For many of us the only time that our lawns see a rake is at their inception when we rake the soil an acceptable level before seed sowing. A further light raking to bring the seed into full contact with the soil may then follow this.
Once the lawn is growing we will occasionally and begrudgingly give it a rake to remove fallen leaves when they reach light obscuring levels, but that's it. That leaf raking of course takes place each autumn as the cooling outdoor temperatures affect the sugars within the trees leaves causing them to fall. Now if you rake a little deeper in autumn you may just remove a few of your lawns other problems, thatch being one.
Have you ever looked closely at your lawn and noticed a spongy layer just below the grass leaves. It's not moss, but this light coloured layer is something just as bad. Thatch is a mish-mash of organic matter, mainly old grass stems and roots decomposing alongside tree leaves.
Left unchallenged thatch can stack higher and higher resulting in two main problems. Firstly grass may begin to root into thatch instead of your soil meaning that any scuff in the lawn easily tears out large clumps of grass. Thick layers of thatch are also a breeding ground for many lawn pests and diseases, the sweaty sponge acting like a virtual incubation chamber to these nasties.
Tools to beat thatch.Thankfully the humble garden rake may be all you need to halt the rise of thatch. You can work those arms and shoulders by raking it out with a sprung rake, that classic fan-shaped rake with metal tines. The aim is to briskly rip the thatch up without disturbing the soil and root zone deeper than ½ inch.
There are also one or two other mid-priced manual tools that are specially designed for thatch removal besides the spring tined rake. One such tool is the scrake; a rake with sharpened metal blades that easily cut through the thatch then pulls it up. The newer version of the scrake is the push-pull wheeled scrake, which allows you to set and maintain the depth of raking.
Now the removal of thatch using a hand rake or scrake is usually only practical on smaller lawns. An hour or so of raking in this way is all the confirmation you will need of this fact.
For larger lawns you will have to go down the route of mechanical de-thatching. For this you will need to hire or purchase a machine known as a scarifier, vertical mower, or power rake. These are walk behind raking machines, which do the exact same job as the hand versions, albeit with petrol power rather than muscle power.
After raking out you should look at reseeding all the bare patches within your lawn. Overseed the patchy areas with a 50/50 soil and seed mix cast out by hand, lightly raked in, and then rolled. The new seed will germinate, and after a few cuts will begin to close any areas once thinned by thatch.
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