Lawn Thatch: What it is and How to Remove it
One of the most common aspects of lawn care is removing a layer of thatch found in your lawn. With no way to fully prevent thatch buildup, all homeowners will face lawn thatch year after year. While many people may not even know what this means, you are likely treating it without realizing.
What is Lawn Thatch?
Found beneath the plant, lawn thatch is a layer of dead turfgrass tissue. It is located between the plant and the roots and soil below it. Thatch naturally occurs when parts of the turfgrass plant do not break down and decompose fast enough. Though we know grass blades and their clippings decompose quickly, not all parts of the plant do. For example, the roots, stems, stolons, and rhizomes take much longer to break down. However, once they do, like the clippings, they will add plenty of nutrients back into the soil.
Buildups Of Lawn Thatch
Though typically this layer is completely harmless, there are situations that can lead to it growing too thick. These thick buildups of lawn thatch can cause significant problems for your lawn. As you can imagine, this lawn thatch can potentially block nutrients from reaching the soil beneath. Lack of essential nutrients and, in some cases, sufficient water, can cause your grass to suffer. It can also become more susceptible to diseases and insect infestations. In addition, when the layers of thatch build up too much, it can create a spongy surface. When mowing your lawn, this layer can cause your mowers’ wheels to sink. This means you could accidentally scalp your lawn thanks to that thatch layer.
In order to avoid these kinds of unhealthy buildups, there is something you can do to keep your lawn thatch under control. In fact, you likely do this without even knowing you are! By simply raking the fallen leaves in the cooler season, you are helping loosen up the thick layer of thatch that has developed over the course of the year. If you have no leaves on your lawn, grab a leaf rake and gift your lawn a nice, vigorous raking. Dethatching is the process of removing thatch. Keep that thatch layer healthy and thin enough to allow nutrients, sunlight, and water to reach the soil!
Sometimes, when you are dealing with a particularly thick layer of thatch, even raking it doesn’t make a big enough difference. In these severe cases, it is highly recommended that you aerate your lawn. This will allow air flow in to your grass’ roots and will create openings for nutrients to access the soil. Since aerating isn’t usually required more than once or twice per year, there really is no need for the average homeowner to purchase an aerator. However, Home Depot has a great rental program in place and you can usually find an aerator to rent at a reasonable rate.
Though this may all seem like news to you, unless you are facing problems caused by a thick layer of thatch, you really have no reason to worry. There are many ways to keep lawn thatch under control and it likely won’t add to your chore list. However, keep in mind that one of the best ways to keep your thatch at bay is by avoiding the use of pesticides. Pesticides can actually harm earthworms. These earthworms are exactly what your lawn needs as they eat away at the layer of thatch on your lawn. These little guys are sure to do their best to keep your lawn thatch under control!