How to Remove Yard Thatch


Lawn thatch, the layer of organic matter between grass blades and the soil surface, may be the result of infrequent, high mowing, poor soil aeration, frequent light watering, excess pesticide, soil compaction or excess nitrogen fertilizer application. When thatch becomes more than 1/2-inch thick, it makes a lawn more vulnerable to drought and disease. Rent a core aerifier to help remove yard thatch about six weeks before the soil freezes in the fall. Not only does aerification stimulate the microbes that can help decompose thatch, it also encourages healthier and deeper root systems and promotes better air and water penetration of the soil.

Step 1

Fertilize the lawn in the fall, following package directions, about one week prior to aerification. This will promote grass growth to help fill in the holes you'll be creating.

Step 2

Push the core aerifier back and forth over the entire surface of the lawn. Go over the lawn a second time in a direction perpendicular to your first pass. Go over the lawn a third time in a diagonal direction.

Step 3

Allow the cores on the surface to dry for a few days, then rake them to break them up and fill in the holes somewhat.

Step 4

Repeat the aerification process the following spring if thatch is thick or soil is rather compacted.

Tips and Warnings

  • The core aerifier is a heavy piece of equipment, making this a physically demanding task.

Things You'll Need

  • Lawn fertilizer
  • Fertilizer spreader
  • Core aerifier
  • Screened compost
  • Rake


  • Kansas State University: Thatch -- A Hidden Lawn Concern
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Thatch Control in Lawns and Turf
  • University of Illinois Extension: Thatch and How to Manage It
Keywords: thatch removal, remove yard thatch, remove lawn thatch

About this Author

Ann Wolters, who has been a freelance writer, consultant, and writing coach for the past year and a half, has had her writing published in "The Saint Paul Almanac," and in magazines such as "Inventing Tomorrow" and "Frontiers." She earned a master’s degree in English as a second language from the University of Minnesota and taught English as a foreign language for nearly seven years.