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How to Dethatch a Lawn

Is your yard looking a little tired, brown and dull? Dethatching could be the answer.


Dethatching is one of the quickest, easiest and less-invasive ways to revive your yard. It often requires only a rake and a little elbow grease to slough away the naturally occurring build-up that can leave your yard lacking.


What is Thatch?

Thatch is a layer of mostly dead grass. It also includes leaves, stems and roots that have not decomposed. It lies on top of the soil, but underneath the visible blades of grass. A little thatch is good: It insulates the grass and protects it from soil temperature variations. It also protects the yard from mower and foot traffic, cushions the soil, decreases compaction and slows water loss. About 1/2″ to 3/4” of thatch is OK. If it gets too thick, however, it can block necessary nutrients — such as fertilizers, sunlight and moisture. A thick layer of thatch can also make your lawn more susceptible to diseases and certain insect infestations.


What Causes Thatch?

Although thatch naturally occurs, there are some things that you could be doing in your everyday lawn care routine that may exacerbate thatch buildup. Excessively watering your yard or using fertilizer that is very high in nitrogen can cause thatch to build up. The use of pesticides can also cause thatch buildup. This is because pesticides kill earthworms as well. Earthworms serve an important function in the health of your turf, which includes providing natural aeration and causing a better breakdown of organic matter. Also, certain types of grasses are more prone to thatch build up. For example, Kentucky bluegrass is more susceptible to thatch than is tall fescue grass.


Do I Need to Dethatch?

There are several steps you can take that will help you determine whether or not it is time to dethatch your yard. A simple measurement can do the trick: Using a trowel, remove a layer of grass and soil. Observe the thatch layer and measure its thickness. If the thatch layer is over 3/4-inch deep, it’s time to dethatch. Lawns that have a thick layer of thatch will often feel bouncy or springy. Also, impenetrable lawns — or lawns that are difficult to insert a shovel, wedge a finger in or insert a screwdriver into — may need to be either dethatched or aerated.


What is Dethatching?

Quite simply, dethatching is the removal of thatch from your yard. The removal of the thatch will improve the overall health of your yard and will remove the overgrowth of organic matter that is preventing the sunlight, moisture and fertilizer from penetrating into the roots of the grass blades. Depending on the severity of your thatch situation, this can be done either with the simple use of a regular leaf rake or — in more severe cases of thatch — core aeration.


Dethatching Rakes: Worth It?

There are special rakes available that will help you get the job done. This depends on the size of your lawn, as well as your budget. It’s possible to rent a dethatcher — these are also known as vertical cutters, verticutters or power rakes. Regardless of whether you use a dethatching rake, a motorized option or a regular leaf rake, the outcome will be the same: The tines will allow the thatch to be dug up, loosened and removed.


How do I dethatch my yard?

Before you begin your dethatching project, mow your lawn to half its normal height; do not fertilize before dethatching. Run your rake over the surface of your turf. You should be able to observe and feel the thatch separate. If you are using a motorized dethatcher, make sure you take note of irrigation lines, utility lines or sprinkler heads. After you dethatch your lawn, rake up the loosened hatch and remove it.


Core Aeration

For more severe cases of thatch, it may be necessary to perform aeration. Aeration requires a mechanical device and is a procedure that should be performed on your lawn regularly to improve its health. It removes plugs of soil from your yard and loosens the soil, which allows for air, nutrients and water to penetrate to the roots. These “cores” are usually 2 to 3 inches in length and are about ½-inch in diameter.


You can aerate yourself by renting an aerator, or you can give us a call at Fit Turf. Our aeration service strengthens your yard and primes it for optimal health. We also offer aeration and over-seeding treatment services, which follows the aeration with a round of new turf seed spreading. This fills in any gaps created and encourages growth and fullness. Contact our teams today to learn more about aeration or aeration plus over-seeding in the Denver, CO area.


When Should I Dethatch?

Dethatching should be performed when your yard is actively growing and when the soil is fairly moist. For cool-season grasses, dethatching is best performed in either early fall or early spring. When in doubt about dethatching, aerating or general turf services, give us a call at Fit Turf. We are here to help your lawn reach its peak health and will help you determine which actions are the best to remove thatch buildup.


There are several best practices to employ to ensure that your lawn is happy, healthy and is receiving vital nutrients. Determining overgrown thatch is one of these practices that can help revive a dull lawn. Dethatching is often an easy way to infuse life into a dull yard; however, more severe cases of thatch will require aeration.