When is the best time to dethatch your lawn?

You have possibly heard that dethatching is important to keep your lawn thriving, but you might not know exactly what it is or what the process entails. That’s OK. Dethatching can be a mystery, even to people who spend a great deal of time tending to their lawn.

While the process can be labor-intensive, it is not complicated. And to get the best results, it is important to perform this chore when your lawn is at its peak strength. Unfortunately, that time can vary, depending on where you live and what kind of grass you have. You may also wonder how often to dethatch lawn spaces; in general,  this process should be done once per year.

Shop this article: Greenworks Corded DethatcherBrinly Tow-Behind Dethatcher andAmes Adjustable Thatch Rake

What is thatch?

To better understand what thatch is on your lawn, it can help to consider roofing methods. In particular, thatching. A thatched roof is fashioned by weaving together dry vegetation so tightly and densely that water and air have trouble getting through. While this is beneficial to keeping a home dry and helping to insulate it, thatch that accumulates on top of soil can starve and suffocate a lawn because it won’t allow water, nutrients and air through for nourishment.

What happens if you don’t dethatch your lawn?

Ideally, thatch decomposes at the same rate it accumulates. This means that if you have the perfect lawn, you will never need to dethatch. However, aspects such as compacted soil, overwatering your lawn, underwatering your lawn, cold soil temperatures, use of fertilizer and pesticides, not removing grass clippings and more can cause thatch to accumulate faster than it decomposes. When this happens, the thatch will suffocate and starve your lawn.

For keen observers, the first sign you might notice is a spongy feeling when walking across your grass. More than likely, though, you will realize you have a thatch issue when you see patches of your lawn losing their vibrant green coloring. As the situation gets worse, your lawn will begin to thin, and it may start to develop bare spots.

How do I know when I need to dethatch my lawn?

Depending on your situation, dethatching may be an annual event. If you’re lucky, however, you may be able to go several years without dethatching. Before blindly ripping up your thatch, it is important to measure it. You can do this by removing a small spadeful of your lawn and measuring how thick the buildup is. If it is significantly more than a half-inch, it is time to dethatch.

How do you dethatch a lawn?

Dethatching your lawn isn’t difficult, but it is time-consuming. Depending on the size of your property and which type of lawn dethatcher you are using, it can also be labor-intensive.

If you’re wondering how to dethatch lawn spaces, all you need to do is loosen and remove the thatch. This is accomplished manually with a special thatch rake that features sharp, curved tines. It can also be achieved by using an electric dethatcher, tow-behind dethatcher or a lawn mower dethatcher blade that performs the same function as a thatch rake, only without manual labor. Once the thatch is loosened, you will need to rake away the debris. 

Why does timing matter when dethatching?

Dethatching can be harsh on your lawn. While it won’t kill your grass, your lawn may require time to recuperate. You may also uncover thin spots that need to be overseeded or bare spots that need to be patched. If you dethatch after the peak growing season, your lawn might not be able to recover until next season. If you dethatch too early, your lawn won’t be growing fast enough to recover until peak growing season arrives.

When is the best time to dethatch your lawn?

The best time to dethatch your lawn is during peak growing season when the soil is moist — not wet. For cool-season grasses, which are found in the northern half of the U.S., the best time to dethatch is late summer to early fall. The further north you live, the earlier this time will be. You can also dethatch cool-season grasses in early spring — just make sure your grass is thriving before dethatching, as you do not want to do it too early. For areas with warm-season grasses, it’s best to wait until late spring/early summer.

Conversely, the worst time to dethatch your lawn is when it is dormant or stressed. If you do this, your lawn might not recover.

What you need to buy to dethatch your lawn

Best tow-behind dethatcher

Brinly Tow-Behind Dethatcher

Brinly Tow-Behind Dethatcher

This 48-inch, tow-behind grass dethatcher is best for larger lawns. It has 24 steel tines for removing thatch, two 8-inch never-flat tires and a universal hitch for maximum compatibility.

Best electric dethatcher

Greenworks Corded Dethatcher

Greenworks Corded Dethatcher

If you’d like an electric dethatcher, this corded model is suitable for smaller yards. The lawn dethatcher has a padded grip, a push-button start and a 14-inch thatching path. The thatching depth on this Greenworks dethatcher is adjustable, so you can fine-tune the machine for your needs.

Best dethatcher rake

best Ames Adjustable Thatch Rake

Ames  Adjustable Thatch Rake

For individuals who have a small yard and do not mind a little manual labor, this adjustable thatch rake is a solid option. It is easy to clean — just push the dethatcher rake forward to clear the tines — and it features a durable 10-inch grip.

Best dethatcher blade for lawn mower

Oregon Universal 20-Inch Dethatcher Blade

Oregon Universal 20-Inch Lawn Mower Dethatcher Blade

Purchasing a dethatching lawn mower blade, provided you already have a mower, is one of the most affordable options for tackling thatch. Dethatching with a lawn mower is easy using this specialized blade. It’s constructed from durable alloy steel and comes in three sizes to suit different mower decks. 

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