Aeration and Dethatching in FL

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Green_Thumb_Wolf, Dec 19, 2001.

  1. Green_Thumb_Wolf

    Green_Thumb_Wolf LawnSite Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 8

    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!
  2. chicks-dig-lawn-guys

    chicks-dig-lawn-guys LawnSite Member
    Messages: 48

    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.
  3. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,969

    Wolf, are you inquiring about real thatch, as was recently defined in <a href="">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.
  4. Green_Thumb_Wolf

    Green_Thumb_Wolf LawnSite Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 8

    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!

  5. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,969

    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.
  6. Fantasy Lawns

    Fantasy Lawns LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,912

    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 which has the BEST info on St. Aug
  7. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,969

    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.
  8. I use a Snapper (kees) powerrake on turf with heavy thatch.

    Is this machine considered a verticutter?
  9. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,969


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

    Green_Thumb_Wolf LawnSite Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 8

    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

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