and/or accumulate over time. Thatch buildup is commonly found in lawns where grass has grown tall, mulch is frequently left, and lawns that have never been aerated. Thatch is most common in warm-weather and with creeping grasses such as

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How Do I Dethatch?

Once you determine that you need to dethatch your lawn, the next step is to figure out how. As previously stated in the section on aerating, aerating can be a better alternative to dethatching if your lawn does not have excessive amounts of thatch ( usually 1 inch or less ). However, if you have thatch in excess of 1 inch, or just decide to dethatch anyway, here are a few things to remember when you do:

 

1.) There are typically two ways to dethatch your lawn: 

  • One, Manually with a leaf rake, garden rake (shown), or thatching rake.

  • Two, with a Power Dethatcher (vertical cutter). Smaller to medium sized lawns can be manually dethatched, assuming that you have the time. Manually dethatching, although time consuming, tends to be less stressful on your lawn and its appearance afterwards compared to Power Dethatching. In general, if your thatch does not exceed one inch, you can get away with dethatching manually or simply aerating your lawn instead. 

 

2.) If you decide to use a power dethatcher, there are a few things you should do first. Before you begin, you should mow your lawn to about half of its normal mowing height. Second, you will need to either rent a dethatcher . Much like aerators, power dethatchers resemble power lawn mowers in that they usually have engines that sit on top and wheels. However, instead of one horizontal blade to cut grass, dethatchers normally have numerous vertically aligned blades that can cut to the surface of, or even slightly into the soil. They are also VERY heavy and will usually require more than one person to transport.

 

3.) If you rent a dethatcher , you will need to set the depth and blade spacing. Usually, the location you rent it from will help you with this. However, in many cases, the depth of the blades are usually set to cut up to 1/2 inch into the ground (soil) to remove the thatch and scratch and stir the surface of the soil. Once you get the hang of it, you can make adjustments as you go. Remember to make a few passes with crossing patterns for better coverage.

 

4.) Once you are finished, be sure to remove all thatch and debris from your lawn. Unlike aerating, dethatching is almost strictly for the removal of thatch and debris. Removal can usually be done with a simple leaf rake.

 

5.) Once your lawn is dethatched, it is usually a great time to fertilize your lawn and/or reseed it. Remember, the greater the cut into the soil and thatch removal, the  greater the  soil exposure, especially to the grass roots. If you decide to reseed, follow-up by ranking the suspended seeds into the soil, add fertilizer, and apply a light covering of matter and/or sand. Additionally, it is a good idea to give your lawn extra watering after dethatching, especially during times of high heat and droughts.

 

6.) A final note: Dethatching is NOT a pretty process. It is analogist to the old saying, "Out of chaos comes harmony." The deeper the blades cut into your lawn, the more stress, and hence, the greater the recovery time for your lawn. In short, your lawn can look pretty bad after a deep power thatching. But remember, if you dethatch just prior to the grass's prime growing season, then it should recover rather quickly. If not, "The yard God" next door might have another reason to give you grief!

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When Should I Dethatch?

Dethaching is the process or removing Thatch from your lawn. As a general rule of thumb, up to 1/2 inch of thatch is O.K.. Remember, thatch can be good for lawns, especially during times of drought, water restrictions, and high heat, when it can act like insulation for the soil by providing a screen from sun light and help to hold in moisture. Conversely, thatch that accumulates in excess of 1/2 Inch can actually work as a disadvantage to your lawn by creating too much buffer between the soil and the grass, thereby preventing sufficient amounts of water, air, and nutrients (fertilizer) to reach the soil. Excess thatch can also encourage the proliferation of pests such a Chinch bugs, insects, and various lawn diseases and fungi.  

To help determine how much thatch buildup exists in your lawn, simply take a narrow wire or screwdriver and place it in the thatch until it reaches the soil. Then mark how high the thatch reaches up on the wire/screwdriver with your finger. Finally, hold it next to a tape measure or ruler to determine the depth. It's not rocket science, but it will do. If you find that there is an excess of thatch in more than one place in your lawn (usually more the 1/2 inch), then it might be time to dethatch. If you find in excess of 1 inch of thatch in your lawn, then you might seriously consider dethatching soon. Much like aerating, dethatching should be done when your lawn can best recover, usually not during times of drought, water restrictions, and heat waves. For most lawns this is either in the late spring or early fall.

For more on how to dethatch, see: How Do I Dethatch?

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Equipment delivery and pickup service available.

Spencer Rental Center  is located at 8 Donnelly Rd. Spencer Mass.
                                          We are open Monday Thru Saturday 8am to 5pm
                                           Our Phone # is (508) 885-9015
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