The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and your neighbor is walking around his lawn with bottom-spiked shoes.
Wait, what? You have to do a double take.
Later, he's outraking his yard, with no leaves in sight. Has your neighbor gone mad?
Don't worry, what he's doing is completely normal lawn care.
Thatch can be essential for providing nutrients to a healthy lawn but too much of it can form a barrier preventing moisture, oxygen, and nutrients from entering the soil. This will ultimately hurt new grass growth.
Thatch is the build-up of grass stems, roots, clippings, and debris that accumulate between grass roots and soil in your lawn. Thatch can form by over fertilizing with too much nitrogen, overwatering, and mowing too high.
Is your lawn bouncy or springy? Is there a layer of water on your lawn after it rains? Can you not see the soil between grass sections? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you could have a thick layer of thatch.
If you still aren't sure, the most efficient way to check for thatch is to cut out a section of grass about 3 inches deep. Look for thatch directly under the bottom of the grass blade. If the thatch is more than a 1/2 inch thick, it's time to dethatch your lawn.
There are a few different ways to remove thatch from your yard. There are manual and automatic dethatchers. When choosing the right dethatcher you have to take a few things into consideration, the height of your thatch, the size of your lawn and how often you want to dethatch your lawn.
For smaller lawns with less than 1 inch thick thatch, you should consider using a dethatching rake. This causes the lawn the least amount of stress and operates the same way as a traditional rake. The dethatching rake has tines that dig into the thatch, pulling it forward and lifting it away from your lawn.
An gas-powered dethatcher is a machine with vertical blades that use a powerful force to rake the thatch and lift it away from the surface. These should be used if you have a bigger lawn, thicker thatch, or you plan to dethatch your lawn once a year or more.
Your lawn may look like a little bit of a disaster when you are finished dethatching, but don't let this scare you away!
If dethatching creates bare spots in your lawn, simply reseed and fertilize to improve growth of your soil. Your newly dethatched lawn should soak the nutrients in the fertilizer up in no time. Dethatching should only be done at the least once a year. Most people can hold off 2-3 years for dethatching.
After it rains does water sit on top of your grass, not being able to penetrate into the soil?
If so, it may be time to aerate your yard. Aerating is the process of using hollow cylinders known as tines to punch 3-4 inch holes in your lawn. This breaks through a layer of thatch and allows the roots of your lawn to breath. Aerating helps improve the overall health of your lawn by breaking up thatch and loosen compacted soil. The small holes allow water, nutrients and fertilizers to penetrate deep into your lawn. Aerating is also a good idea to do before seeding or reseeding your lawn.
Aerators come in a few different forms. Lawn aerator shoes allow you to strap tine-bottomed shoes to your feet and stomp around your yard. A hand-held aerator lets you use your body weight to penetrate the tines into the ground. Tow-behind aerators are pulled along behind your mower. And gas-powered aerators allow you to walk behind the aerator, as you would a push mower.
Water your lawn thoroughly 24-48 hours before you plan to aerate your yard. This will help the aerator penetrate the soil and pull out cores easier. Flag any obstructions in your yard that could be damaged or cause damage to the aerator.
It is recommended to make two passes with your aerator if you have highly compacted soil, soil that's never been aerated, or soil that's been aerated more than a year ago. For the first pass you should follow your mowing pattern and for the second follow the mowing pattern at an angle. For soil that's aerated every year, do a single pass following your mowing pattern.
After you are finished aerating your grass is the best time to spread fertilizer or over-seed your lawn if you have any patchy sections. The holes that you created allow access to the root system allowing the fertilizer to be more beneficial. You can either leave the soil cores in place to decompose naturally or you can break them up with a light raking.
After you've dethatched and aerated your lawn, why not add some fertilizer to really boost fresh new grass growth. So instead of just mowing this year, get out there and give your lawn a little bit more care.