So, you’ve been maintaining your lawn as much as possible through Spring, Summer and Autumn. Yet you step out onto the lawn on a crisp late Autumn day, only to find it feels quite spongy.
Could it be a thatch issue?
Well the answer is ‘yes’ it could be thatch. But that doesn’t mean it’s an issue.
In fact up to 1cm (1/2 inch) or less of thatch can actually benefit the lawn. If you have more than that, you’ll want to take action.
Find out when is the best time to do it is further down in this article.
But first, let’s look at how you can manage and remove it
Best way to remove lawn thatch
There are light ways to remove thatch and more intense ways. Of course, the more intense way requires a bit more work either side of the actual de-thatching process, including overseeding and possibly a layer of top dressing. Whereas if you only have a bit of thatch, which is likely the case if you keep on top of your lawn, then a bit of light de-thatching will have much less hurtfull impact on the turf itself.
As well as physical tasks, there are some organic materials you can use for managing and keeping thatch at bay, I’ll touch on those too.
Manually raking thatch out
Manually raking your lawn is by far the cheapest option and a fairly quick way of removing thatch. You can pick up a rake for next to nothing.
However, if you really want to get into the thatch and you’ve not removed it for some time, it will definitely take a good amount of elbow grease. Probably some sweat and tears to go with it. In fact, if it as been a while, you probably don’t want to do it manually – keep reading.
There are various types of rake on the market – all of which can be handy for different reasons when it comes to lawn care.
Using a solid landscaping rake
The first one and best for removing thatch is the solid rake, also known as a landscaping rake. This one will get right into the undergrowth and pull up much of the stubborn stuff too – including moss.
Using a traditional fine metal tine rake
These rakes are slightly more light weight and will do less damage to your grass blades. If you only have a small amount of thatch, then using a fine metal tine rake will do the job nicely. What’s more, you can be doing this all through the year – except for when there’s frost or snow of course.
Using a solid leaf rake
This rake does exactly what it says on the tin – removes leaves from the lawn. Therefore I don’t recommend using this one for getting rid of thatch.
When to manually rake your lawn thatch
The best time to rake is on a dry day. Only rake intensely during the growing season – March to October. As we reach the cool seasons, then only do light raking as the grass will struggle to recover properly.
This is by far the harshest of methods but also BY FAR the most effective. If I’m doing a renovation on my lawn – I always choose this method. Not only that – I highly recommend investing in an electric scarifier – especially if your lawn is over 50m2.
If you haven’t done anything in recent years to revive your lawn, then you should go over it with an electric scarifier.
After using one of these – you’re going to have an immense amount of ‘crap’ pulled up from the undergrowth. You can use a lawn mower or rake to collect it up and either put it in the compost heap or recycle the remains.
Sometimes you will need to make things worse before they can get better, so if you have any concerns about wrecking your lawn – read my article on how to revive your grass after scarification.
When to electrically scarify your lawn thatch
Some people warn against de-thatching in the spring because they feel it can hurt the grass layer more than benefit it. I have done it in Spring and then seeded and the outcome was great. You definitely don’t want to do it in the late Autumn or Winter because the grass is already under enough stress and won’t grow back well.
Adding compost layer or top dressing
Applying compost at 2kg to 4kg per m2 can be fairly costly but it’s one of the most organic ways of getting rid of thatch. It’s important to remember that with compost, you’re not getting rid of any dead material from the under layer. Compost is one of the reasons that lawns cared for 100% organically don’t usually have problems with thatch or moss.
What’s happening when you add compost is it’s increasing the microbial activity in the soil, while helping to breakdown the thatch over time.
Of course, doing it this way will take time and you may need to apply compost a few times before you reach the optimum amount.
However, if you’re aiming to a 100% organic lawn care – and many people are – then applying compost should certainly be a hugely important part of your yearly lawn care tasks.
Make sure the compost is peat-free too. And if you want to avoid marks on your carpet, try not to walk on the lawn after dressing it with compost.
When to add compost to de-thatch your lawn
Compost is an organic material that can be applied at any time of year without hurting your beloved grass. That said, I’d recommend avoiding do anything if frost or snow is present. That’s because you will need to brush it in and frost will stress it out enough without adding more stress at this time.
Applying compost tea regularly
Compost tea is rarely talked about in the lawn care . Yet it’s also seen by some as an absolutely essential part of an organic lawn care programme. Compost tea is exactly how it sounds. It’s compost brewed in water over several hours to create a liquid solution that has extracted all the nutrients and power from the compost material.
Regular applications of compost tea can do wonders for the soil and can also help to break down the thatch layer underneath the lawn.
It’s super easy to get started with compost tea. All you need is a bucket, a jute sack to hold the compost and some water to put the jute sack in. See this article for more help – The Best Compost Tea Recipe by Eartheasy
When to add compost tea to remove thatch
Like normal compost, tea can be applied at any time of year. It’s recommended to apply it every 6 weeks all through the year and you’ll definitely need more than 1 or 2 applications before you start seeing results.
What causes lawn thatch & how to reduce & PREVENT thatch
By far the best way to prevent thatch is to go move to a 100% organic care for your lawn all year round. , there are actually some lawn care tasks and products that can cause more thatch to build up than usual.
Remember though, as mentioned above a little bit of thatch isn’t a major problem.
Watering your lawn is a whole different subject. To put it short, try to avoid overwatering your lawn. You can get into so many calculations on how much, how often and how long to water your lawn for – that’s another post though.
For now, just take a note that too much watering can cause thatch build up. You will know when you’ve watered too much because there will be puddles sitting on your lawn that aren’t getting absorbed into the soil.
Don’t add too much chemical nitrogen
This may seem strange coming from a company that sells nitrogen-based fertilisers and lawn feeds but yes, too much nitrogen can can cause a build up of dead matter underneath the healthy grass.
That’s usually why in the cooler months – December to February, we have specialist products that have much less nitrogen in them than the usual Spring & Summer feeds.
Scarify little and often
As mentioned above, scarifying little and often can help significantly to avoiding a build up of thatch underneath the grass layer. So, I’d recommend using a manual rake on a dry day to keep on top of things.
Aerate the lawn to reduce thatch
I’ve written a full post on aeration. So have a read of that too. The benefits of aerating are that it will create good drainage , helping to prevent the build up of dead matter under the ‘sod’ layer.
What’s the difference between de-thatching and core aeration?
In short, de-thatching is the result of scarifying the area while core aeration is an actual activity which helps with drainage. Oh and by the way if you do your aeration regularly, then you’ll find it will create better drainage and help to reduce thatch.