Dethatch a Lawn

How to Dethatch a Lawn

Is your lawn turning into a spiritless piece of land? Has the dead grass been screaming for a change? Well, it’s a good time to refocus, refresh and restart! and learn how to dethatch a lawn

Motivate yourself for a big change and you’re good to go. In the following article, I’ll be discussing how you can get rid of all the excess and dead grass that’s collecting up in your lawn only to give an ugly outlook. Now, let us move forward.

What is a Thatch?

You must’ve seen roofs of houses covered with thatch? In some areas, they are still being used as a roofing method for insulation purposes.  Thatch can be defined as a densely packed layer of organic matter. It has both living and non-living components. It is composed of dry layering of vegetation comprising of stolons, weeds, rhizomes, water reed, straws, heathers, roots, and rushes. This accumulates around the base of the grass.

Interestingly, in developed countries, many elite people like to use it as an item of décor for their roofs as it gives a rustic look and is eco-friendly. Normally, it is usually found in developing countries by builders.

What causes Thatch?

Soil aeration and improper drainage, are the leading contributing factors towards the formation of thatch.

Other factors that contribute towards the formation of thatch are;

  • Chemical pesticide use
  • Synthetic Fertilizers
  • Over fertilization of an area
  • Cold soil temperature
  • Frequency of watering (either too much or too little)
  • Shallow watering of the lawn.
  • Infrequency in lawn mowing.
  • Fungicides
  • Herbicides
  • low pH grounds (soil)
  • The infrequency of soil aeration

Thatch layer in 1/3rd inch of a thickness is considered beneficial for the grass. Mowing the lawn removes 1/3rd inch of the grass, the blades are designed to do so, thus remains a healthy layer of thatch. Thatch that is more than 1 inch in thickness should be removed.

There are certain regions or species of plants that are prone to developing thatch more easily as compared to others. For instance, Kentucky bluegrass, creeping fescues, clump-forming grasses, and Bermuda grass are a few examples. Clump-forming grasses include perennial grasses and tall fescue respectively.

Is thatch good at all?

As I stated before a thatch of 1/3rd of an inch is good for the grass.

  • It provides the necessary organic components for the growth of grass.
  • Most importantly, it retains the soil moisture and maintains the variation of soil temperatures which otherwise affect the nourishment of the grass
  • Air can easily penetrate through the thin layer of thatch into the soil and roots of the grass.

What is the importance of dethatching?

Imagine being suffocated and not being able to breathe! That’s exactly how the grass feels. Just as air and proper ventilation are essential for our survival, grasses also need proper room to breathe.

Thick thatches have so many disadvantages; they block water, air, and fertilizer of the roots. In extreme conditions such as drought, the roots are unable to get essentials and they die out eventually. Apart from this, the grass is prone to having lawn disease. Insects, microbes love breading in these lawns.

What is the right time to dethatch your Lawn?

Thatch that is more than 1 inch in thickness poses a serious threat to the health and nourishment of the grass. Before dethatching, make sure to check the thatch layer that’s already present. To check the thatch layer, simply dig up a small portion of the lawn grass. In this way, you can measure the thatch layer and decide whether it’s time to dethatch lawn or not.

Best Time to Dethatch a lawn.

Dethatching is best recommended when the grass growth time is also peaking. An active growth period would ensure a healthy grass as it would be its season to grow. Early summer or post-spring is the peak growth of grass. In cool areas, the grass has peak growth in early fall or early spring. It is advisable not to dethatch the lawn when the lawn has been dormant or stressed for a long time.

How to spot poor grass?

Grass that needs dethatching shows the poor color and it appears to be weak. Active grass appears green whereas wilting grass is yellowish to brown in color.

In what ways can you dethatch your Lawn?

Dethatching helps you clean your lawn of all the unnecessary dirt and possible hazards. I’ll list down few methods by which you can dethatch your lawn.

Hire a Professional!

The best and easy way is to hire someone who knows the art to dethatch. If you have to dethatch more than 2 inches, I recommend you to hire a professional as it requires more than one round of dethatching. They know precisely how to handle all the fuss!

Do you want to do it yourself?

Cool, now you want to take up the big responsibility, so here we go. It’s best to mow your lawn before the dethatching procedure.

Power Rakes:

Power rakes are very much like lawn mowers. They are best for strong grasses. Power rakes go deep into the soil. After a deep dig into the soil, they are pulled out. Power rakes need to be used carefully as they can destroy the healthy layer of grass. It is recommended for a small area of lawns.

Vertical Mowers:

Vertical mowers, as the name suggests, pull up vertically from the thatch. They are ideal for thick and strong grass layers; they pull the grassroots along with them as well.

Manual Dethatching:

A dethatching rake is your best choice tool when opting for manual dethatching. Keep that in mind, this technique is only good if you want to dethatch a small piece of land. Large lawns are time-consuming and energy-draining.

How to dethatch your lawn?

Previously I told ways to do dethatching; here I’ll describe the process to dethatch your lawn.

Small lawns can be done manually with the help of a rake specialized for dethatching. In the case of comparatively large fields, go for a power rake or a vertical cutter.

