The Whats, Whys and Hows of Dethatching

Mar 10, 2023
The Whats, Whys and Hows of Dethatching

Dethatching. It’s far from the most exciting word in lawn care, but one of the most essential terms for homeowners to know and understand.

It’s also no homeowner’s idea of a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but, for at-risk lawns, it’s an absolutely necessary chore every once in a thatchy grass while.

Dethatching keeps thatch from turning your lawn into looking like the Australian Outback, a buffalo’s zoo enclosure or a wild, unmanaged mess.

Why and when do I need to dethatch? When you can’t see or reach your grass easily through a thick patch of thatch, it’s time to dethatch your lawn.

“When the layer of organic thatch becomes too thick and impenetrable, it’s time to dethatch your lawn,” The Spruce’s David Beaulieu writes. “You should not overlook the importance of dealing with problematic thatch because the long-term health of your grass hinges on dethatching.”

But what exactly is this potentially troublesome lawn nuisance?

What is Thatch?

By definition, thatch is a mat-like layer of organic materials such as dead grass, rhizomes, mulched leaves and other debris that has not yet decomposed. It accumulates below the green surface of the lawn on top of the soil at the base of the blades. When it gets a half inch or thicker, it can become major league health trouble for your grass.

What is Dethatching?

In action, dethatching is the careful roughing up of your lawn to remove the dead and unwanted grass and organic material from the previous year. Thankfully, the only equipment needed for a successful and thorough dethatch is a simple rake. We recommend using a manual rake (or steel times) as a safer option to a power rake, which can tear into a thick thatch layer. Bow or convex (dethatching rakes) are also good options.

How to Dethatch

Aggressively rake away the dormant grass to allow fresh grass to breathe and grow uninhibited.

We recommend this three-step dethatching process:

  • Use the rake to crisscross the lawn with a series of parallel passes.
  • As you take, push the rake times down deeply through the grass so that they reach the thatch layer that is beneath.
  • Clean up the loose thatch that is dislodged from the base of the grass blades.

Advantages of Dethatching

Dethatching, as Devin LeBeau of Creekside Turf Management notes, gets water and airflow down to the grass’ surface. Dethatching encourages grass roots to grow deeper. It also stops fungus from emerging later in the summer.

“For optimal results, start with dethatching service, followed by mowing the lawn short around three inches and then getting Pre-Emergent Fertilizer with nutrients,” LeBeau recommends. “This is the perfect combination to accelerate your lawn’s green up in the spring.”

What Lawns Need Dethatching?

Again, not all lawns need dethatching. It’s recommended for yards with an abundance of growth, heavy irrigation or new sod installation from last year. Dethatching is not recommended annually but strategically when needed.

“Keep your grass lush and green by dethatching it when needed,” Better Homes & Gardens’ Viveka Neveln recommends.

It isn’t many people’s idea of a fun afternoon outdoors, but smart dethatching can do wonders for your lawn’s health and look this spring and summer.

“Knowing how, why and when to dethatch your lawn can keep your grass healthy,” Beaulieu stresses.

For more information on dethatching your lawn, contact Creekside Turf Management for a free consultation.