Thatch Buildup In Your Lawn
What is thatch and why is it bad for your lawn. Thatch is a build up of dead turf grass crowns, roots and debris that build up faster than they are breaking down. Generally over fertilization and excessive watering help to contribute to this problem. A lot of people are under the misconception that it is caused by grass clippings but that is not true, in fact grass clippings are actually good for your lawn. grass clippings are compose of about ninety percent water and break down very quickly adding nutrients back to the lawn. The important part is you must mow frequently so that there is not a heavy build up of clippings laying on top of the grass blades as this will cause a condition known as matting. This is bad as it mats down the growing grass and smothers it leaving dead spots. Mat can be avoided by frequent mowing.
When thatch reaches a thickness of more than a half an inch it starts to cause problems. Thatch is the perfect breeding ground for insects and disease that will attack and weaken your lawn and leaves it susceptible to invasion by weeds and cause a general decline in your lawn health. Excessive thatch can cause water to run off and prevents fertilizer from getting to the root zone of the grass plants as well as preventing the exchange of gases from the soil. When your lawn gets to this point it is time to do something to restore it’s health.
De-thatching a lawn is by no means an easy or fun task but will payback the investment many time over. A de-thatcher or vericutter is used to slice down through the thatch layer to the top of the soil. The machine has a set of twenty four or twenty six blades set one inch apart on a revolving shaft. As the machine runs over the lawns the blades slice through the thatch and brings it up to the surface. After the thatch has been pulled to the surface it can be raked up or vacuumed and removed. Using a de-thatcher will do very little damage to the lawn but will remove a good portion of the thatch. Do not confuse a de-thatcher with a power rake. A power rake has rake like tines that spin and actually tear the thatch out as well as tear up your lawn. Reserve a power rake for use when you are completely renovating an area.
The proper procedure to follow when de-thatching the lawn is to cut the lawn short first before you run the machine over it. Set the depth on the machine so that the blade just touches the soil surface. Run the machine over the lawn in Only One Direction, going over the lawn twice will ruin your grass. Once you are finished rake up and remove all the thatch from the lawn surface. I always run the lawn mower over the lawn with a bag on it to get material the rake missed. The best time to de-thatch your lawn is in the early fall so that the grass will recover during the moist cool days of the fall.
Once you have your lawn de-thatched avoid frequent light watering and follow the proper fertilizing schedule to avoid a quick build up of thatch again.
Glenn Bronner is a professional grounds keeper with over 35 years of experience. Come join him as he tends the Urban Garden and The Woodland Garden and shares gardening tips and knowledge.At his site.