Maintaining healthy thatching levels is an essential part of keeping your lawn the envy of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it's not always a simple process. There's a lot homeowners need to know to keep their thatching under control.
Thatch is a layer of dead vegetable matter, earth, and debris that accumulates on your lawn above the soil level. It accumulates on the ground, below your grass, slowly consolidating into a semi-solid mat.
A very small amount of thatch is normal and often signals a healthy lawn. However, if it starts to accumulate, it can become a problem. When that accumulation forms, its individual parts don't decompose. The twigs, straw, leaves, and clippings from nearby plants get compressed into a single mass. Instead of quickly dissolving into rich fertilizer, this material becomes stagnant and solid.
If a thick level of thatch starts accumulating, it can start choking your grass. It prevents water, fertilizer, and sunlight from reaching much of your lawn. It also discourages new seeds from sprouting. The thicker thatch gets, the faster it grows, eventually forming a tough, spongy layer over your entire lawn.
The process of dethatching can be labor-intensive and destructive to your lawn. It's usually better to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. The first thing you can do it to regularly rake up fallen plant materials, such as pine straw, bark, leaves, and sticks. Remove this excess material from your lawn.
When you mow, you usually want to leave the grass clippings if possible. These provide valuable fertilization and usually decompose very quickly. However, sometimes even these clipping can accumulate into thatching if there's too much of it. In that case, you can try using a mulching attachment on your lawn mower. This will disintegrate the clippings into tiny particles that will dissolve very quickly into soil.
If a layer of thatch does accumulate, you'll want to identify and remove it as quickly as possible. Periodically check under your grass for a mass of material covering the earth. Usually, you should be able to see your soil without too much effort. If you can't, you need to consider dethatching.
There are several dethatching strategies you can employ. However, the best choice for individuals is often just working in the lawn with a thatching rake. These tools are specially designed to dig into a thatch layer and pull it up off the ground. Systematically dethatch your entire yard with this rake, digging up accumulated plant matter. It will probably make a bit of a mess for a short time, but that's ok. Your lawn will recover. Rake up and dispose of your dug-up thatch, then water and fertilize your lawn afterwards. If you're still having trouble with dethatching, call a professional lawn care company to help you with the problem.