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How to Beat Lawn Thatch

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

When it comes to having a lush and healthy lawn, thatch is your enemy. Thatch can block water and nutrients from reaching your grass's roots, weakening the whole plant. Thatch can also trap moisture near the blades of your grass, increasing the likelihood of lawn disease. Helping your grass by stopping thatch in its tracks is well worth the effort.
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  • Make it greener
  • Eliminate patches
  • Less weeds
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Thatch is a spongy layer of organic substance made up of leaves, grass roots and stems, rhizomes, and other similar materials, that builds up in your lawn. Thatch becomes worse and worse over time as more material gets tangled up in the mess, unless, of course, you do something about it. Here's how to tackle the problem.

Tip #1. Make Sure Thatch is the Real Culprit

Sometimes it can be hard to tell a weed problem in your grass from a thatch problem. To make the call, do a close examination. If it's hard to see the soil at all, that's your first sign. Next, try to push your fingers through the stuff to get down to the soil. If it's hard to do, that's sign number 2. Finally, just look closely. If it doesn't look like a weed problem, and you've already done the other tests, thatch it is.

Tip #2. Diagnose the Depth of the Problem

If you take a look at your grass and see that your thatch is less than half an inch thick, get a rake and rake it out. This should be enough to deal with the early stages of the problem. For more extensive thatch, you'll have to employ a more aggressive strategy.

Tip #3. Bring in Reinforcements

When your lawn thatch is a serious contender, you're going to have to do more than a little raking. Head to your garden supply center and pick up a commercial thatch busting tonic. Buy a special thatch rake. Rent some serious equipment - a "dethatcher" or a "power rake" can really do the trick.

While thatch removal may not be the most fun you can have on a weekend afternoon, the results in your lawn's health and appearance will be well worth the work.

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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