Everything You Need to Know About Thatch

thatched grass
Managing thatch in your lawn is a crucial step to achieving perfectly maintained grass. Learning about thatch, good amounts and bad amounts of thatch, and proper maintenance will keep your lawn beautiful and healthy.

What is Thatch?

Thatch is the layer of intermingled dead and living organic matter that accumulates between the surface of the soil and the actively growing grass. It occurs naturally with turfgrass and can be both beneficial and detrimental depending on the thickness of the thatch. Thatch is composed of organic matter like dead leaves, roots, and grass which need to be regularly removed.

How Does your lawn get thatch?

Thatch accumulates when your lawn can’t break down debris as fast as fast as debris develops. Some parts of grass are more resistant to decay than others, which varies based on the type of grass in your lawn. Lignin, a decay resistant compound found to comprise about a quarter of thatch’s makeup is one of the leading factors of thatch buildup. While thatch buildup can be detrimental if your lawn has too much, it’s actually very beneficial in the right amount.

Good Thatch

When the thatch is around half an inch in thickness, it is actually a good thing. It increases the soil’s tolerance of traffic and makes the turf overall more resistant to heavy traffic. It also provides insulation to better protect both the soil and the turfgrass from extreme temperatures and fluctuations in moisture levels.

Bad Thatch

When thatch is an inch or more in thickness, negative side effects start occurring. Thatch that is too thick restricts the movement of air, water, fertilizer, and nutrients to the roots. This can dry out and starve the grass. Moist grass can also harbor fungi, which can cause disease to the grass. In general, thick thatch weakens grass and makes it more susceptible to injury and more difficult to manage.

grass on a warm day

How De-thatching Can Improve Your Lawn

If your lawn is patchy, dry, and in dire need of rejuvenation you may want to consider removing the thatch from your lawn. Thatch sits right underneath the surface of your grass and suffocates the rest of your lawn. Thick thatch prevents grass from receiving proper nutrients, air and water. If not removed it will continue to build up, blocking vital nutrients to your lawn.
Excess thatch causes the roots of your grass to stay closer to the surface requiring you to water more. This will lead to more patchy areas in your lawn along with pests that will eat away at your grass. By removing thatch from your yard you will get rid of that blockage and allow nourishment to penetrate the surface of your lawn. This will help the roots of your grass grow deeper and create a healthier lawn environment.

Texas is prone to prolonged periods of drought, where bad thatch can quickly ruin your yard. Reducing your thatch makes your lawn more ready to handle the longest Texas droughts.

How to Dethatch Your Lawn

You can remove the thatch in your yard a number of ways. The most simple way is to get a thatch rake which is made specifically to get in the surface of your lawn and pull out the thatch.

If you want the process to go faster there are dethatching devices that look like a mower but are made to only remove thatch from your yard. dethatcher machines are typically called vertical mowers, verticutters, dethatchers or power rakes.

They are easy to use and easy to find or rent from most equipment rental outlets. Don’t try to remove the entire thatch layer at once. Don’t dethatch when the soil is wet. You shouldn’t be dethatching on a regular basis, only when needed.

By removing the thatch you will open up your lawn to receive proper nutrients. Your grass will be able to grow more full and green, improving your lawn’s appearance.

Prevention and Management

To prevent the over buildup of thatch on your lawn, follow these helpful tips:

  • Mow frequently at about 2 ½ inches (depending on your grass species)
  • Keep clippings on the lawn
  • Reduce nitrogen fertilization
  • Maintain the pH level of your soil
  • Aerate when necessary

If you have any questions or are looking for some fresh sod, contact The Grass Outlet today.


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