The Pros and Cons of Dethatching Your Lawn


Pros and Cons of Dethatching Your Lawn
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Thatch is a layer on top of your lawn that contains dead roots, dead grass and other organic material that is yet to decompose. It builds up naturally over a period of time and it’s something you’ll want to address. When you dethatch your lawn, you’re removing this layer.

Dethatching can be done using a few different methods. Mostly commonly, a rake or a dethatching machine is used to pull up thatch out of the grass. 

You may be wondering why people choose to dethatch their lawn, what are the pros/cons and should you dethatch your own lawn. Hopefully at the end of this article you should have a better idea of whether it’s right for you.

Let’s briefly look at the pros and cons. I’ll explain these points in greater depth down below!

Pros

  • Ensures sufficient exposure of carbon dioxide to the soil
  • Helps to manage disease
  • Allows for better nutrient uptake
  • Prevents a shallow root system
  • Improves the look of a lawn
  • Can be be done manually or mechanically
  • Stands up grass for mowing
  • Does not need to be done too frequently

Cons

  • Requires equipment
  • Dethatching with a rake can be exhausting
  • The grass may look rough after dethatching
  • Removing too much thatch can be detrimental
  • Grasses that grow with a runner system can be harmed by dethatching

Benefits of Dethatching

It helps to ensure proper exposure of carbon dioxide to your soil

This is important to sustain the health of your existing roots and stimulate new growth too. By removing this layer of on the grass, you’re allowing more water to reach deep into the grass roots.

Helps to manage disease

Too much thatch/lawn litter can accumulate on top of the soil which can provide a good environment for a disease breakout under the right conditions.

You get the most out of the nutrients in your lawn

Another pro of dethatching your lawn is that it allows materials that you put down to get deep down into your lawn so that they are properly utilized.

Ripping out excess thatch is a great thing to do before putting down new seed and fertilizer. It will allow the best conditions for new grass to thrive to get a great looking lawn.

It allows more water to get down into the root system

Dethatching gets rid of thatch which acts like a sponge when you get rain or water or lawn. Thatch tends to soak up moisture when prevents it from getting into the root system.

Dethatching improves the look of your lawn

Dethatching can help your lawn hold its color well.

Dethatching can be done using different tools

A dethatching machine has tines on the bottom which spin around and rip out the thatch. It shoots it out the back onto the surface of your grass. Whether you choose to use a rake or a dethatching machine, you’ll still need to take them time to remove the thatch from sitting on top of your grass. Doing this with a rake takes a lot of time.

If you get a dethatching machine with spring loaded tines, it tends not to damage the lawn. Rather it pulls the thatch to the surface. If you’re using a flail style blade, they are much thicker and more aggressive on your lawn.

A dethatching machine will usually be adjustable too. You should be able to set how deep the spring tines will go into the grass.

I like this 14-inch corded dethatcher from Greenworks (link to Amazon).

Stands up the grass for mowing

Mowing in a single direction over time can cause your grass to lie flat and sometimes even become matted down. I’ve found that dethatching lightly over the grass is great for getting it to stand up so you can get a much better cut.

It doesn’t need to be done too frequently

It usually on needs to be done once a year or so.

Drawbacks of Dethatching

Equipment is required

If you’re not going to dethatch your lawn by hand, you’ll have to rely on machinery. You’ll either need to rent a dethatching machine or purchase your own which can be costly.

A power rake/dethatcher has an engine so you’ll need to put in gas for it to run. It’s also a dedicated machine so it doesn’t do anything else apart from dethatching. Putting the blade in a dethatching machine is no easy task too. It takes a while and can be quite fiddly!

Looking to rent a dethatching machine?
Click here to find out the best places to rent one!

Dethatching with a rake is hard work!

It can be very exhausting and take a lot of time to effectively dethatch your lawn with a rake.

Even if your yard is relatively small. Trust me, your back is going to hurt and it’s not a fun experience on a hot day.

In order to dethatch with a rake, you’ll need to get a special rake designed for dethatching.

I’ve found that the traditional yard rake you might find in your shed is not effective for dethatching a lawn. You’ll have to put in much more effort to bring up the same amount of material. 

