Updated: May 29, 2021
In this post we'll discuss this vital process that can have a big impact on your lawn's health.
Most lawns benefit from annual dethatching and aeration. This process addresses an issue that most lawns face: excess thatch. Dethatching addresses a thick layer of thatch that can prevent water and nutrients from reaching your lawns roots.
Thatch and Dethatching
Over time, little bits and pieces of grass die and gather just above the soil. This is called thatch. A little bit of thatch can be beneficial. It's organic material that is broken down by microbes in the soil. But often, thatch builds up too fast for natural processes to break it down. It forms a barrier, keeping moisture and air from going where your grass needs it. A half-inch or more of thatch can weaken your lawn.
Annual or sometimes bi-annual dethatching can keep the thatch layer of your lawn at a healthy level. You can tell that your lawn may benefit from dethatching if it feels a bit spongy or if it is difficult to dig through the thatch to find the soil below.
When To Dethatch
The best times to remove thatch are in the spring and fall. In the spring, it is best to make sure that your lawn has had a chance to recover from winter and is best done after your second mowing. In the fall timing can be a bit less sensitive as long as the grass is live and established. Dethatching works best when your grass is green, but when weather conditions are relatively dry. Dry thatch is much easier to clean up than wet thatch.
Preparing to Dethatch
Research the available options for lawn detatching equipment. We have many different options available ranging from small walk behind units to self bagging units and lawn tractor mounted machines. Just prior to dethatching you should mow your lawn to half the height you would normally cut it to.
Standard Walk Behind Dethatcher
The walk behind power rake is the classic and most commonly used piece of equipment for dethatching lawns. It utilizes a gas engine to spin a spring tine reel that pulls the thatch out of the lawn. This is a highly effective piece of equipment for removing excess thatch. Thatch will be lifted out of the lawn and left laying on surface of the lawn. It is necessary to pick this thatch up after power raking. This can be accomplished by hand raking, using a piece of lawn sweeping equipment, or various types of lawn vacuums. This is the simplest and most cost effective solution to lawn thatch removal.
Power Rake With Bag
Very similar in design and function to the standard walk behind, the power rake with bag features a gas engine to spin a spring tine reel or flail blades that pull the thatch out of the lawn. This machine features a bagging system to catch a majority of the thatch it pulls out of the lawn. Because this machine only uses momentum from the rake to bag the thatch there will still be some manual clean up involved after power raking, however it will be less than with a standard power rake.
Tow Behind Power Rake
Towable power rakes use the same flail or spring tine technology as the walk behind machines, but give the added convenience of being towable. Use your lawn tractor or ATV to tow this machine. It works great for larger lawns. Thatch will need to be picked up after use so a towable sweeper or vac system is recommended.
Lawn Tractor with Dethatcher Attachment and Vac System
This is the Cadillac dethatching system. It's a bit more expensive than the other options, but it is the easiest and fastest way to go. The lawn tractor is equipped with a front mounted spring tine rake and a powerful trac vac system allowing you to detchatch and vac at the same time. This is an excellent option for large lawns or to save time.