How to Treat Thatch in Lawns

The grass is a tough little plant. It’s been around for centuries, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. But sometimes, there are problems in the lawn that need to be addressed. One of these problems is thatch build-up.

Usually, this happens when grass blades die and become matted together instead of decomposing into the soil like they’re supposed to.

This matting makes your lawn heavy, hard to maintain, and can even cause flooding if left untreated. Fortunately, there are some easy ways on how to treat thatch in lawns- we’ll show you how below.

What is Thatch in a Lawn?

Thatch is an accumulation of dead grass blades, roots, dirt, and other organic matter built up in your lawn over time. When healthy grass grows, its leaves die off at the end of each season and fall to the ground as detritus.

As this plant matter decomposes into the soil below, it makes nutrients available for new growth. However, if plant matter is constantly being trapped by lawn edging, trodden back into the soil, or simply left to decompose in place, it will form a mat.

Once enough of that matting has collected, there will be no room for new growth, and your grass will begin struggling, if not completely die off.

How to Prevent Thatch in a Lawn

1. Proper Soil Aeration

This is one of the best ways to prevent thatch in lawns. It’s also the easiest. The process of aeration removes plugs of soil from your lawn and replaces them with air.

As a result, these areas will allow grass to be much more accessible than before, which means it won’t struggle as much under pressure from matted debris.

It helps prevent thatching by improving soil structure – loosening the thatch. It also improves water and air circulation through your lawn which allows grasses to grow better generally.

Aeration is a good maintenance practice for all types of lawn grass, but especially those high in thatch build-ups like buffalo and fescue.

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2. Proper Watering

If you don’t water your lawn correctly, it will be more susceptible to becoming thatch. Make sure you water properly. This will also prevent soil from becoming compacted and hard, which can cause the grass to struggle even further under pressure.

Infrequent deep watering encourages the roots to develop more profound into the soil, which makes them less likely to die without decomposing into it

3. Mowing-high

Mowing your lawn too low can make thatch worse. When grass blades are left longer, they have a better chance of decaying before getting matted together in the thatch layer. Make sure you’re mowing at least 3-4 inches above the ground every time.

4. Raking

If you notice thatch is starting to develop or has already started, you can get rid of it by raking. Just rake regularly to prevent a build-up of dead blades and grassroots.

5. Use Slow Release Nitrogen Based Fertilizer

These are the most effective types of fertilizers to improve lawn health and growth. You’ll want to use a more concentrated form of nitrogen and phosphorus, like ammonium nitrate or urea-formula fertilizer.

These formulas provide long-lasting nutrients that won’t wash away with rainfall. Fast release fertilizer encourages rapid growth but doesn’t last long enough for new growth to take hold before rotting away again.

If you want your lawn to be thick and full, then give it something to work with.

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How to Get Rid of Thatch Naturally

1. Soak the Lawn

Thatch removal works best if you’re able to soak all of the grass and soil down into the ground. You could use a high-pressure water nozzle, but it may take a while and isn’t very practical for large areas.

Instead, we recommend using an irrigation system or simply leaving a hose running throughout your lawn for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

2. Use a Push-mower

These types of mowers are better for your lawn because they don’t use blades that chop up the grass you’re trying to remove. Instead, the grates simply break apart the material and rake it off into a pile to be collected later.

Having the mower grates rather than blades will also prevent any damage to your lawn under thatch build-up. This kind of mower helps remove small amounts of material daily to eradicate it from your lawn slowly.

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3. Use an Aerator

Like push-mowers, these tools don’t use blades to chop up thatch. Instead, they use spikes or something similar to punch holes in the lawn to remove material from it.

You’ll probably want to hire a professional for this one because these tools aren’t prevalent and may need some training before you try them yourself. However, once you understand how it works, they’re pretty easy to use.

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How to make Homemade Liquid Dethatcher

To make the liquid dethatcher, you will need the following ingredients:

  1. 1 gallon of water
  2. ¼ cup of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
  3. ½ tsp mild dish soap
  4. 2 tbsp molasses
  5. 10-15 drops essential oil (optional)

In a bucket, mix the Epsom salt, mild dish soap, and molasses. Stir until it’s dissolved entirely into the water. Add the essential oil (if using) to your bucket. Now fill a spray bottle with your mixture and apply it to grass areas that are high in thatch build-up. The natural ingredients will break up the dead blades of grass on contact, making them easier to rake or mow off later.

Read more on: is epsom salt good for grass?

How Homemade Liquid Dethatcher Works

Molasses is a carbohydrate source that works as both food and water for microorganisms. It feeds the rapid growth of these organisms, which is needed to create air channels within the lawn surface.

This continuous activity causes increased airflow through the grassroots, which provides more oxygen to root cells and causes them to grow deeper into the soil to absorb water better.

The Epsom salt and dish soap work together to dissolve the thatch and cause it to break apart from the grass blades.

