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MAJOR thatch problems

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by Jason Rose, Oct 4, 2006.

  1. Jason Rose

    Jason Rose LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,858

    Have a lawn, I powerraked and overseeded this year, was getting thin in areas... After seeding a couple weeks go by, watering 2x daily 25 min on the rotors and 3 to 6 on the sprays. Where the sprinklers DO hit, it's stayed wet. Still NO seed coming up in spots. Finally take a closer look and find a thatch layer like none other! Literally 2 inches of thatch, the top looks like soil, hell, I thought it was, NOPE, just thatch. These places are BARE and there's no way to get seed to root into the thatch... A slicer won't even penetrate deep enough and aeration would take a long time to break down this layer.

    This is only really BAD in spots, not the whole lawn... Is tilling it under with a roto-tiller about the only option? I just don't know HOW to get seed down here!

    Problem here is the homeowner... She's already PISSED that I had to have the sprinklers running 2x a day for the last couple weeks. She "has" to have her time outside, either laying in the sun (mind you she looks like she's 90 from all the sun over the years) or fiddiling with her flower beds in the back. She can't do any of that *she says* when it's wet in the yard. She about had a FIT when I seeded and told her how much it would need water. Totally ruins her routine I guess...

    I'm at my wits end here... I thought powerraking was supposed to take care of THATCH, but it only scratches the surface, not below where the real thatch lives! I'm pizzed cause I have no seed in the bare spots and I'm afraid the solution is going to be VERY labor intensive and is going to have to be done yesterday seeings as it's already late i the seeding season...

  2. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,204

    Simply take a big weedeater and wack it down to the soil and rake up the grass you cut. In Texas we cut all the grass down to the soil in the fall before we plant rye and we get a perfect stand that way. Don't think you will want to do the entire yard but do the bad spots.
  3. Jason Rose

    Jason Rose LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,858

    That's the problem, there's nothing green there already. All that's left is about a 2 inch layer of thatch. I can DIG it up with my fingers, but it takes quite a bit of effort to pull up a piece due to the mass of dead roots. Trimmer wouldn't but scrape the surface. The patches vary from a few feet to 12 or so feet across. F-ing bluegrass that got planted in with the fescue... Can't take our heat here, especially this summer, and makes thatch like none other.

    Guess I forgot to mention, this lawn is in sand too.

    Ahhhh, love it, thread moved I see... As if people don't ignore my posts enough, throw it into a forum where only a few venture...
  4. DoetschOutdoor

    DoetschOutdoor LawnSite Bronze Member
    from S. IL
    Posts: 1,818

    I had this problem in a few of my yards that a national fert. chain burned up this year. Had to get in with a garden rake and manually get up all the thatch until it was bare soil. Little top soil, seed, cover with some sort straw and water. It is labor intensive and no fun at all but if you already tried a power rake then this might be your next option.
  5. MJB

    MJB LawnSite Silver Member
    from Wa
    Posts: 2,869

    I've been working on lawns I acquired with 2 to 4 inches of thatch. I found out that aerating twice a year fall and early summer worked best for us. Also don't apply fertilizers for a few yrs that feed the roots like 16x16x16.
    Now for the best news apply Micro Thatch on the lawn this stuff will eat up to 1/4 inch of thatch per month during the warmer months. I applied it in may and june last yr and my lawns all responded well. I have less dry spots showing up for the 1st time in yrs. This stuff uses some kind of soil microbe that eats dead wood only and can not move in the lawn so it feeds on the thatch layer and and breaks it down into fertilizer for the lawn basically. When I aerated the lawn 3 months after the application the plugs came out and just fell apart when touched compared to plugs that are normally tight thatch. Anyway my buddy brought this to me 3 yrs ago and I love it. He sells microbes to farmers for their crops to lessen their water needs and improve the yield. Price is under $75 per acre.
  6. MJB

    MJB LawnSite Silver Member
    from Wa
    Posts: 2,869

    For a quick fix you might try renting an aerator and plugging it then the seed will reach the soil wherever the plugs are pulled. Plus this will allow more air water and nutrients into the soil where the plant can benefit more.

    All my thatchy lawns are Bluegrass, fescue and rye mix, and on sand where people tent to over water and over fertilize.
  7. Jason Rose

    Jason Rose LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,858

    Well the good news, I do own an aerator! Bad news, The owners are NOT going to like this at all... Iv'e already overseeded and just sent them the bill for that. Now there IS seed coming up, but only in the places where there's already grass... I have a bad feeling that I'm going to be up against a wall here trying to get paid for the first seeding and then having to tell them that "hey, I need to aerate and overseed these areas again" She was having a FIT over having to be bothered by the sprinklers for the last couple weeks, she's going to murder me if I tell her it will be a couple MORE weeks!
  8. MJB

    MJB LawnSite Silver Member
    from Wa
    Posts: 2,869

    Maybe they will be happy with it as is. Explain about their thatch problem as the culprit and that it will take some time but you will get that under control for next yr. I use to thatch every spring , now I have not thatched a lawn in 10 yrs and my lawns are in better shape now than ever from aerating and adjusting fertilizer , and using the micro thatch once every few yrs as needed.
  9. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,494

    You mentioned a power rake...Do you have an actual knife dethatcher, or is it a power rake with spring tine type teeth? Also, if you DON'T have a dethaatcer with solid blades, and you only have smaller patches like that to do, go get yourself a hand rake dethatcher. They sell them at HD,Lowes, and most hardware stores. These things work GREAT. They are a it slower than a power unit, but for the amount of area you have, these things work great.
    Here's a link to what I'm talking about.
  10. 04SIERRA04

    04SIERRA04 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 6

    What about passing the aerator in (2) directions and then powerraking in 2 directions, rake up the mess, a little topsoil some seed, starter fertilizer and voila? How much rain do you get this time of year? Shouldn't have to water....

    Did you set the customers expectations properly when you took on the task of fixing her lawn?

    Although I'm not a lawn care pro and am not lucky enough to do maintainence for a living, I learned that in my line of work to thouroughly explain the situation to the client before doing any work.

    If she's aiming for a perfect lawn, she has to understand that it's not an overnight thing. It requires ongoing maintainence unless she wants to shell out big money to remove all that's there and start over.

    At my cottage for example, I've set a 4 year plan which involves aerating, detatching, topdressing/seeding and regular fertilizing. It's my second year and the lawn has already improved 50%. This way I get to see results, and spread the expense and work over a couple of years.

    Good luck!

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