Excessive thatch is a problem

But what is thatch exactly and what can you do to fix it. Thatch is simply an excessive accumulation of dead organic matter on your lawn. A healthy lawn has a balanced cycle, where new grass grows, eventually dies and gets decomposed to actually feed the grass. This should not be confused with brown patch, which is a different problem altogether.


Various factors may cause an imbalance in nature’s own recycling method:

  • In some cases, there is an excessive increase in the rate at which dead organic matter accumulates.
  • In other cases, it is the speed at which dead matter is decomposed that slows down too much.
  • In both cases, there is an accumulation of dead matter that creates an unhealthy environment for your lawn.

Thatch-related problems

The presence of a thick layer of decaying matter between the soil and grass can cause a variety of problems:

  • It prevents water and air from reaching the roots and soil. This chokes out the grass but also other organisms living in the soil. It also slows down natural processes and thus leads to even more thatch.
  • It creates a welcoming environment for various diseases and pests.
  • It may prevent pesticides from being effective.
  • By putting a barrier between the soil and grass, it makes the grass more susceptible to drying and freezing.

Signs you may have a problem

If there are dry, yellowing areas on your lawn that cannot be otherwise explained, you should consider getting to the root of the problem. Dig into your lawn with an edger or square spade, dig out a piece of lawn, and measure the layer of decaying material on which your grass is actually growing. If there is more than one inch of yellow, dead matter between the soil and growing grass, consider taking measures to bring this problem under control.

Fixing the problem

Here is a list effective methods, from the least aggressive to the most invasive.

  • Many fertilizers speed up growth so much that it creates an imbalance between the rate at which new organic matter is created and the speed at which it can be decayed once dead. So stop using fertilizers that overstimulate growth and start using green fertilizers that feed the soil and stimulate the decaying process.
  • Consider using green fertilizers and green pesticides to get rid of weeds and pests. Many weed killers and pesticides are efficient at controlling various problems, but they often kill both friends and foes. So those organisms living in the soil which feed on the decaying matter disappear and the natural cycle that gets rid of the thatch and actually feeds your lawn stops.
  • Aerate your lawn. This will provide more air and water and thus speed up the decaying process.
  • Give your lawn a strong raking. If you don’t feel up to a strong workout, use those special blades that you can put on your mower and that turn it into a power raker. Be sure to get good advice on which blade to choose, as bad models can actually ruin your lawn.
  • Use a vertical mower. This device will cut into your lawn, bring the dead matter out, and can, if well used, fix even the most acute problems.

Lawns are not always easy to keep top shape. To maximize your chances, you must have a comprehensive lawn care program.

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