Thatching & Dethatching
There are several types of thatching, or what are commonly called dethatching, tools on the market. All serve the same purpose: to cut and lift the thickened layer of thatch that develops between the soil line and the actively growing green grass.
Thatch is usually a pale yellow or brown mix of dried and dead grass blades, rhizomes, stolons and other grass parts. Thatch builds up over time into a dense and impenetrable layer that prevents water, fertilizer and other applied nutrients from reaching the soil and roots of the grass. This stunts grass growth and can lead to a brown and sparse appearance of your lawn.
How much thatch your varietal of grass creates will dictate your dethatching needs. Some produce almost no thatch and others a great deal. Dethatching is typically done once a year in the spring or early fall and is often followed by a thin application of compost and a generous watering.
Manual Thatching Tools
Some thatching tools are operated by hand and brute force while others are motorized and do most of the hard labor for you.
The former group consists of sharp-bladed cutting rakes that are pulled across the surface of the grass in short strokes, cutting off and lifting chunks of dead thatch. Manual rakes are drawn across the grass surface in two directions with the second pass done at a 90-degree angle to the first. The loosened thatch is collected with a regular flexible tine garden rake, scooped up and discarded.
Machine Thatching Tools
Motorized thatching tools on the market take several forms, but most are walk-behind models that are self-propelled and steered by the user like a lawn mower. The machines use cutting blades or dies that run continuously to pull out sections of the thatch down to the soil. The thatch cuttings can either be captured in a sweep on the machine or dropped back on the soil to be raked and scooped up. Power thatching tools are preferred for large expanses of lawn or when the thatch is so dense that using a manual rake is difficult.