Dethatching a lawn is a process whereby gardeners remove the thatch layer from their lawn. The objective of this is usually to make it easier for water, air and nutrients to reach the grass's roots. It also helps with weed control and fertilization.
We've created this guide for beginners who want to know more about how to dethatch their own lawns in order to maintain them better. We've included some helpful tips on what you need before getting started, the best time of year, and an overview on how long it takes-you'll be surprised!
What is a Dethatcher?
Lawn dethatchers may be used to remove dead grass from turfgrass or to reduce build-up of moss in your lawn by removing competition for water and nutrients. Dethatchers should only be used when grass/weeds need to be replaced or for certain types of weeding or pre-emergent weed control. Never use dethatchers on new seeding unless the seed is sown first and dethatching takes place immediately after germination. If you dethatch too early, you will undo the work of the lawn seeding process, and your dethatching efforts will be wasted.
Is Dethatching Necessary?
Often dethatching is necessary, but not always. If your lawn is already thin or uneven it's probably best to dethatch. It'll help get the soil back into shape again and make your grass grow better without spending too much time or money on fertilizers or seed. Thatch is made up of roots, stems, weeds and anything else that ends up in the lawn over time including pine needles, acorns and leaves. If you're dethatching for the first time you might want to hire a dethatcher for $45-$75/hour which will vary depending on where you live. However if your lawn isn't in bad shape then dethatching might not be worth it since dethatchers are usually heavy and remove the grass in the dethatching process. If your lawn is in good enough shape to dethatch, you can do it yourself with a dethatcher or hire someone.
When to Dethatch Lawn / Best Time to Dethatch Lawn
There will be times when you will need to dethatch your lawn and there will also be times when dethatching is not necessary. Knowing the difference can save you money and time. Dethatching is the process of removing the thatch layer from your lawn. Thatch, or dead grass and soil, forms on most lawns over time as a result of several things: dogs digging in it, foot traffic by you or others, fertilizer burn, winter injury and pest damage just to name a few reasons why thatch occurs. If the problem with thatch becomes bad enough then dethatching should be done before it gets worse.
Different opinions exist about dethatching. One camp says dethatch in the fall, while some dethatch twice a year. And dethatchers are available for rent some times of the year. The best time to dethatch your lawn is when dethatching is truly necessary and not before it becomes necessary.
If you suspect that thatch has built up on your lawn then digging into the soil with your finger can help you determine if dethatching is needed. If the soil feels spongy or goes down more than 1/2 inch, then dethatching should certainly be considered at least once every three years depending upon how bad the problem is. Once you have decided to dethatch your lawn there are several methods of doing so including dethatchers which are also called dethatching rakes.
How to Dethatch Lawn
It is important to dethatch your lawn when dethatching is necessary because thick thatch prevents water, air and nutrients from reaching the grass roots for use in healthy growth. Thick thatches can also harbor insects like chinch bugs and grubs that can damage lawns by feeding on their roots, making it impossible for grass to grow properly again without first dethatching. Dethatchers come with rotating tines or blades which remove the dead grass and soil allowing it to be collected into piles of debris for removal by shoveling or bagging. Once dethatched, some say you should wait two weeks before fertilizing; however spreader settings will need to be adjusted before fertilizing. The dethatched lawn should be watered immediately following dethatching to help remove debris from grass blades and leaves thatch in clumps that can still damage your turf if left behind. If dethatching is necessary in the fall, then dethatch with a dethatcher, dethatching rake or power dethatcher when soils are moist but not wet so they provide better traction for machines moving over the lawn. Dethatchers work best on level ground. If you have problems with standing water after dethatching, correct drainage issues before dethatching again by grading soil to direct water away from the area where you will dethatch next time. Closely-spaced passes with a power dethatcher are the best dethatching method for lawns that have not been dethatched in several years. This dethatcher can be rented or even bought by some people at certain times of year. Dethatchers work well on lawns that are level with no slopes more than 4 percent (one foot in twenty), where grass has grown excessively tall, and for heavy soils with large amounts of thatch. Dethatchers do not control weeds or poor grass varieties, both of which can remain after dethatching if you leave them behind without first dethatching. Begin dethatching again when light green shoots appear on your lawn as this means grass is growing again and any remaining problem issues were removed along with the dead grass last dethatched.
How Often Should You Dethatch Your Lawn?
Dethatch your lawn every one to two years depending on grass type and climate conditions. Heat-loving grass types may require dethatching more often while cooler, heavier grass varieties may dethatch only once a year or less. Do not dethatch your lawn immediately after fertilization since dethatchers can damage the fertilizer you just applied on your lawn. Apply water first so that it can dilute the remaining fertilizer left in the soil before dethatching is done. This way, dethatcher tines will not likely cut through fertilizer granules or pick them up during dethatching making these fertilizers less efficient than they should be for promoting plant growth. If your soil is already well fertilized and your lawn is healthy and you dethatch at least once a year, then you don't need to fertilize again. But if dethatching will be done after one or two years, it's best to apply fertilizer before dethatching so that the dethatched grass blades can take up nutrients immediately upon dethatching for faster recovery.
TIP: Make sure you're not dethatching too often as this might damage your grass type by removing its roots. The solution is to aerate your soil before dethatching and maintain proper fertility levels - both of which will keep dethatch frequency under control and allow better root development (which means stronger and healthier lawns) over time.
Dethatcher and Aerator
A dethatcher is an attachment that can be attached to a lawn mower. It has sharp blades that slice into the grass, cutting off any deeply rooted shoots or runners in the grass' thatch layer, dethatching it. This detaching process allows air and sunlight to penetrate down into the soil, promoting healthier growth of grass roots. A dethatcher can also be used to aerate your lawn .
- A dethatcher may also be called a "lawn dethatcher" or a "grass dethatcher."
A dethatcher is typically placed on top of the lawn mower's deck before dethatching commences. Some types of dethatchers are handheld units that one pushes across the surface of their lawn. The dethatcher is dragged over the grass in straight lines, dethatching the lawn as it goes. To prevent any damage or injury to your lawn, dethatch it when its grass is dry and the weather is sunny and warm. This dethatching process should not disturb any small plants that may be in your yard; if you do find that they have been affected by dethatching, put down mulch over them to keep them safe from sun exposure and heat damage.
Pros and Cons of Dethatching Lawn
The main reason to dethatch your lawn is to get rid of all that build up in between the blades. Thatch is composed of both living and dead plant matter, like roots and stems. When too much thatch builds up in your lawn, it prevents water, air, sunlight, fertilizer and other necessary materials from making their way into grass blades. This can cause root damage if left unattended for long enough. Thatch also contributes to pest problems like grubs, chinch bugs and mole crickets. If you dethatch a lawn once a year, or if you dethatch a lawn occasionally to get rid of all the dead grass in between the blades, it will prevent these pest issues from becoming a problem. However, dethatching a lawn is time-consuming and can be hard on your lawn. If you dethatch too often , the lawn could thin out over time as more and more thatch gets pulled away from grass roots. Also, dethatchers can cause damage if they're not used correctly. Organic matter like thatch is very vulnerable to decomposition during hot weather temperatures, so leaving dethatched grass clippings lying around for an extended period of time can smother grass, which means dethatching in the fall is always better than dethatching in hot weather.
Dethatching Before and After