Updated Jan 13, 2023
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Any homeowner who has hired a professional lawn care company has probably at least heard of dethatching, but the process could still be a mystery to some. In fact, some property owners agree to the service without understanding it, simply because their lawn care professional recommends it. In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what dethatching is, why it’s beneficial, and when you need to do it on your property.
Before we get started, it’s worth mentioning that most homeowners don’t choose to carry out dethatching themselves and instead rely on a professional to complete the work. One of the best lawn care services for dethatching is TruGreen, and we’ll discuss precisely why below.
Dethatching is the process of removing thatch from your lawn. It’s typically done with a dethatching rake, and it serves to improve the quality of your soil and the overall health of your grass. Removing the thatch layer when it gets too thick will help oxygen and water make their way down into the soil, where your grass root system can take in what it needs.
Thatch is the term for the organic material—grass clippings, tree debris, etc.—that accumulates between your grass and your soil surface and gradually decomposes. Thatch is a crucial part of lawn health. It helps moderate the soil temperature, and it retains moisture for your grass to use to thrive.
However, the layer can quickly grow too thick and prevent your grass from uptaking what it needs from the ground. Ultimately, dethatching is a necessary process from time to time to ensure your grass remains healthy and vibrant.
As mentioned above, some thatch is typically healthy for your lawn and can help prevent weeds naturally, but the layer of thatch can get too thick, at which point it becomes detrimental to your lawn health.
Thatch accumulates rather slowly, so the service isn’t required or recommended annually like core aeration. You should aim to dethatch your lawn about once every five years, or if your lawn shows signs of needing the service. We’ll discuss the signs that your lawn needs dethatching later on.
The best time of year to dethatch will be during your lawn’s growing season, which is based on the type of grass you have. This will ensure that your lawn has time to recover from the slight amount of stress dethatching can put on your grass. Dethatching during the growing season will also give your grass the nutrients, oxygen, and water it needs right at the peak of its growth.
Warm-climate grass species—like bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and bahiagrass—should be dethatched in the late spring or early summer. Early spring is an acceptable time as well, but it can put too much stress on your grass if it’s still dormant. You should plan to dethatch cool-season grasses and those that thrive in moderate temperatures—like fescue grass, ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass—in the late summer or early fall.
There are three different ways to dethatch your lawn, but they all involve the same underlying method: using a rake-like tool to pull the thatch out of your lawn.
The first method you can use, and also the simplest, is a manual thatch rake. These tools are specifically designed to reach deep into your lawn to remove the decomposing organic matter. This is the most affordable option, but it’s also the most labor-intensive, by far. Rake the lawn with a decent amount of downward force to pull out the thatch. Make sure you go over your entire lawn evenly and dispose of the lawn thatch once you’re done removing it.
The second method involves renting or purchasing a power rake. Power rakes are machines that look like lawnmowers but have tines that reach down into the thatch layer instead of clippers that cut your grass blades. Power rakes can make quick work of your lawn dethatching project, but you’ll end up spending more, and you need to be very careful to get a power rake that you can set according to your grass type. You can use power rakes as if you’re mowing your lawn. Some even come with a collection bin to make disposing of the thatch a breeze.
The last option is a “vertical mower” or tow-behind dethatcher, also called a verticutter. These dethatchers could be a good option if you have a ride-on mower you can use to tow them. They provide the fastest method for dethatching your lawn, and you’ll spend almost no energy completing the job. However, if you don’t already have a ride-on lawnmower, it won’t be feasible for you to use this method on your property. Once you’re done towing the dethatcher around your property, you can clean up the thatch with a normal leaf rake.
Some homeowners get dethatching and lawn aeration confused, but the two processes couldn’t be more different. Dethatching removes the thatch layer to allow oxygen, nutrients, and water to reach your grass roots more easily. Core aeration removes plugs from your lawn to reduce soil compaction.
Although the processes are different, the two have some similar effects. Both will improve water flow through your soil and increase oxygen levels for your grass. Both processes will also improve lawn health overall.