The resulting material is much easier to remove than a lawn with a deep-rooted thatch build-up because it’s finer and looser.

How to Remove Thatch from Lawn : step by step

Step1: Apply a liquid dethatching treatment:

There are many different products available that treat thatch build-up and keep it from returning. Select one of these treatments to apply regularly this season after you’ve mowed your grass a few times.

You will need to do this each time you mow your lawn for the first five or six weeks of the season to prevent a heavy thatch formation. Even if you have no signs of thatch in your lawn at the start of the season, it’s essential to get into the routine now so that you’re set up for future use.

Step2: Rake away excess material from the lawn surface

After applying your liquid dethatching treatment, use a rake to remove the top layer of thatch from your lawn. As you do this, make sure not to damage any of the grass blades while removing the material.

Step3: Fertilize and water lawn regularly

After raking away excess material from your lawn, begin applying some fertilizer to help stimulate new grass growth and deep roots.

Follow the fertilizer package instructions for proper application, but add an extra half dose to ensure your lawn gets all the nutrients it needs. If you have a drip irrigation system set up, now is a good time to regularly give your lawn extra water to help expedite the grass-root growth associated with thatch removal.

Step4: Mow regularly throughout the season

The thatch will continue to break down over time, so make sure you mow your lawn at least once a week during this process. If possible, remove any built-up material after each mowing session to keep it from forming into thick patches.

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How to Treat Thatch in Lawns (FAQs)

What to Do with Thatch after Dethatching

Once you’ve removed the thatch from your lawn, it’s important to recycle as much material as possible.

The easiest way is to dump the broken-down grass pieces onto a compost pile so they can be used to help nourish other plant life in your yard or garden.

If you don’t have a composting system set up, it’s essential to add this material as soon as possible to a soil mixture to prevent the growth of mold and fungus in your lawn.

If you can’t use all of the thatch from your walk, try sharing some with friends who want healthier grass for their yards.

What Causes Thatch in Lawns?

Too much thatch isn’t always the result of a lousy lawn care routine. Rather, certain types of grasses grow faster and produce more material than others.

If you have some of these grasses growing on your lawn, it’s best to stay on top of removing any excess growth to prevent a build-up from happening. However, in some cases, a lack of proper lawn care can cause thatch to grow.

Bentgrass, and other grass species similar in growth patterns, require high levels of water and quality nutrients to thrive. If the lawns don’t get proper irrigation or feeding over time, they begin to use the soil underneath to draw out additional nutrients.

 As this happens, the roots grow deeper into the ground and break apart the earth to find the nutrients they need.

This, combined with a high amount of stress placed on lawns by extreme weather and soil conditions, can cause thatch build-up naturally.

Why should I remove thatch from my lawn?

Grass with a thick layer of thatch can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the soil beneath.

If this occurs, root growth will be compromised, and grass won’t grow in the same high-quality way as it would otherwise.

How often should I water my lawn for this process?

You should water your lawn at least once a week while you’re trying to get rid of thatch. Because we don’t want to overdry out the area, keep your watering sessions short and make them a few hours apart.

What is the best liquid dethatching treatment?

There are many treatments available, so you need to select one appropriate for your type of grass species and lawn conditions.

As long as the treatment contains one of the following active ingredients: tranexamic-ethyl or bam, you can be sure that it will help remove and prevent further thatch build-up in your lawn.

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One of the ways that people can tell how long someone has been tending their lawn is by looking at the amount of thatch present on top. Many homeowners have trouble with this, especially if they like to grow different types of grasses in their yard.

Regardless of whether it’s due to lack of water, improper fertilization, lousy soil conditions, or just plain neglect over time, there are natural remedies available for those who want healthier yards without having to spend lots of money on chemicals and treatments. We hope the article helped you get a better understanding of how to treat thatch in lawns.

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  • Ricky

    Hi, I’m Ricky. I’ve been involved in lawn care and landscaping from when I was 15. To be honest, I didn’t like the idea of pushing mowers, collecting grass clippings, and maintaining flowerbeds at the time. But having seem the passion my parents had for gardening and outdoors and the effort they put in maintaining the health and beauty of our landscape, I couldn’t help but not only admire their hard work but also I became a part of it. As someone who loves to spend time with nature’s best, I find myself learning a lot more about gardening and outdoors on a daily basis. Not to mention I love to share the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years with my readers at We Mow Dallas. To be clear, I don’t have a Master’s degree in gardening or anything like that. Everything I’ve learned about gardening, landscaping, and lawn care spring from passion and engagement with my parents. And with a ton of free information out there, plus the ability to run tests and determine what works best for lawn care and landscaping, every day is an opportunity to learn and implement something new. My goal with We Mow Dallas is to teach you exactly how to maintain your lawn and landscape. And since I walk the talk in reality, you shouldn’t hesitate to join me in this wonderful world of landscaping and lawn care. K Beatrice

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