As we warm up for the Arizona summer, our grass begins to start aggressively growing.  It is important to keep it check and not get carried away with the water and fertilizer.  If you are out walking around your lawn and it feels like you are walking on a nice cushy sponge, and it has become increasing difficult to mow your lawn without scalping, you can easily conclude that there is a thatch problem. 

I’m going to give a brief definition of thatch today and a couple of easy ways that you can manage it.  If you are dreading getting outside with a hand rake or thatch rake to remove it, I”ll make it simple by telling you exactly what to rent and how you can save yourself from a heat stroke and days of back pain.

Let me start with the definition of thatch.  Thatch is the layer of dead biomass (stems and roots) that builds up in the soil and the grass.  It’s the material between the grass blades and active roots of the lawn.  It often builds up extremely quick if you over fertilize or over water your lawn.  When the thatch layer becomes excessive it makes it extremely difficult to keep the lawn in a healthy condition.  When you get to this point over the next few weeks especially as conditions become humid and the grass starts to take off it is time to verticut. 

Verticutting is a specialized machine that uses bladed attachments to make deep, vertical cuts into the thatch.  When you are verticutting, start off on a very high setting and gradually increase the depth.  You are just looking to eliminate some of the thatch and not pull up roots from the soil.  If you set the machine too deep you will not do any good, but you will set yourself back a few weeks in growing.  After you verticut the lawn (and remove more material than you ever thought could possibly be present in a lawn!), it is best to mow up the material or rake it up and remove it from the lawn. 

When you have too much thatch in your lawn it interferes with the lawns ability to use available water and fertilizer so it will actually show your lawn looking dry even though you have been pouring the water to it.  If you have more than 1/2″ of thatch it will increase disease pressure and harbor insects in the thatch layer that are not beneficial for your lawn.   If your grass roots have too much thatch it will make your lawn less drought tolerant and will actually appear to be in poor condition even though you have taken every other step to ensure a good quality lawn. When you have 1/2 inch or less of thatch it serves as a shade and actually helps cool the crowns of the plant and reduces compaction.  Another easy way to reduce compaction is through regular aerification and I will discuss that in the next couple weeks.

Now after you have finished the vertical cutting process you will actually see your lawn go into stress for about 10-14 days, so it’s important to increase your watering and apply a fertilizer to maintain plant strength.  I think it is important to water daily for 10-14 days until the grass recovers and fertilize with a product high in potassium such as 0-0-50 or 6-20-20.  You do not need a nitrogen application during this time, but keep with your usual monthly fertilization schedule. 

Just to summarize, you need to verticut when your lawn has over 1/2 inch of thatch when it is actively growing so you can reduce compaction and increase your water and fertilizer uptake.  You can often rent a verticutter at your local supply store and they will be called a Ren-o-thin, not a power rake.  A power rake can be too aggressive when overdone.  I have attached a couple pictures of what your lawn will look like after the verticuttung process.  Let me know if you have any questions about this.

Please read through my past blogs for more information on keeping your lawn healthy.  You can also find us on Facebook!/pages/West-Coast-TurfWestern-Sod/128634003982?ref=ts, or follow me on Twitter