A dethatching rake has two sides, the straight side is for removing dead debris and the curved side is used to rip through the thatch. You can adjust the tilt of the head on the rake depending on your height and the angle you want. Using a dethatching rake is pretty straightforward; I’ve found these to work great!

This one from AMES is my favorite.

Even a traditional power rake doesn’t work as well as this does.

Using a rake is the least expensive option which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad.

If your budget is low, using a rake is a great option although there is a downside… If you’re going to use a rake to dethatch your lawn, be prepared for some very hard work!

Your grass may look a little bit rough after dethatching

Dethatching can be quite stressful on the lawn and you should not be alarmed when you see the initial results. Allow it some time to recover and you should see the fruits of your effort further down the road.

It can be easy to overdo it

Some thatch is useful so be careful that you don’t overdo it. About ¼ to ½ an inch of thatch is good to protect the soil from too much heat.

Some thatch will help to improve the resilience of you grass, certainly in areas where there is a lot of foot traffic in your yard.

Also, a layer of thatch is helpful to prevent weed germination. The thatch helps to choke out unwanted plants from growing in your yard.

Grasses that grow with a runner system can be harmed by dethatching

Warm season grass types that grow with a runner system should not be dethatched, especially bermudagrass kept short. 

For grasses that grow with a runner system, I’d recommend a heavy core aeration instead.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I dethatch my lawn every year?

While a little thatch is helpful, too much can block the absorption of water and fertilizer so you’ll want to dethatch your lawn every year to get the best results.

Should I fertilize after dethatching?

Fertilizing after dethatching is a good idea. After the excess thatch is removed, the nutrients in the fertilizer will be better absorbed by the lawn and utilized more effectively.

Is dethatching better than raking?

A traditional yard rake is not very effective for dethatching a lawn. In order to dethatch with a rake, you’ll need a special type of rake that is designed for dethatching.

 

When should I dethatch my lawn?

It’s best to dethatch when the lawn is actively growing. You should never dethatch grass that is dormant.

Is there a difference between power raking and dethatching?

While power rakes and dethatchers are both used to remove thatch, power rakes are more aggressive than dethatchers. Power rakes tend to be used by professional landscapers and are much harder on the lawn.

Final Thoughts

A lot of people are quite surprised to see the amount of thatch that’s get pulled up. Sometimes your lawn looks great but you still probably have a lot more than you think.

Bringing up dead grass and other organic matter to the surface of your grass in important to give your grass the best chance of growing well and thriving. Even if your lawn looks great, you’ll probably be surprised to see how much thatch you have down in your grass.

You have a few options to get this done. The best option if you’re on a budget is to use a dethatching rake. Although it takes a lot of time and effort, you’ll still get good results.

My favorite choice is to use a dethatching machine. It’s the most efficient way of getting the job done although using a dethatching machine isn’t as easy as you might think. It certainly takes a lot longer than mowing your grass. If you’re going to dethatch, you’ll almost need to plan an entire day to get the job done.

Whatever method you choose, you’re going to have to go back and remove the pulled up thatch sitting on the surface of your lawn.

Here are some of my favorite lawn care products

Thanks a lot for making it to the end of this post! I hope you found it useful. Here are some lawn care products that I use and that I think you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission.

In all honesty, these are some of the basic products that I use and recommend to everyone.

Broadcast Spreader

This Scotts Elite dual rotary spreader is not a professional grade model but it’s excellent for homeowners.

I really like the edge guard on it. It’s really easy to switch on and off so it’s great for going around my driveway and flower beds.

If you’re not looking to spend hundreds of dollars, I’d definitely recommend this model. It spreads out a wide path and is great quality for the cost.

Backpack Sprayer

This 4-Gallon sprayer is my absolute favorite. It sprays for a really long time. I’ve had this sprayer for quite a while and I’ve never had the battery run out.

The adjustable pressure switch is a really import feature to me.

You can order a lot of accessories for this model but I’ve never really found much of a need for it.

Head Aerator

Hand aerators are great for small spots if you’ve got construction debris or a spot that constantly dries out.

You can also fill these holes with organic matter that will hold a bit more moisture.

This one by Yard Butler is an absolute bargain. It pulls nice long cores. I also use it for taking soil samples around the yard!

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