How to Tell if Lawn Needs Dethatching?

If you want your lawn to look beautiful, neat, and clean, then it’s important to dethatch once or twice per year. By doing this, you’ll keep your lawn looking its best and ensure that you don’t have to deal with pesky weeds later on down the road. But how do you know if your lawn needs dethatching in the first place? Check out the following signs of lawn dethatching that will give you a better idea of when it’s time to dethatch your lawn.

How do You Know if Your Lawn Needs Dethatching?

Thatch is the combination of dead grass, roots, and leaves between grass and the soil of your lawn. Having a layer of thatch is important for the preservation of moisture and drainage of water. But thatch can be harmful to both lawn soil and the grass if thatch is not maintained at an appropriate level. Thatch that gets too dense is bad for the grass. And dense thatch layer requires dethatching. But how do you know that your thatch layer is dense and it requires dethatching?

There are two ways you can know if your lawn needs dethatching.

  • Through signs and symptoms
  • Through simple thatch layer tests

Let’s start with thatch layer tests.

Tests to know if you need any dethatching:

Test One: Checking for a Spongy Thatch

Walk on the Lawn: Walking can give you a feel of whether or not your lawn needs to be dethatched. You have to walk on the lawn barefoot. If the ground feels firm underneath your foot, then most probably, the density of the thatch there is okay and doesn’t need any dethatching. But if the ground feels spongy, then there might be a dense thatch layer below, and a dethatching is needed there.

Pressing the Grass with Hands: Press different parts of the lawn with your hands. If your hand reaches the top of the thatch and you cannot press anymore, it means the thatch layer is perfect there. It requires no dethatching, then. But if you can push the thatch layer and feel like a sponge, it means the thatch layer is dense. And a dethatching is needed.

Use a Stick to Measure Thatch Depth: Use a ruler to penetrate the thatch layer, and if you see that the thatch layer is not more than 2 cm deep, then it is a perfect size. But if the thatch layer is dense, then it might require dethatching. 

Test Two: Turf Wedge Test

Use a Trawler Shovel: Using a shovel to dig out a chunk of lawn turf to actually see the thatch layer can help you to decide whether you need any dethatching or not. It is recommended to use a trawler shovel. Other kinds of shovels will do fine too.

Dig out a Lawn Turf: Penetrate the shovel into the grass and make sure that the shovel reaches the soil below. Dig out a chunk of wedge turf just enough to see a different level of grass, thatch, and soil.

Measure with a Ruler: Now use a ruler to measure the depth of the thatch layer in between the grass and the soil. If the layer is less than 2 cm dense, then you don’t need any dethatching. But if the layer is more than 2 cm dense, then there requires a dethatching.

Signs to Know if You Need Any Dethatching

The Best Time to Do it!

When grass is dormant and looks unusual in color, the period from early November to late February is a good time to dethatch your lawn. There’s less that can go wrong and fewer turfgrass diseases and insects. So you’re less likely to be disappointed in your results. Avoid fall dethatching if you live in an area prone to drought. If there is no rain during March or April, expect little regrowth of thatch after dethatching during fall. Also, avoid fall dethatching if you have cool-season grasses (bluegrass) in high-prairie areas or on steep slopes or hillsides where quick regrowth isn’t feasible.

Spots Where the Grass is Sparse

If you find bare patches of ground or a few thin patches of grass, it may be time to dethatch. When you mow, notice if there’s a difference in density between these patches and your other grass. If so, these spots will benefit from dethatching. It could also mean that your lawn needs additional water or fertilizer. Be sure to look at more than just individual patches; think about your entire lawn when deciding whether or not to dethatch.

Thick but Dull Turf

The first sign your lawn needs dethatching is overgrowth. If you notice your grass is getting thicker than usual, it may need to be dethatched. Thick grass gets a bad rap in some circles as looking unkempt, but if it’s healthy, thick turf is actually desirable. This is because healthy grass blades create natural shade that helps keep the soil moist during hot summer months. You’ll know you’re working with thick turf when you notice individual blades are a little bit longer and thicker than they should be. Like small bamboo leaves jutting out of your lawn. Watch out for other signs of needing to dethatch your lawn, like sharp edges and dead patches in thin or thinning areas of your lawn.

Grass Clippings that Stay on Top of the Soil

If you’re finding grass clippings on top of your lawn, then it might be time to dethatch. As the grass grows, clippings can build up and smother your grass. To help prevent a buildup of thatch, run your mower at a high setting for a few minutes once every other week or so. This will allow those clippings to decompose more quickly, preventing them from getting stuck in your lawn’s upper layers. Grass that feels spongy: If you step on your lawn and find it gives way beneath you or is spongy, then it’s probably time to dethatch.

When you see mounds, ridges, or bald patches in your yard

This is a classic sign of thatch, a layer of dead grass and roots sitting on top of your lawn. Thatch can build up over time due to improper mowing, or it can happen in one year if you have extreme weather conditions. In both cases, it won’t go away without dethatching once it’s there. Properly dethatched soil will give weed seeds less chance to germinate, and they’ll be easier to kill if they do manage to appear. If you’re not battling with unwanted guests on your lawn, then chances are you need some dethatching done ASAP.

When your grass doesn’t stand up well when stepped on

It’s time to dethatch. When grass is in poor condition, it tends to grow very slowly and cannot produce a thick enough blade to stand up well when stepped on. This not only makes your lawn look thin and unappealing, but it can also make mowing more difficult for you. As you notice your grass growing at a slower rate than usual, get ready to dethatch as soon as possible. Waiting until your grass has completely died off will only exacerbate any issues you encounter later on.

Bottom Line

Taking care of your lawn is vital for having a healthy lawn. And knowing the right way to care and the right time to care is more important. And after reading this guide, now you know when is the time to dethatch and take care of your lawn.