How to Dethatch Your Lawn The grass may not always be greener where you live, but there are plenty of ways that you can help Mother Nature to keep your lawn beautiful throughout the year, and dethatching is one of them. Thatch is not soil; it's actually the residue of broken-down grass, weeds, roots and other organic matter that clumps onto the roots of the grass in your lawn. This residue blocks water, air and necessary nutrients from getting to those roots. If the thatch isn't removed, the grass in your lawn can literally suffocate. Thatch layers can accumulate so that they're several inches thick. If your lawn is looking brown and tired, it's a good idea to pull up a small clump of grass and check the roots. You may find that a thick accumulation of thatch is the culprit. The best time of year to dethatch a lawn is typically right before or during the season when the grass is growing most vigorously; that way, it will recover from the dethatching process more quickly. Likewise, it's best to complete the dethatching process about a month before the end of the mowing season. If you have a small lawn, dethatching can easily be a do-it-yourself project. If you have a large lawn or field, however, then it's best to hire a professional gardener or landscaper with an industrial-grade, motorized thatching rake. What Kind of Tools Should You Use? For any kind of dethatching job, you'll need a thatching rake. A thatching rake has a long, horizontal metal attachment with two different blade types. On one side, the blades are slightly curved in order to facilitate loosening up the soil. On the other side, the blades have straight edges to pull and rake the thatch up. A good thatching rake also has an adjustable blade attachment so you can dig more deeply into the soil. If you're experienced with using commercial-grade equipment and you don't mind tackling large jobs, you might consider renting a motorized, commercial-grade thatch rake, also called a power rake. Somewhat resembling a lawn mower, a power rake can dethatch a large yard or field in just a matter of minutes. Power rakes are sometimes available for rent from hardware stores, and will help you do the job at top speed if you've got a large area to cover. Things to Do Before You Dethatch: • Mow the grass to approximately half of its height so that you'll be able to see the thatch layer clearly. • Place small landscaping flags on areas where there are irrigation heads and other protruding objects; otherwise, the thatching rake can damage them. • Check the moisture content of the soil. Slightly moist soil is usually easier to dethatch. If the lawn is too moist, however, the thatching rake won't be able to slice effectively through the soggy soil, and the thatch won't separate. If you're doing the job properly, you'll be able to see the thatch separate itself from the soil and fall back onto the surface of the lawn. While you're dethatching, it helps to go back over the places where you've already been, so that you can ensure that you've taken care of every square inch of your lawn. After you've thoroughly dethatched and opened up your lawn, it's the perfect time to reseed it. A bluegrass/fescue/rye blend works beautifully for Midwest and Northeast regions, while Bahiagrass and Bermudagrass are popular choices for lawns in the Southeast and Southwest. Northwestern lawns prefer tall fescues, fine fescues or ryegrasses, depending upon how far north or south you are. While you're reseeding, it's a good idea to spread the grass seed evenly across the lawn with a regular grass rake. Angle the rake slightly sideways and use a gentle turning motion to work the grass seed into the soil. After seeding, it's also a good idea to treat the lawn with a good brand of pre-emergent crab grass control that's enriched with a fertilizer. Make sure, however, that the product you use is formulated for new seed growth. Things You Should Do After Dethatching and Seeding Your Lawn: • Water the dethatched lawn often to help the grass recover; this is especially true if you've also reseeded the lawn. • Dispose of the thatch by using it as compost or mulch; however, you should only do this if you haven't used any weeding/nutrient chemicals on the grass for at least four weeks. Within just a couple of weeks after dethatching, you'll start to see a marked improvement in your lawn as new, healthy green grass begins to emerge. If you've done a thorough job of dethatching, the good news is that you won't have to do it as part of your regular maintenance. As long as you remember to water, fertilize, mow and aerate your lawn on a regular basis, you can safely put away your dethatching tools for at least another year. Sources 1. Bayer Advanced: How to Dethatch a Lawn http://www.bayeradvanced.com/articles/how-to-dethatch-a-lawn 2. This Old House: How to De-Thatch a Lawn http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,20052307,00.html 3. Pennington.com: Recommended Grasses for Regional Climates http://www.pennington.com/resources/grass-seed/grass-101/recommended-grasses-for-regional-climates
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