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Here’s How to Remove That Pesky Thatch Layer From Your Lawn
You may have noticed a build-up of organic debris or dead vegetative material within the profile of your grass. This material, known as ‘thatch’, builds up naturally as your lawn produces organic matter at a faster rate than it can be broken down.
Over time, the height of your lawn can increase to the point that it becomes quite unsightly, and you’ll think you might need to mow your lawn immediately. But actually, there’s a much faster way to remove that thatch layer.
So What Do You Do if Your Lawn Is Overrun With Thatch?
Dethatching is the removal of lawn thatch to allow air and nutrients to reach your soil base and feed your lawn. Reducing thatch also prevents waterlogged roots and allows proper drainage, helping reduce the risk of fungal infection.
Dethatching works only for warm-season grasses such as Sir Walter Buffalo and Eureka Kikuyu Premium VG and couch varieties such as Santa Ana and Tiftuf. Typically, warm-season grasses are runner grasses, unlike grasses with seeds grown in cool seasons.
When to Thatch? In Spring!
If your lawn feels ‘spongy’ to walk on, it may be time for action! However, dethatching should only be done once a year towards the end of spring (around October/November in Melbourne), when the lawn is in a phase of growth and will be able to recover quickly and effectively. Do not do this in the cooler months, as the lawn will not be able to recover.
3 Signs Your Lawn Needs Dethatching
Difficulty penetrating the soil
If you find it hard to sink a screwdriver or other sharp tool into the soil, it could indicate that your lawn needs dethatching. A layer of thatch can prevent water, air, and nutrients from reaching the roots of the grass.
If you notice pools of water on your lawn after rain or watering, it may be a sign that your lawn needs dethatching. A thick thatch layer can prevent water from soaking into the soil, leading to poor drainage and waterlogging.
If your lawn looks thin and patchy despite regular water and fertilisation, it may be a sign that it needs dethatching. A tough thatch layer can prevent new grass from growing and thriving by blocking sunlight, moisture, and nutrients from reaching the roots.
How to Dethatch Your Lawn?
Here are a few different ways to remove thatch from your lawn.
Mow Low and Remove Grass Clippings
Towards the end of spring, mow your lawn, then lower the mower height by one or two notches and mow again. Ensure you keep the catcher on your mower to catch all grass clippings.
Repeat this method until you have cut down to the ground for Couch or Kikuyu varieties or just until you have cut 60 – 70% of the Buffalo varieties. As mentioned above, however, be careful to do this at the end of spring so that the lawn is in the right condition to recover.
Use a Dethatching Rake for Grass Roots
Raking with a dethatching rake is one of the easiest and least invasive ways to remove dead leaf material, grass stems and built up thatch. Dethatching rakes dig in to pull the thatch out from within the grass. However, if you have a substantial thatch build-up, you may need to look at a more disruptive method.
Use a Specialised Dethatching Machine
You can hire or purchase specialised dethatching machines – vertical cutters, verticutters, or a power rake. These tools make light work of removing the thatch layer. This can be a good option if you have a large lawn or if the thatch layer hasn’t been tended to for a number of years and is especially thick. Be sure to find out the recommended cutting height for your lawn type and follow the instructions carefully.
After dethatching your lawn, it will be in pretty poor shape. Make sure you rake up all the loosened organic debris and fertilise your lawn to help it to recover.
Thatching Warm Season Grasses
Dethatching Buffalo Grass
Dethatching Buffalo grass can be done using various tools, such as a dethatching rake or a power rake. It's essential to remove the thatch without damaging the living grass underneath. After dethatching, watering and fertilising the lawn is recommended to promote new growth.
Regular dethatching can help keep a lawn healthy and lush by promoting proper drainage, airflow, and nutrient uptake. It can also prevent the buildup of thatch that can lead to more severe issues down the line.
Dethatching Kikuyu Grass
If you've got Kikuyu grass in your yard, you know how well it can thrive in warm, sunny climates. But even the best grass needs some maintenance now and then. Enter dethatching – removing the dead grass, leaves, and other debris that can accumulate in a lawn over time. Kikuyu grass is no different, and dethatching can help promote healthier growth and a thicker lawn. While it may initially seem intimidating, dethatching Kikuyu grass is fairly simple.
Dethatching Couch Grass
Couch grass can be quite invasive and is notorious for growing excessively thick layers of thatch, making it difficult for water and nutrients to penetrate the roots. Fear not; dethatching your couch grass lawn can be done with elbow grease and the right tools. You can successfully restore your lawn to its former lush glory with patience and care. So buckle up, grab your rake, and get ready to get your hands dirty - your lawn will thank you!