aerate or dethatch?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by kamilchekid, May 9, 2006.

  1. kamilchekid

    kamilchekid LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    Please help, new to business. I have a few customers who want, and need their lawns dethatched. All of their soils are hard, compacted. Thatch is not quite 1".
    Everything I have read has me confused. My thought at this point is to aerate, overseed and fertalize. But just not sure. Looking to purchase tow behind aerator and/or dethatcher, any thoughts on this?
    Thanks for your help.
  2. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    My experience has been that there are two kinds of people in this world:
    - The kind who believe in dethatching, and the kind who don't.

    The reason I say this is because the two involve separate methods and a separate mentality, to the point where the two can not and will not get along on this issue because it begins a never-ending argument as to which method is better (trust me on this, my dad is a dethatcher, I am not).

    So, you have to decide which route you wish to take, and study the pros and cons of each one so it helps you in your decision.

    Basically, the dethatchers believe that thatch is a vulgar, dirty thing that must be removed so the lawn can thrive.
    Meanwhile, the non-dethatchers believe thatch is a beautiful compost-like material that is an absolutely essential component of the lawn.

    Pick one or the other, then you're ready to start down whichever road.

    p.s.: Likely this is the reason you were feeling confused.
  3. barefootlawnsandlandscape

    barefootlawnsandlandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 296

    Here is the way I look at it. When you aerate, as long as you core aerate, you will remove thatch. This will increase air flow, decrease compaction, and increase root growth. When you "dethatch", I assume you are talking about using something like a power rake or the likes, you are removing grass. In the golf course business this is referred to as verticutting. Cutting rhizomes, stolons and crowns to promote new growth. If you truly have a thatch problem the only way to resolve it is to core aerate, but if your thatch and compaction are not that bad then you could get away with just "dethatching." I would say do both, you will promote new top and bottom growth and help the thatch situation, if the grass can take it. You didn't tell us the variety of grass or climatic situations so it is hard to tell if it is the right time to be that aggressive. When I was a golf superintendent I always verticut right before aerifying to promote a quicker recovery.

    I will agree with topsites that thatch is essential to the health of a lawn, but too much thatch will kill a lawn also. Too much thatch hold all moisture and nutrients in the upper layer of the soil promoting shallow rooting. If the thatch layer is to thick it becomes impermiable and the soil becomes anaerobic. Anaerobic soils are totally useless to a plant and eventually the plant will die. On the good side thatch provides a great amount of microbial activity, cation exchange sites, and a pad for the grass to withstand traffic. It is all about keeping a happy medium when dealing with a thatch layer. I hope this helps and good luck.
  4. jameson

    jameson LawnSite Fanatic
    from PNW
    Messages: 7,472

    I would not consider anything UNDER 1" of thatch harmful, anything over 1" ceases to be beneficial to the turf.

    Aerating in the Fall/Spring, proper fertilization and watering techniques can keep thatch at a beneficial level.

    Power-rakes/de-thatchers have their place and can be a acceptable evil; a last resort in lawn renovation.

  5. cwlawley

    cwlawley LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 470

    1" and under is fine, core aeration will help to remove some of the exisiting thatch and it will also help to loosen that hard soil you were talking about.
  6. kamilchekid

    kamilchekid LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    Thank you all very much. You have been very helpful. I feel better about my decision to aerate.

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