Dethatching your lawn

Agri-Fab tine dethatcher pulled by a lawn tractor

With the onset of autumn, this happens to be the best time to prepare your lawn for the upcoming cold winter so that it can bloom to its full potential in the spring. When you start working on your lawn right after the summer, you will tend to notice that the grass is not growing the way it should be.

Despite being fed and watered on regular intervals, there might be a thick layer of compacted soil settled on the top. This is what we called the thatch. 

Due to the scorching heat during summer season, the top layer of soil tends to become thicker because of the dead grass which gathers at the top of the soil line. It blocks proper air, water and nutrients from reaching the grass roots.

In order to check whether there is a thatch deposited on the soil, you can use the screwdriver method. If the screwdriver goes inside the soil easily making it feel spongy, your lawn is healthy. However, if it is too thick and difficult to stick it, it’s the thatch.

In such a scenario, this is where you need to do some dethatching so that the required air, water and nutrients can reach the grass for it grows greener and healthier.

illustration explaining thatch on grass
Lawn Love illustration by Juan Rodriguez

What is dethatching?

A thin layer of thatch, say about less than ½ inch, is actually healthy for your lawn. It not only acts like an organic mulch helping in the soil moisture conservation but also protects the soil temperatures from major fluctuations. It allows all the required elements to reach the soil easily.

However, if the thatch is about 1 inch thick, it can prove to be alarming for your lawn. The thick layer acts as a barrier making the grass suffer by not letting enough anything reach those roots and suffocating the grass instead.

Dethatching is a procedure where the thick thatch layer dead plant material is removed from the lawn so that air, water and other nutrients can reach the soil easily. It also helps in effective draining of the lawn as well.

Dethatching can be done by hiring a lawn service for your lawn but you are more than welcome to do it by yourself too. To make it convenient for you, here we are with step-wise explanation you need to known about how to dethatch your lawn:

dethatching a lawn using an electric dethatcher and a rake
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Steps to dethatch your lawn:

1. If you have a small lawn, this can be achieved with a manual dethatching rake. However, in case of a bigger lawn size, you must rent a dethatcher or a vertical cutter.

2. Before you begin the dethatching process, please ensure to mow your lawn to almost half the size of the normal height. If you cut it too close, it will be difficult to mulch everything out.

3. To use a dethatching rake, you can follow the dig and pull method. You can dig into the thatch with rake tines and pull it in an upward motion. This will loosen up the thatch and remove it from the soil.

4. When using a rented dethatcher, please ensure that the spacing and cutting depth is adjusted according to your grass type. The blades of the dethatcher should not cut any deeper than ½ inch into the soil. Follow the directions carefully as explained by the agency. Since it is quite heavy machinery, you will need help in loading and unloading it.

5. Once you are done with dethatching, now it is time to rake up all the loosened thatch and remove it.

6. There might be some bare spots created during this process, these can be filled with a patching product.

7. Now that the soil is loosened up and can absorb all the nutrients, this is the right time to add fertilizer to it.

8. The last but not the least step involves regular watering of the lawn. Do not forget this one because otherwise all your hard work will go down the drain.

Preventing a thatch problem in future

It is true that the dethatching problem can be avoided all together if you stay vigilant and take very good care of your lawn. To achieve this, all you need to do is to ensure that the grass does not grow too quickly. The thatch problem occurs when the new organic matter builds up way before the breakdown of old organic matter.

This can be avoided by not over watering the grass and feeding the grass with nitrogen rich fertilizer. Try to avoid over usage of pesticides too because worm presence helps the old matter in easy decomposition.


We hope you got what you were looking for exactly in terms of dethatching your lawns. While it might sound a little hectic right now, it will all be worth the effort once you see your lawn flourishing with greener and healthier grass. Do not forget that at the end of the day, hard work always pays off!

Main Photo Credit: Agri-Fab, Inc. | Wikimedia Commons | CC0

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