View Full Version : Aeration and Dethatching in FL

12-19-2001, 01:19 PM
First let me say thank you to everyone at this site. I have recently gotten back in the business after many years, of wasting my time elsewhere. The information and ideas shared here is invaluable and absolutley incredible. Hopefully I will be able to return all the help that you guys have been to me.

Let me assure you that I did the search thing and if the answers are there I couldn't find them.

Being from the North I am used to different types of grass and growing conditions. After a few years living in Florida I have received quite the lesson in St. Augustine Grass. Oh boy did I ever! My question has to do with aeration and dethatching with St. Augustine grass. I am familiar with the process and benifits with northern grasses, but am a little unsure with St. Augustine.

Aeration seems to be the same and offer the same benifits. Or so it seems.

However, I can't understand how the Dethatching would work, knowing the way St. Augustine grows.

Any help in this matter would be much appreciated. Whether it be how to do it or not to do it at all! Thanks!

12-19-2001, 01:45 PM
I dont know about Aeration but I do know that dethatching needs to be done. Got to get up all that dead grass from the winter, makes old saint augustine grow better and thicker. I have to get out there with a rake then put a bagger on the mower to pick up what I raked. Aint got all the fancy stuff to do it for me.

12-19-2001, 03:13 PM
Wolf, are you inquiring about real thatch, as was recently defined in <a href="http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=22508">What really is thatch?</a> or are you referring to the visible dead blades?

Real dethatching of St. Augustine is a chore, just removing some dead fluff is a different story. I'm sure some southern guys can give you details, but you need to ID what you are calling thatch.

12-19-2001, 05:58 PM
Thanks for the post and question Jim. I'll try to clarify.

It seems in Florida most people don't know how to properly water their lawns and they set the sprinklers off for short durations almost daily when they can. This does nothing more than promote shallow root growth and poor looking lawns. Well lately since we have been under water restrictions and because I have been educating my new clients we are starting to fix that problem, but now I find that all the shallow root growth has created like a sponge effect in the grass and that there is alot of dead and dying root system between the true lawn and the soil, causing problems with watering and fertilizing and it looks like crap too!!!!!

Man I love St. Augustine grass!

Most people down here just seem to resod it when it gets this way, and wait fir the new grass to take, but I think the grass is still good with a good root system (now) and would prefer to salvage whats there, saving my customers alot of money! Besides, by educating my customers along with myself, I have brought in more business than anything else. Good word of mouth and a little praise for going above the call of duty is great advertisement!

Hope this clears it up Jim. Any and all advice is appreciated!


12-19-2001, 09:05 PM
Sounds like you're dealing with real thatch, Wolf. And I'd better let one of the southern guys deal with that in St Augustine. Up here a dethatching usually means reseeding or sodding because of the destruction.

Fantasy Lawns
12-19-2001, 09:48 PM
Thatch is the layer of unrecompensed leaf blades, stolons, roots and crowns inter mingle with soil ….contrary to popular belief, leaving mowing clippings on the lawn does not cause thatch.

Excessive thatch develops when the grass is over fertilized, over watered, and improperly mowed …it is suggested that when the thatch layer exceeds 1 inch ….power rake or vertical cut early-spring …. April …. south of Orlando and late-spring …May … north of Orlando ….Power Rake or Vertical mowing may result in damaged turf that will require a period of recuperation …... Do not do this unless the grass is actively growing

Immediately irrigate to prevent dehydration ….. One week following apply 1 pound nitrogen per 1000 square feet (e.g., 3 pounds ammonium nitrate or 5 pounds ammonium sulfate per 1000 square feet)

This is not a normal provide service for the St. Aug ….as it has a natural thick “Thatch” layer …and is rarely performed in our area

This info is from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/scripts/LH010 which has the BEST info on St. Aug

12-19-2001, 10:41 PM
Green Thumb

Jim's post on thatch is the best information I have ever read on the subject. He just needs a good car like my Pinto. Here in Fla. we do not dethatch St. Augstine. We verticut. Vertical cutting is how we renovate or dethatch our turf that has been over fertilized and over watered. You are right that thick mat of thatch cause many problems. It harbors insects and fungus. If our turf (St Aug) stays wet for more than 12 hours and the temp stays between 70 and 85 then fungus has the perfect environment to be come a problem. Verticutting thins the thatch and allows air movement. This also allows water to get to the roots as well as allowing pesticide to work better. Cool season turf and warm season turf grow difference. Cool season turf spread under ground. Warm season spreads on top of the ground.

