Does your lawn feel spongy or bouncy when you walk across it? Do parts of the lawn have weak or thin growth or pale in color? This is not uncommon and is often a sign that your lawn needs dethatching.
Many people plan to dethatch as soon as the snow melts in the spring but dethatching during the wet season may cause unnecessary damage. Also, not all lawns need dethatching. Here is a quick guide about dethatching and overseeding your lawn.
What Is Thatch?
As old grass roots and rhizomes biodegrade, they form a dense layer of thatch. This nestlike collection of living and dead plant material forms at the base of the grass. Thatch does not form from grass clippings on your lawn; in fact, as grass clippings decompose, they also help old roots and rhizomes decompose, which reduces the amount of thatch. A thin layer of thatch—less than 1/2 inch—is beneficial to your lawn. It acts like mulch, preserves moisture, and insulates plant crowns from fluctuations in temperature. It also allows water, nutrients, and air to permeate the soil to bring nourishment to plant roots.
When decomposition on the surface of the lawn is obstructed—for example, by a layer of leaves or pine needles—the thatch layer can grow thicker, sometimes up to 1 inch or more. This keeps the roots of grass from penetrating deeply into the soil and absorbing essential nutrients and fertilizer. Thatch can suffocate roots in heavy rains or during irrigation. In drier, hotter temperatures, the thatch-locked grass roots become stressed and can die. Too much thatch can harbor insects and grass diseases.
Is It Time to Dethatch?
Dethatching will break up that thick barrier of organic matter by slicing through it into the soil. But how do you know if it is time to dethatch your lawn?
Start by taking a test patch. Using a trowel or a small spade, outline a square or circular shape about 3 inches wide by 5 inches deep, and dig up the grass and soil. Place it on its side and measure the layer of thatch; it is easy to spot, thanks to its yellowed, stringy appearance. If this layer 1/2 inch or less, you do not need to dethatch.
Dethatching can be accomplished with manual or power rakes, or with vertical mowers (verticutters) that slice below the surface, through the thatch, and into the soil. For more consistent, faster results hire Homescape Now to dethatch your lawn, especially if the thatch layer is more than 2 inches thick.
When to Overseed?
Planting new grass seed directly into existing turf, without completely removing the turf, is known as overseeding. This helps fill in any bare patches caused by dethatching. It will also give your lawn a lush, vibrant green look, and will improve the density of your lawn.
Premium grass seed is the best choice for overseeding. This is especially true for older lawns, which were often established with grass varieties that are more prone to damage from insects, disease, and drought. Modern varieties of grass seed have been developed to withstand these conditions. They often need less fertilizer, water, and pesticides to keep them looking healthy and thick.
Before overseeding, be sure to check for underlying problems like poor or compacted soil, improper drainage, poor air circulation, low soil pH, and insufficient exposure to sunlight. These will cause even the best-quality grasses to deteriorate over time.
Keeping Your Lawn Healthy, Year after Year
Knowing the signs of stress that come with the buildup of thatch will allow you to stay on top of the problem. In the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, if your lawn does need dethatching, simply contact Homescape Now. They ensure that your lawn remains healthy and beautiful for many years of backyard relaxation.