  • First of all, you need to mow your lawn. Mowing should be done to half the normal height of the total height.
  • Mark all the irrigation lines, sprinkler heads, or other lines before using a dethatcher.
  • Using a dethatching rake, loosen the thatch by putting in the rake and pulling out the excess. You should be able to feel and see the soil and thatch separating from each other.
  • Each company has different dethatcher machines; therefore proper instructions should be asked from the supplier and followed accordingly. The blades are adjustable and vary in shape or size.
  • The blades of the dethatcher are adjustable according to spacing and cutting depth for various grass types. You should set the depth up to half an inch into the soil.
  • Keep on loading and unloading between intervals.
  • After dethatching, remove the loosened and removed pieces from the lawn.
  • There are patching products in case a spot is left behind after dethatching. These products repair the spots.
  • Fertilizer is used all over the place to help it recover. The newly dethatched lawn should absorb nutrients.
  • Water frequently every week after the dethatching. It gives quick recovery to the lawn.

What to do after dethatching your lawn and prevent future thatching?

Now that you’re done with dethatching your lawn, it’s time to grow that lush green grass back.

  • You can sow seeds in the lawn to grow tufts of grass.
  • Regardless of what tool you choose to use, some aftercare is necessary. After you finish dethatching, it is important to finish by raking up all the excess thatch on your lawn. Then water and fertilize your lawn thoroughly.
  • Add soil enhancers, good quality fertilizers, water to improve the quality of the soil and increase the lawn sustainability, it will help it overcome thatch
  • There should be soil tests, and the pH of the lawn soil should be tested every 3-4 years. Optimal pH prevents the growth of microorganisms in the soil that promote thatch production.
  • Aeration should be done more frequently on heavy, compacted lawns.
  • Fulfill the nitrogen needs of your lawn by testing the soil first. Nitrogen and other nutrients should be administered according to the soil needs.
  • Don’t over-fertilize the soil s it is equally damaging to not fertilizing the lawn.
  • Learn and apply best mowing techniques.
  • Regulate the frequency of watering your lawn.

Does Dethatching have a downside?

Though dethatching has its good prospects, it certainly comes with a downside. An appropriate amount of thatch is healthy for the grass as it provides a good organic supply. It also protects from severe and harsh temperatures. The retained moisture in the soil provides nourishment to the grass.


The downsides of dethatching include, damage to the healthy grass. Dormant turf is most affected by this activity. Tearing and ultimately dying of the dormant turf affects their ability to recover from the damage. It is hard to recover after extreme weather conditions.

Weeds are very common to emerge after dethatching. So it is best advised to not dethatch unnecessarily, only when there’s a need as it does more harm than good.

What is aeration?

Aeration is simply the process of air circulation, mixing, and dissolving in the soil. It is beneficial as well as essential for plant and soil nourishment. It reduces contamination of the soil. Gaps of air are created in the soil.

Types of Soil aeration:

Core aeration:
It is done in turf areas, it reduces compaction, and improve water filtration.

Spike aeration:

Holes are created in the soil without soil removal. It’s is best for less compacted soils. It gives access to root system along with fertilization capabilities.

Liquid aeration:

 It creates microscopic pores in the soil acting like sponge. They retain and absorb water. They have great permeability.

Benefits of Aeration:

  • Removal of soil from the core helps remove its thatch layer as well.
  • Aeration creates channels for nutrients and water. It also promotes their provision to the healthy thatch layer. 
  • Compacted soil is loosened that allows passage of water and nutrients
  • Breaking down of already existing thatch also speeds up their breakdown.

When to aerate your lawn?

Previously, I mentioned the best time for dethatching to be the peak growth periods. Likewise, an ideal time for aeration is also the peak growth period of grass.

Grasses growing in cooler regions have early spring or early fall time. For grasses growing in warmer regions, early summer or late spring is an ideal time.

It’s best to aerate the lawn every 2-3 years. In the case of heavy clay soils, or sandy soils, it is recommended to aerate every year.

How to aerate your lawn?

When you’ve decided to aerate your lawn, just follow my step-by-step guide.

  • In order to soften the soil, you need to give 1 inch of water all over the lawn. This aids in better aeration. This should be done a day before the aeration process.
  • It’s necessary to mark out all the important wires passing through, sprinkler heads. This precautionary measure will help you prevent running over them.
  • In the case of aerating for the first time, you need to go over the line twice. The first time goes along parallel lines, whereas moving perpendicular to the parallel lines.
  • Using an aerator, go over the entire lawn for the light compacted soil.
  • After moving the aerator through the soil, there would be chunks of soil. You need to leave those chunks behind so that they provide the nutrients back to the soil.
  • After the completion of the process, add water.
  • Soil improvers provide appropriate nutrients; they strengthen the soil and make it compact. The health of the lawn is improved with the help of these improvers.
  • It is necessary to water the lawn after every 2 to 3 days after the aeration procedure. It helps in efficient recovery and provides all the necessary nutrients for soil nourishment.


It’s a great thing to let the fresh grass breathe. It is also refreshing to one’s mind. If you want to clean your lawn, better go for both dethatching and aeration. It is essential to restore the lost lush of your lawn and to avoid any kind of lawn disease.

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