Compacted soil or thick thatch is hindering your efforts towards having a lush lawn

Usually when your grass isn’t growing as well as it should it’s because your lawn isn’t getting the nutrients, air and water it wants. The thatch or soil is dense and the nutrients, air and water can’t move around freely on your lawn and reach the roots. Thatch is basically dead gathered grass just above the soil line. If your lawn feels bouncy, almost like a sponge, it’s most likely thick thatch. You can test your soil by trying to insert a screwdriver in the soil, if this is hard to do then it’s probably compacted soil.

Now that you know how to test your lawn for thick thatch or compact soil it’s time to act. If it’s compact, it’s time aerate. If your problem is thick thatch you’ll want to dethatch your lawn.

Lawn Aeration

Lawn aeration is moving plugs of soil from your lawn. This procedure loosens your soil and allows the nutrients, air, and water to travel freely throughout your lawn and it’s roots. You can rent an Aerator or call a lawn service to handle this for you.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

  1. Plan ahead. You’ll want soft soil, so deep water your lawn a day before you want to aerate.
  2. The aerator digs INTO your soil, so be sure to mark any item that might be shallow enough in your lawn that would get hit by the aerator.  You will want to go around these items. Sprinkler heads, gas lines and water lines are a few examples of very important items to avoid hitting with your aerator.
  3. Go over your lawn one time for light compaction and for a more compacted soil go over twice, being sure that on your second pass you are going perpendicular to your first pass.
  4. Leave the plugs that the aerator spits out on your lawn, this helps put nutrients back into your lawn once they break down naturally.
  5. Give your lawn a deep watering immediately after you are done aerating, and re-water every few days for the next few weeks.
  6. You can now add fertilizer at this time if you’d like to help speed up the process.
  7. Re-water every few days for the next few weeks.

When Should You Aerate Your Lawn

Aerating a lawn is best in it’s peak growing time so it can recover fast. If you have warm season grass, late spring through early summer is best. For cool season grass, early spring or fall is best.

If you have hard soil, like we do in Fort Worth, you should try to aerate your lawn once a year. If you have looser soil or a lawn that is in good shape, once every 2 to 3 years should be sufficient.

What is Dethatching?

That is the layer of grass shoots, living and dead, that sits between your soil and grass blades. A little thatch is ok because it provides protection from extreme high and low temperatures, retains moisture like mulch, and gives it a little cushioning. But thicker thatch, over ½ inch, is an issue because it can lead to disease, pests, prevent moisture and oxygen from reaching roots, and make it harder for your lawn to drain.

How to Dethatch Your Lawn

  1. If you have a small lawn you can use a dethatching rake, found at most home improvement stores. If your lawn is bigger, you can rent a dethatcher to make the job faster.
  2. Mow your lawn shorter than you normally would, so the rake or dethatcher can get to the thath easier.
  3. Rake the thatch by pulling towards you and up, you should be able to see the thatch breaking away.
  4. Like aerating, if you are using a dethatcher, be sure to mark any lines that might be underground. You do not want to hit one of these lines, go around them.
  5. After dethatching use a regular lawn rake to clean up thatch debris from your lawn and dispose of it properly.

When Should You Dethatch Your Lawn

Ideally you dethatch your lawn in peak growing season and when your soil is somewhat moist. Just like for aerating, early spring or fall for cool season grasses and late spring through early summer for warm season grasses.