Aerating and Dethathing, who does it and when

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by JMK Lawn Service, Aug 30, 2012.

  1. JMK Lawn Service

    JMK Lawn Service LawnSite Member
    Posts: 166

    I am looking to rent a stand on aerator and hit a bunch of properties as quickly as possible. When is the best time to aerate? i have done it spring and fall but have read that it is really good for turf so i want to do it this fall for sure. Is there a better time than another in the fall?Dethatching is something i have only done a few times. We had a really hard summer and lots of dead grass and now a lot of dead thatch and i want to get it out of the lawns this fall before it sits all winter. Is that a good idea? Was thinking of getting a thatch rake for my ZTR and then a pull behind yard sweep. Is fall a good time for dethatching?
    Thanks for the help!
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Aerating in the early Fall helps many lawns to get the water with the fertilizer down into the root zone for the time of the year those roots are growing the fastest... Based on this life fact of grass,,, you'll do well to aerate now...

    Removing dead grass from the turf is an error,,, for cool-season turf... people improve their lawns by mulch mowing inches of maple leaves into the turf,,, how much better would the natural grasses themselves do as they decayed into the soil... de-thatching is nonsense as far as I can tell... :)
  3. JMK Lawn Service

    JMK Lawn Service LawnSite Member
    Posts: 166

    Ok so aerating is a go. That is good.
    I have always mulched leaves and all grass so i know the benifit of that. But why then do people ever dethatch? i would assume taking out the dead grass in patches where no grass is growing would be the best thing. to allow water and fert and water to the roots and let them breath a little better. I am no expert on this so that is why i am researching and asking. Thank you
  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Dead grass clippings will hold water and allow it to seep into the ground the same way any other mulch would do... as the grass clippings break down they will aid in the formation of aggregates that build a soil structure that aids in water infiltration, retention, then ulitmately perculation and drainage...
    They also make a wonderful seed bed...

    Living thatch is the culprit that is water-proof and holds more in puddles than it allows to soak in... de-thatching to eliminate that type of thatch is a real waste of time...
    Fot living thatch you want to aerate or possibly verticut your way through it but scratching it up wich a de-thatcher is pretty inconsequential...

    Remember I'm only speaking for cool-season grasses and make no claims about warm-season grasses at all... :)
  5. JoJo1990

    JoJo1990 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 244

    Actually Axe, 'dead grass clippings' do a horrible job of holding water. At best, they will reduce some wind speed at the soil surface.

    Here is a recent post I made when Axe gave similar information:

    Thatch layers can increase and build for a number of reasons. When thatch, especially in cool season lawns, reaches over a half of one inch thick, it should be reduced. This would be an excellent time to verticut or use a power seeder to first de-thatch and then collect that layer. Next, add the seed to your machine and do your seeding passes. You will still pull up more thatch on these subsequent passes but in most cases, that can be left on op of the grass and it will fall back down to the soil on its own.

    I've seen little thatch reduction when core aeration is used for the sole purpose of reducing thatch, although it does help to some degree.
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Let's first define our terms in rlation to thatch... Dead grass clippings are the most common view of thatch that people have... and I agree,,, "Aeration" is pointless in reducing or enhancing that type of "Thatch"... I essentially just call it 'mulch'...

    The "Thatch" that aeration was developed for,,, i.e. the aeration machines were manufactured to help deal with the other kind of "Thatch", which I commonly refer to as "Living Thatch"... this is the hydropobic water proof layer of living and dead roots and stems... a plugger is an excellent tool in dealing with this type of 'thatch'...

    The mulch type thatch is nothing more than soggy hay or straw that covers the ground,,, much the same way the "straw" added after seeding is supposed to be... only the natural hay has been deteriorating all summer long and is improving your soil at the same time...

    I've been thinking about getting pictures ready to load to this laptop and go through the process of overseeding in mulch thatch, on this forum,,, once the big weekend is over...

    Are there still questions that you'd like to see addressed, when I post these pictures???
  7. JMK Lawn Service

    JMK Lawn Service LawnSite Member
    Posts: 166

    i am learning, but i would love to see some pictures with explinations. That would be great. And maybe i can upload some of what i am dealing with.
    Thanks a lot guys
  8. tree_hugger

    tree_hugger LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 256

    You must be referring to dethatching just cool season grass. It works wonders on Bermuda and zoysia grass but we only do it in the spring and summer. The thatch insulates the roots of the warm season grass which prevents winter kill so dethatching in the fall is a no no.
  9. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Yes I am talking only about cool-season grasses...

    Interesting note about thatch being an insulator for winter... We like to leave dead grass in the turf to insulate from the sun...
  10. JMK Lawn Service

    JMK Lawn Service LawnSite Member
    Posts: 166

    great info thanks guys!

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