Can You Dethatch a Wet Lawn?

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Thatch is the name given for when organic material forms a mat over the topsoil of your lawn. You may not be able to easily see thatch until it is overbearing.

This mat can rob your lawn of essential moisture and nutrients. It also slows down the rate of oxygen exchange between the atmosphere and your soil.

The removal of thatch from your lawn can be stressful for the plant life present which is why timing is critical, especially if you’re going to be using a dethatcher or a power rake which can be very hard on the lawn.

You should never dethatch a lawn that has been significantly drenched. Excess water in the soil can grass vulnerable to damage. Dethatching a wet lawn could result in you ripping the grass by their roots.

Why You Shouldn’t Dethatch a Wet Lawn

Damaged Grass Roots

Even on the highest setting, a dethatching machine 


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Clogged Power Rake

Can You Use a Dethatching Rake on a Wet Lawn?

When Should I Dethatch?

Dethatching should occur during the grass’s most vigorous growing season. For cool season grasses, this time will be mid to late fall. For warm season grasses, spring is the time where most growth happens.

These two seasons also provide the most precipitation for your lawn. You want your lawn to be adequately moistened, but not sopping wet.

If the thatching tool penetrates the soil, the roots of your plants could be damaged, and the decaying organic material may be forced into the soil instead of up and away. 

Lawns shouldn’t be dethatched when it is dry or experiencing drought conditions. During periods of drought, the thatch may be attracting moisture to your soil and keeping the lawn healthy. Removing this sponge would result in your grass drying out. When plants experience extreme heat or are without adequate hydration for long periods of time, they become very frail.

Agitating grass that is already ailing could result in plant death after dethatching. 

How Do I Know If Thatch Is a Problem?

An extreme overgrowth of thatch can appear as brown spots all over your lawn. It will appear as if patches of your lawn are in their dormancy period while other patches are thriving. 

The easiest indicator of thatch is how it affects the feel of your lawn. When thatch is overgrown, your lawn will have a bouncy, spongy feel beneath your feet.

Your hands may be more sensitive to thatch than your feet. Using your hand, press firmly on your lawn. If the lawn feels spongy or pushes back when you press on it, you have too much thatch present.

If the feel of your lawn doesn’t bother you, but you want to assess the amount of thatch, dig up a section of it. In an inconspicuous area, take a trowel or spade, and dig up a small section of your lawn. The section should be deep enough to reach the soil. 

Once you extract the section from the earth, examine it. Below the grass blades, you’ll find a layer of brown, dried up plant material. Insect carcasses and other debris may be present as well. If the thatch layer is more than three quarters of an inch, it is overdue for thatching. 

What Can I Use to Dethatch?

For small areas, you can manually remove thatch with a dethatching rake.

Dethatching rakes differ from traditional leaf rakes. A dethatching rake has multiple thick tines that run perpendicular to the rake’s handle. This allows the tines to slice down the rows of grass and capture thatch. I recommend this AMES adjustable self-cleaning thatch rake (link to Amazon).

 Working in small sections, utilize your dethatching rake by placing it in your grass and forcefully raking toward your body. As you repeat this action in this section, you will notice less thatch coming up with each pass.

Once you have cleared a section of lawn from thatch, remove the thatch by hand or with a leaf rake. Thatch can be composted if desired. 

For large areas, you’ll need a power rake or a dethatcher. Both pieces of equipment use mechanically propelled blades and tines to loosen up and lift away thatch.

You can find dethatchers that resemble push mowers and can be easily rented at home improvement stores.

You can also find dethatching attachments for your lawn mower.

I use this corded dethatcher from Greenworks (link to Amazon). It’s one of the more popular models.

These mechanical means of dethatching are not fool proof. You may have to make one pass over your entire lawn, rake away the unwanted thatch, and then reassess the situation. Multiple passes over your lawn may be required. For heavily treaded areas, at least two dethatchings will need to take place.

Multiple rounds of dethatching can happen consecutively. It is better to remove a little thatch at a time and have to repeat the process than to rip up your grass by the roots.

What to Do After Dethatching

After you have separated the thatch from the soil, promptly remove it from your yard. Thatch makes an excellent addition to compost. If you don’t partake in composting, you can dispose of the excess thatch. 

Once the layer of organic material is gone, you will need to water your lawn more frequently than before. Thatch is helpful to plant life by acting as a sponge to store moisture on top of the soil, and without it there, your lawn may experience shock. You’ll need to keep it adequately watered without drowning it for the next few weeks.

With less plant matter in the way, after dethatching is the perfect time to aerate your soil. Aeration is another essential landscaping practice that ensures proper exchange of oxygen, water, and nutrients throughout the soil. 

Aeration can be accomplished by physical or chemical needs. If you’ll be aerating immediately after thatching, a liquid aerator should be used. Liquid aerators are chemicals that increase the permeability of your soil. When mixed with water, they penetrate your lawn deeply to allow it to take in more substances. 

Post-thatching is also a great time to overseed your lawn. Overseeding is the process of spreading grass seeds throughout an already established lawn. This practice results in a thick, luscious lawn in various stages of growth. You can add more of your grass’s genotype, or you can implant seeds that are of a different variety. 

Fall is a common time for lawn owners to plant cool season grass seeds on top of their warm season lawns. This results in year-round greenery for their lawn as one type of grass enters its growing season while the other type is moving into dormancy. 

A lawn devoid of thatch is perfect for having a soil test done. Soil tests can determine the chemical composition of your soil and its pH level. All plant life needs varying amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Overages or deficiencies of these minerals can result in less than perfect plant health and even death.

When you fertilize your lawn, you’re adding nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to it to make it flourish. Without the guidance of a soil test, however, you may be doing more harm than good. 

Soil tests can determine the pH of your soil. Most lawns prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil. If your soil’s pH is wildly off, that could be the cause of your lawn failures. 

You can pick up a soil test here on Amazon.

How to Prevent Thatch

Thatch naturally occurs in all lawns, but there are certain measures you can take to prevent the buildup of it.

Knowing Your Grass Type

Know your lawn’s grass. Grasses that spread by stolons (also called runners) are extremely susceptible to thatch. These grasses creep along the ground and form thick mats of their own. As plant material falls away, it collects in this mat, creating thatch.

Examples of such grasses are centipedegrass, Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, and Zoysia grass. Lawns made up of these grasses will need to be dethatched more often than those that aren’t. 

Remove Debris

Keep the amount of debris in your lawn to a minimum. This can include raking away fallen leaves, removing grass clippings, and sequestering areas with mulch. 

Leaving grass clippings on your lawn was previously encouraged, citing that the decomposing grass supplies nutrients for your lawn. However, when the layer of grass clippings is too thick, it will tamp down and form thatch before it decomposes. In the meantime, your grass’s soil is being suffocated and robbed of nutrients. 

Routine yard maintenance can also reduce the buildup of thatch. Mowing your lawn to a healthy height, not leaving it too long or cutting it too short, will reduce the amount of thatch that collects in it. 

Regular fertilizing and conditioning produces a lawn that grows densely, leaving no room for thatch to accumulate. 

Removing weeds and unwanted plants also contributes to thatch buildup. If you typically use an herbicide to kill your weeds, collect the wilted or dead weeds once the chemical has done its job. Leaving the weed body on your lawn will contribute to the amount of organic material that collects in the grass. 

In Conclusion – Can you Dethatch a Wet Lawn?

Dethatching should be performed semi-annually. Remember to complete dethatching during your grass’s growing season and never after a heavy rain. Wet soil will not be dethatched easily and can lead to plant destruction. 

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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