Verticutting takes a special machine something like a slice cutter. (maybe the same I don't know cause I have never seen a slice cutter). A verticutter is like having 20 edgers 2" apart run through the turf. If fact I use a stick edger to verticut the areas where the verticutter can't get. The blade depth should be set to just touch the soil. It is best to go in two different direction 90 degrees a part. I fine that most 5,000 to 6,000 sq ft of turf to product 2 to 3 pick up trucks of grass clipping. I use a 4 ft high trailer to haul away the clipping which makes a great compost. You can rent a verticutter but it will not be self propelled and it takes man a boy and mule to push it. I have a Ryan mataway verticutter which you can change blades on to make it a dethatcher. The main difference is a solid blade or a hinged blade. The Ryan mataway is self propelled 11 hp which makes the job easier. Then you have to clean up all the clipping. Walker 25 hp GHS does the job. Walker also makes a rake that goes in front of the blades for the final pass over the yard to really get all of the clipping. This is a lot of work and prices are .07 to .10 per sq ft. This adds up fast and therefore it is hard to sell a verticut job. People just don't want to pay for it unless there turf it going bad. Verticutting is still a better bargain than turf replacement. Sod jobs with cut out run .75 sq ft.

Core aeration is also beneficial on our calcium sand. I use a Ryan IV aerator but would not recommend it. Buy a split drum aerator. One place you can sell aeration is on hills that drain to quick and have drought stress. Aeration will help hold water and give an almost instant response in a couple of days. Good Luck I hope my rambling has helped you.

lawrence stone
12-19-2001, 11:14 PM
I use a Snapper (kees) powerrake on turf with heavy thatch.

Is this machine considered a verticutter?

12-19-2001, 11:41 PM

Power rake and a verticutter are two different things. They do the same thing on different types of turf.

12-20-2001, 12:37 AM
Appreciate all the input. Makes things alot clearer about the situation. Now decisions, decisions. What to do! Thanks again to all that took the time and effort. Look forward to chating in the future! TTFN

12-20-2001, 10:30 AM
In my experience, a verticutter is a machine with FIXED vertical blades. The verticutter can be used as a vertical mower, with blades set to just hit turf surface. Up here they would be used on a stoloniferous grass, like bentgrass, to stimulate growth after a stress or dormancy period. The verticutter can also be used as a powerrake, with the blades set much deeper to cut through the thatch layer to the soil as you indicate above. This mode is used to dethatch improperly cared for lawns that have developed a heavy thatch problem. Of course, the powerrake mode must have a lot more power, so a dedicated vertical mower could be a much smaller engine. (I'm gonna run this by some of the golf guys after Christmas, and make sure my terminology is correct. I'll post on this thread if I have enhancements.)

But my real ?'s for you: After you (powerrake, verticut, Mataway) your St. Augustine to remove the excessive thatch, is there enough of it left to regrow a decent turf within a few months, or will you have to sod or sprig sometimes? In a dethatching up here, I will run powerrake in several directions, and the increasingly smaller pieces of thatch will break loose from the soil. But after cleanup there is often just a few grass blades left, and the little root left in the soil will take years to regrow a decent lawn, so we have to seed or sod. This is for a 1" or greater thatch depth. From my memory (45+ years ago in Biloxi), it seems that even just a little St Augustine root would provide a decent lawn in a couple of months. True? And when is the best time to (powerrake, verticut, Mataway) your St. Augustine? At the begining of warmup and heavy growth, or anytime during summer?

P.S. Many, probably most, of the northern guys think they are "powerraking" with a vertical flail or a tine-type (JRCO "dethatcher") attachment. So assumed definitions play havoc in communication. What they call a powerraking is just a raking job to me.

Island Lawn
12-20-2001, 04:17 PM
Verti cut in one direction only!


Regrowth should occur in a matter of weeks.


No sprigging or sodding necessary

If you go both directions, you chop up the stolons too much.