Dethatching isn’t an annual service like aeration and instead should be done on an as-needed basis. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t know when dethatching is needed! We’ll include some easy ways to tell if your property is in need of dethatching.
First, you should plan to dethatch if the thatch layer ever gets too thick. To measure the thickness of your thatch layer, just follow the steps below:
A thatch layer around a half-inch is beneficial for your lawn. If your thatch layer is thicker, it’s time to dethatch.
Your lawn will also tell you when it needs dethatching because letting the layer of decomposing material get too thick will eventually weaken your grass. Below are some signs that your yard might benefit from dethatching:
Dethatching is hugely beneficial to your lawn. The process, when done correctly and at the right time, can promote overall grass health and improve the appearance of your lawn. Below are the most significant benefits you’ll enjoy when you dethatch your yard.
Preventing thatch problems is typically a better and more affordable way to keep your lawn healthy and your thatch layer in check. If you use the below tips to care for your lawn and regulate the thatch layer, you might only find your lawn needing dethatching every five to ten years. This will ultimately save you money in the long run as well.
Avoiding the tips above will typically lead your thatch layer to unhealthily thick. As a result, you might experience:
As is the case with most lawn care services, you’ll have to decide between a professional lawn care company and a little elbow grease to DIY dethatching. We’ll discuss the benefits and average costs of both options below.
Choosing a professional landscaping company to handle your dethatching is a wise decision if you’re looking for the best results. The service will be more costly than doing the job yourself, but you’ll also save time and won’t have to do the hard work yourself.
TruGreen is one of the best lawn care companies for dethatching if you’re looking for a professional. The technicians are well-trained, have local knowledge and experience, and can couple dethatching with a myriad of other services that can benefit your lawn greatly. TruGreen also backs its work with a customer satisfaction guarantee. The average cost of dethatching a 5,000-square-foot property with TruGreen is approximately $270, although price fluctuations can be significant between lawn sizes and different locations.
If you’re the type of homeowner that prefers to DIY your lawn care solutions and want to save money in the process, you can certainly do the dethatching yourself. You’ll save quite a bit of money, but you will need to do all of the strenuous work yourself.
We recommend going with Sunday Lawn Care for your DIY needs. This company provides the tools and treatments your lawn needs based on a soil test and lets you do the work to save on labor costs. While the company will only be able to supply dethatching equipment, it can also recommend fertilizers and amendments to help maintain a healthy thatch layer going forward.
To learn more: Sunday Review.
Dethatching is a crucial process that helps maintain a healthy layer of decomposing material—called “thatch”—between your grass and your soil. Keeping this layer at a healthy thickness will help maintain healthy grass that gets the proper amount of oxygen, water, and nutrients from the soil. It will also help naturally prevent weeds and lawn pests.
If you’re looking for a professional lawn care company to complete dethatching for you, TruGreen is one of the best options. This company has a ton of additional services you can use to maximize lawn health before and after dethatching. The prices are affordable, and the work is backed by the company’s satisfaction guarantee.
To learn more: TruGreen Review
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Dethatching is the process of removing the thatch, which is the layer of organic material that naturally accumulates between your grass and the soil below.
Dethatching should typically be done about once every five years or so. However, you can check the thatch buildup by digging up a small portion of your lawn with a trowel to measure it. Other signs that dethatching might be necessary include brown patches, dead grass, an increase in weeds or lawn pests, or poor drainage on your property.
In most cases, yes. Thatch naturally accumulates when we cut our lawns, fertilize them, and water them. Thatch is healthy when the layer remains a half-inch thick or less. Beyond that, dethatching becomes necessary to maintain a healthy lawn.
Dethatching is best at the peak of your lawn’s growing season. Cool-season grass species or turfgrasses like tall fescue, bluegrass, and ryegrass should be dethatched in the late summer or early fall. Warm-season grass species like bermuda grass and bahiagrass should be dethatched in the late spring or early summer.
Dethatching before you aerate is generally recommended, as removing the thatch layer will leave more room for the core aerator to open up the soil to maximize root growth.
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