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What is thatch?

Thatch is a combination of tightly woven living and dead material—made up of leaves, roots and stems–that is sandwiched between the grass and the soil.  If you dig a scoop out of your lawn (about three inches thick) you should be able to see three layers:  the top layer of grass, the layer of soil at the bottom, and a middle layer of brown debris.  This compact, tightly woven middle layer is thatch.


Why would I want to break down thatch? Is thatch a problem?

Yes and no.  A layer of thatch about half an inch thick is actually normal and healthy.  Thatch can contribute to the health of the lawn in the following ways:

  •  It acts as a mulch.
  •  It protects the soil from wear and tear.
  •  It insulates the soil from temperature dips.

Thatch only becomes problematic when there is an excess of it in your lawn.  Once thatch is more than half an inch to three-quarters of an inch thick, you run into some of the following issues:

  • Too much thatch blocks sunlight, moisture and nutrients from getting down deep and creates a shallow root system.
  • Good lawn care practices, such as fertilization, may not work as effectively, or could contribute to excess thatch.
  • Moisture stays trapped in the grass, creating conditions to foster disease.

Signs Your Lawn Needs to be De-Thatched

  • Are you unable to easily dig a finger through the thatch into the soil?
  •  Does your lawn have a springy feel to it?
  •  If you excavate a three-inch piece of your lawn, does the thatch layer appear to be larger than half an inch?

If the answer to all three of these questions is yes, then your lawn most likely needs to be de-thatched.  There are several ways to go about de-thatching your lawn:  You can attempt to do it manually using a regular rake, or consider renting a power rake. Finally, you may consider aerating your lawn as another option.

Of course, the easiest and most effective way to deal with your thatch is to call in a professional landscaping company. If you don’t want the hassles of de-thatching your lawn yourself, consider contacting Detailed Landscape.  We’re happy to assess your thatch situation and help you restore your lawn by getting it back into balance.