My $.02

12-20-2001, 06:09 PM
Thanks Island, I suppose then that St Augustine can grow thatch rather rapidly, with a longer growing season down there and its aggressive growth. And as stated above, it is spongy, not really very dense.

In the north a thatch layer in bluegrass or fine fescue takes several years of mismanagement to develop, and it is a REALLY tough son-of-a-gun. We can't really remove some of it, because it is so tightly packed. Verticutting just 1000 ft² of 1" thatch could yield 5-8 cu yd of mess.

Just boning up on your southern grasses, in case I get tired of snow some day. :alien:

Island Lawn
12-27-2001, 11:46 AM
The idea is prevention rather than cure!

I don't won't to wait until it's a spongy problem.
I figure it's part of the management of the turf!

Mowing Analogy:
I don't wait until the grass is overgrown and ugly before you cut it down!
I believe it is healthier to only cut 1/3 blade legth per mowing.

The same idea with thatch, man.

Don't wait till it's overgrown and stressed!

Get my drift?

12-27-2001, 04:37 PM
Island Lawn

By the time I get a vericut job the turf is so over grown that we must cut in two direction in order to get rid of the heavy thatch. Yes this does tear up stolons. But a heavy thatched yard has enough stolons to recover quickly. Yes preventive is better than curative however you must be there to prevent problems and not called in after the problem has been already created. The urea cowboys and zealous homeowners are the biggest cause of excessive thatch.


I believe you have veritical cutting and power raking switched. When I verticut I touch the soil and cut thru the stolons. It takes more power to verticut and I use a 11hp unit to verticut. However as you stated North to South we call thing by different names. Generally we do not have to plug St Augstine have verticutting However many of these lawns have other problems brought on by excessive thatch such as brown patch or weeds we have to plug.

Island Lawn
12-28-2001, 11:54 PM
Yes preventive is better than curative however you must be there to prevent problems and not called in after the problem has been already created. The urea cowboys and zealous homeowners are the biggest cause of excessive thatch.

All my customers are full service, year round.

By the time I get a vericut job the turf is so over grown that we must cut in two direction in order to get rid of the heavy thatch. Yes this does tear up stolons. But a heavy thatched yard has enough stolons to recover quickly.

Must be HE!! on your machine / operator!
(Not to mention, stolons.)


12-29-2001, 01:36 AM
Island Lawn

Yes all my customer are year round accounts also. Re read what you quoted I said that by the time I get them. I believe that means I did not cause the problem I was called in to cure it.

Re read what I posted about verticut machines both rentals and my own machine.

What type of verticut do you own and how many years have you been verticutting?? What do you charge for your verticutting?? Do you do 35 to 40 verticut jobs a year like I do?? Yes it is hard work but it pays well and you can pick up the customer for fert & squirt after the job is done.

12-29-2001, 08:03 AM
It seems as if all this advice is going against what the Universities recommend now. From what I've read it is better to aerate than dethatch/verticut. The aerating will accomplish the same thing over time if done on a routine basis and do a lot less damage to the turf. I would try and sell them on an aeration job in the spring and the fall and cut back on the heavy fertilizing. The only warm season grass I would think about dethatching is Zoysia and maybe some bermuda..........not centipede or St. Augustine.

12-29-2001, 12:31 PM
You are right in a well managed turf.
What I am Verticutting are 2 and 3'' of thatch that was the result of zealous home owners. Between the mismanagement of irrigation and the urea cowboys, these home owner have build a thatch night mirror. If you read my website both water and fertilization you will see that I am against high nitrogen and overwatering. So much so that I tell people to use only 3/4" water per week and I also state how wrong high nitrogen fert blends are.
I also stated in my first post that I have a Ryan IV aerator but would recommend a split drum model over it. The yards that I have maintenance contracts on do not need verticut. However there are many companies in South Fla. that only do Verticutting and this is there only business. The reason for this is the high number of retired people with "nothing to do and all day to do it." They all have to have swimming pools (that they never use) citrus trees (that the fruit rots on the ground) and the greenest grass on the block. They live in Sunny Fla. and companies like the spotted dog Fert and Squirt there yards 8+ times a year. Every 6 weeks these yards get pounded with nitrogen. This is an economical cycle that is wrong. I can not change this, so I just try and cure the problem one yard at a time. Yes this is St. Augstine.