What is “Thatch?”
Thatch is a beneficial layer of accumulated organic material (above ground roots, and decomposing grass) that forms beneath the canopy of your grass throughout the year. It acts as a buffer for the roots, and in the right amounts (.5”+-) prevents compaction, shades sensitive roots, and allows for moisture retention.
Excessive thatch is a common problem. It happens because there is a build-up of material, that cannot be broken down by micro organisms at the speed it accumulates. The two biggest causes of excessive thatch accumulation are over fertilizing, and over watering. Lawn clippings that are mulched are not typically major contributors to this problem.
What happens if I don’t remove it?
Letting thatch build-up can lead you down a long road of lawn maintenance, and plant health issues that, depending on the size of your property, can eventually cost you thousands of dollars.
Maintaining your thatch levels is probably more important here in northern Colorado than in most places. The reason for this is the heavy native clay soil. Because of its compact profile, clay already reduces oxygen levels in soil to dangerous levels for plants, trees and grass. Combine that with a heavy, thick mat of compacted organic matter, like thatch, and you have a recipe for a number of consequences including:
- High water bills
- Diseases and fungus
- Turf and plant replacement
How does thatch increase my water bill?
Thatch dramatically decreases drought tolerance of turf grass by preventing air, water and nutrients from entering soil and decreasing healthy deep roots. The thatch, when too thick, acts as a sponge and prevents moisture from reaching the soil. A shallow root system develops into the thatch and is very sensitive to sunburn, and temperature fluctuations. Insects find this thatch layer a comfortable home with protection, food, and turf problems become more frequent.
How do I know I need to power rake?
It’s fairly easy to tell if power raking is necessary for your yard. This simple 1 minute test will indicate very quickly if you have a thatch build-up. Take a look at our example image to see the difference between a healthy level of thatch and a build-up that needs attention.
Step One: Remove a core sample from an central, non shaded area of your yard
Step Two: Use a ruler to measure the thatch level. If it’s more than 1/2″ inch thick, then you should consider a professional power raking service.
It is important for plant health to do this when the grass is dormant to minimize damage to the living grass.
Can I do it myself?
Manual raking is often beneficial, but can become tiresome on any size property. You can do power raking yourself by renting a piece of equipment from a local equipment rental service. Unfortunately, because power raking is only done once/ twice per year, it is difficult to rent one during the right time of year (spring or fall) and more often than not, a power rake rental can actually be more expensive than paying a professional.
For example, a common rental rate for a power rake in Boulder County Colorado is about $60-100 per day, with pick up and drops off fees putting the price well over $120 dollars! Not to mention the fact that you have to do it yourself.
What is a power rake, anyways?
A power rake is a machine that attaches to a large lawn mower. It operates a conventional rake with the assistance of machine power.
A vertical mower has sharp blades on the bottom that are responsible to remove a matted layer of dead material called “thatch.”
Both are effective, and at times needed. A vertical mower is typically more damaging to the crown of the grass, but able to work loose more severe accumulations.
What else should I be doing this spring?
Spring and fall cleanups come with some core tasks that should be done within the season. These tasks include:
- Winter Watering
- Properly timed and formulated fertilizer applications
- Detailed irrigation start-up analysis
For a package deal on all necessary activities listed above, email us for early bird spring specials!