WHAT IS THATCH?Thatch is primarily dead grass stems and roots which accumulate as grass plants die and are replaced. Thatch is not caused by grass clippings but by the woody, slow to decompose stems, rhizomes, and stolons below the grass blades.
CAUSES OF ACCUMULATIONThatch buildup is a natural process with a healthy lawn. Vigorous, thick lawns build up thatch relatively fast. Lawns with frequent watering and fertilizer applications contribute to thatch accumulation. Any other combination of factors retarding decay and decomposition also favors thatch.
DAMAGE FROM THATCHThe biggest problem with a buildup of thatch is that the thatch layer prevents water and nutrients from reaching the plant roots. The water collects in the thatch layer and evaporates before it penetrates through to the root system. Thatch reduces the space available for producing new turf. Where crowded by thatch, the new plant parts tend to grow rapidly as they seek light and space, thus producing long, thin leaves with shallow roots. Thatch harbors disease inoculum. Turf diseases such as fusarium, dollarspot, and brown patch are favored by excess thatch. Thatch favors insects by hiding them from their predators. Thatch favors winter desiccation because the roots are concentrated in the thatch rather than in the protective soil. Finally, variable thicknesses and density of thatch make scalping by mowers almost inevitable.
CONTROL OF THATCHNaturescene® recommends aeration as the best control for thatch accumulation. Aeration or coring provides for this by pulling cores of soil and thatch out of the soil. Hollow metal tubes 1/2 inch in diameter are pushed into the soil to a depth of 3 to 4 inches to pull out the cores. This allows oxygen to enter and contribute to decomposition of the thatch and promote deeper root growth. Also, as nature breaks up the cores, the solid will filter into the turf and support the microbial decomposition of the undisturbed thatch. Aeration is also preferred because there will be less tearing and disruption of the lawn surface as with dethatching. The aeration process also minimizes the damage that heavy thatch can cause. It does this by opening up the thatch, allowing air, water and fertilizer to reach the soil and expanding root system. Annual aerating will prevent a damaging thatch layer from ever building up.
Naturescene® offers Aeration in the spring and fall at very reasonable prices. Please call us if you are interested in this valuable service.
These tips are designed to help inform you about proper cultural practices such as mowing and watering and common basic lawn problems that may arise. If you ever have any concerns about your lawn or our services please call us.
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