5 Steps to Cultivating Green Lawns After Dethatching

Are you looking at some common lawn problems? How did the thatch get in your grassy area to begin with? After all, when you rolled out the sod, you had the best of intentions, watered it three times a day and forbade little feet from even touching the blades. The University of Rhode Island defines thatch as a “tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves and roots.” Contributing to this mess are improper mowing habits – too often, not often enough – and faulty equipment.

Lawn Maintenance Errors

When was the last time you had your mower blade sharpened? If you cannot answer this question, the odds are good that your mower is an active participant in thatching. Striving for an ueber-green lawn is another problem that leads to thatch buildup. The overuse of fertilizer results in disrupted grass growth cycles. Renewal is greater than breakdown. The result is the tangled mess of living stems and dead bits and pieces all matted together. Combine an overage of nitrogen in the soil with frequent watering sessions that fail to fully penetrate to the root level, and you now also note why shallow roots – some actually only reaching into the thatch – are becoming the norm.

After dethatching: How to care for the Lawn

Add a quarter inch of top soil to the lawn. Take a soil sample first and do not mix and match pH levels. The top soil evens out any holes in the grass surface and gives shallow roots a new habitat. Change lawn mowing habits and equipment. Sharpen the mower blade or replace it. Set it to a height of 2.5 inches. Do not go shorter than this height, unless the cultivar of grass you have specifically requires it. If you are using a mowing service, discuss these changes with the professionals. Fertilize with grass clippings only. Throw out the bags of the nitrogen-rich lawn fertilizer your neighbors swear by. They are a waste of money and did not result in green lawns for you. Instead, use the mulching attachment for your mower – it does have one, right? – and leave the grass clippings behind after a cut. The clippings contain a lot of nitrogen and break down quickly. Best of all, they are free. It is a common fear that grass clippings create — or contribute to — thatch; this is an old wives’ tale. I have been leaving the mulched clippings on my grass for years – in lieu of artificial nitrogen – and have never had another problem with thatch. Water deeply. You might run the sprinklers morning, noon and night, yet still fail to reach the roots. Go for depth rather than frequency. Water once, but make sure the water penetrates the soil all the way to the deepest roots. Cultivate earthworms. The slimy critters are your friends. They voraciously dine on building thatch and invite their friends to join them. Unfortunately, scalping the lawn, failing to water it down to the root level, and applying pesticides to the area send them slithering away to greener pastures. So water deeply, mow as needed, and spot-treat – rather than blanket — with pesticides only if absolutely necessary.


University of Rhode Island: “What is Thatch?”

More by Sylvia Cochran

Citronellas: It’s a Grass, It’s a Tree, It’s a — Geranium?

Best Way to Reseed the Lawn in Fall

DIY Guide to Lawn Aeration

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *