Thatch can be an ongoing problem that keeps your lawn from living up to its potential. Thatch is an almost impenetrable mat of tangled, intertwined grass and other material on the ground surface. Removing thatch helps you get the best from your lawn.
A layer of thatch on your lawn means that air, water and nutrients can't break though. Fertilizer is wasted, since it only feeds the top layer and not the roots. Water runs off instead of getting to the root systems and weeds thrive. Warm-season grasses that spread by stolons are especially susceptible to thatch buildup.
To prevent thatch, keep leaves raked and remove some of the grass clippings after mowing. Even though they don't directly contribute to thatch, they eventually increase the layer of material on the lawn surface. If material accumulates faster than it decays, thatch builds up.
You can use hand- or machine-powered thatch removers to get rid of thatch. If you've never dethatched a lawn before, you can expect to rake up a lot of material. But it's not something you'll be doing every year.
Dethatch cool-season grass in the fall and warm-season grass in the spring.
If thatch is 1/2 - inch thick or more, you should dethatch the lawn. If thatch is less than 1/2 - inch thick, aerating is a good idea.
Use a thatch rake for thick layers of thatch. Using this tool in a push-pull motion will rip out thatch and dig into the soil. Digging into the soil will prepare the lawn for reseeding or fertilizing.
If the lawn is chemical-free, add this thatch to your composting. If chemicals have been used on the lawn, collect the thatch for disposal.
Use leaf rakes and a tarp to gather and remove the dead thatch and other material from your lawn. Now is the time to reseed or fertilize your lawn. Follow the product manufacturer's instructions for use and safety. The lawn won't look pretty at first. But removing the thatch will allow new seed to grow, and allow water and fertilizer to reach the existing root system to create a healthy lawn.
Water the lawn as needed to keep it moist and promote growth.