When you have thatch buildup on your lawn, you need to do something to remove it. It can be confusing because there are a lot of different terms that people use to describe the process.
You can dethatch with a dethatching machine, but people often say that you can aerate or power rake the lawn as well. The fact is that these different tools deal with thatch in different ways, so the condition that you are trying to resolve will dictate which process is ideal. Continue reading to learn about power raking versus aerating.
What Is Lawn Aeration?
Lawn aeration is the process of removing soil cores, which helps when your soil is compacted. It will give your lawn more space under ground so that it can get air, water, and nutrients. It also allows the roots to grow downward and develop a strong system for your grass.
When you aerate, there will be soil plugs on the surface of your lawn, but you can leave them there to decompose naturally, as they will return vital nutrients to the soil.
Most people perform this maintenance in the spring or the fall when there are cooler temperatures, and it is important for the soil to be moist. It is done on lawns that have been established for two years or more, not for new lawns.
What Is Power Raking?
When you power rake your lawn, you are using a power raking machine that digs thatch out of your lawn. The thatch should be more than half an inch thick, and these machines are used when you have a serious problem. The power rake will remove more thatch than a dethatcher, and they use blades that you can adjust to cut and lift the thatch in your lawn. Power raking is an aggressive treatment, and you can harm your lawn if you aren’t sure how to do it the right way.
The important thing to remember is that power raking is something you will only do to address a serious thatch problem, and once you resolve the problem, you can maintain the yard so that you won’t need the power rake again in the future.
Benefits of Aerating
There are many benefits to aerating your lawn, including the following:
- Aerating allows air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots of your grass and your soil
- The openings create space for better movement of water underground
- Aerating provides the grass roots with space where they can grow and become more dense and stronger
- Aerating reduces water runoff
- Aerating helps grass tolerate heat and drought better
- The soil plugs from aerating break down and return nutrients to the soil
- The soil plugs also help decompose thatch as it accumulates at the base of the grass blades
Benefits of Power Raking
There are benefits to power raking when your lawn has a buildup of thatch that is more than half an inch thick, including the following:
- It removes thick thatch so that your lawn gets the water and nutrients it needs
- It allows sunlight to get to the base of your lawn
- It promotes the healthy growth of your grass
- It helps to prevent many different diseases from harming your grass
- It allows the surface of the grass to be smooth and evenly cut
Want to learn how to power rake your lawn?
Types of Aerators
The two main types of aerators are spike aerators and plug aerators. A spike aerator has pointed tines, and it makes holes in the ground, but it doesn’t remove any soil. Plug aerators remove a plug of grass and soil, which is ideal if your soil is super compacted.
The spike aerators offer a short-term solution, and they are usually manual tools. You can get shoe spikes that attach to your feet, or you can get a manual spike aerator that you push into the soil. You can do this if you have a small yard that has a mild issue with compaction.
When most people think of aerating, they think of the plug aerators. These devices have hollow tines, and they remove plugs of thatch and soil when they are pushed into the ground. They offer long-term decompaction and work on any size lawn. The best plug aerators are mechanical tools, and they can be tow-behind that attach to your lawn tractor. You need to drive slowly so that they pull up the soil plugs and deposit them on the lawn. The plugs will decompose over time and return the nutrients to your soil.
How Does a Power Rake Work?
When you use a power rake, you will be able to remove the thick buildup of thatch from your lawn. It has flails that spin very fast, and they loosen the debris and pick it up from the lawn. When you check your lawn, if you see more than half an inch of thatch, you can use a power raker. You should make sure that the deck is high up, and then adjust it as needed until it is at the correct height to remove the thatch.
Go around your lawn evenly to remove all of the debris, and then clean it up. You can use a rake to pick up the dead debris that is left on your lawn, or you can use a lawn sweeper.
Differences Between Aerating and Power Raking
Aerating and power raking are two different maintenances that you can do on your lawn. Although some people use the terms interchangeably, they are different procedures. When you aerate, you are relieving the soil of compaction. The aerator removes plugs of soil and grass as it goes around your lawn, and it allows air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots of the grass and the soil. It also relieves compaction so that the roots of the grass can grow down instead of up and become better established.
Power raking is designed to remove thatch that is thicker than half an inch from your lawn. This is the buildup of debris and dead leaves on top of the soil and below the grass blades. When you power rake, you will cut through the thatch and pull it up onto the surface of the lawn. You then need to pick it up and remove it.
When Should You Aerate?
You should aerate when your grass is growing so that it recovers more quickly. The late spring is always a good time, and you can do it in the fall for cool season grasses. You will aerate when your soil is compacted. If your lawn gets a lot of heavy traffic, this could be once a year, but less used spaces might not need it as frequently.
When Should You Power Rake?
You will want to power rake when you find a buildup of more than half an inch of thatch. This should also be done in the late spring to early summer. That way your lawn has time to recover as it grows. You do not want to repeat this maintenance regularly. Once you power rake, you should take steps to prevent thatch from getting out of control again by dethatching with a dethatcher each year.
The Best Aerators I’ve Reviewed
Agri-Fab Tow Plug Aerator
This is my absolute favorite aerator as a tow-behind option. The knives penetrate the soil and pull really nice cores that are 3 inches long! Check out what this is going for on Amazon right now.
Yard Butler ID-6C Manual Lawn Coring Aerator
I really like this tool for manual work. It works great for small yards and those areas which a large aerator can’t get to. You can pick one up right here on Amazon.
More Helpful Resources
- Is it OK to Aerate Twice a Year?– Is aerating twice a year overkill? Find out here!
- Lawn Aerator Types 101: A guide to the different styles – A comparison of all the different styles of aerators.
- Should You Pick up the Plugs After Aerating? – Ever wondered if you should pick the plugs up after aerating? Find out here
- Should You Buy Or Rent A Lawn Aerator? – Would you be better to rent a lawn aerator rather than buying one? This post walks you through what you need to know.
- Do hand aerators work? | should you buy one? – Find out whether hand aerators are good enough to get the job done here!