Spring time is the prime time to get your lawn ready for summer barbecues! Gregory offers an array of lawn care services such as aeration, overseeding and fertilizing, and our lawn care team would like to offer homeowners some tips on how to manage and control thatch levels to get your yard summer ready!

What is thatch and how does it affect your turf?

Thatch is a buildup of dead and live grass that accumulates between the turf and the soil. This layer of buildup occurs because organic materials accumulate faster than microorganisms can break it down.

Photograph courtesy of GardenMyths.com

A little thatch can be beneficial for your lawn is even considered normal. It can act as an insulator against temperature changes and protect against foot traffic, but a thick layer prohibits proper flow of nutrients, oxygen and water.  

Removing thatch

Thick layers of thatch are best removed using machinery known as vertical mowers, power rakes, verticutters or dethatchers. These machines have vertically spinning blades that cut through the thatch layer and may be available for rent at your local home improvement store, garden center or equipment rental company. You can also use a rake to dethatch your lawn. 

Dethatch your lawn with a variety of tools.

According to Howstuffworks.com, you should remove thatch when the turf has the best chance to recover. For warm season grasses such as zoysia or bermuda, the best time to dethatch is late spring, and for cool season grasses such as fescue or ryegrass, you should dethatch in late summer or early fall. Ideally, the grass should have at least 45 days of growing time left in order to recover from the stress dethatching causes. It was also advised that dethatching should not be done during times of drought, heat waves, or when wet. And lastly, you should not attempt to remove thatch in one treatment.


How can I prevent thatch?

Preventing thatch altogether isn’t something you want to do. Thatch can actually be beneficial to your lawn! It’s only when excessive buildup occurs that it becomes a problem. According to University of Massachusetts Amherst, to keep thatch at a suitable level, you should create a sustainable habitat for earthworms and microorganisms. Thatch occurs when organic materials accumulate faster than they are broken down. Having the microorganisms and earthworms in your lawn will help speed up the decay rate and keep thatch levels down.

To keep thatch levels low, use a mower with a bag system.

A “suitable level” is considered ½” – ¾”. Anything more than that and you should consider dethatching. Josh Kellough, a turf management specialist at Gregory, stated: “Thatch is a good thing, but excessive thatch is bad. You can keep thatch at a manageable level by mowing with a bagging system.”

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