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Excess Thatch

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by fshelton, May 8, 2003.

  1. fshelton

    fshelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    This my first full year in the lawncare bussiness. I have a couple of custumers that are complaining about excess thatch in there yard after we cut. Most of our customers we don't bag the grass. We recomend to everyone that we at least bag it for the first cut. A few of the ones who still don't want it bagged still complain about the excess thatch, and sometimes yellow grass after we cut.

    We are cutting at 2.5", is that to low?

    We have strongly suggested to our customers that they water their lawns more often, we tell them everyday hoping they will do it at least every other day.

    What should I do?
  2. mdb landscaping

    mdb landscaping LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,205

    if you side discharge, or mulch, you are not adding thatch. there is a big misconception out there in the landscaping industry, and by homeowners that by returning clippings you are adding thatch. by watering, you arent going to solve the problem, because thats the main problem with thatch. the lignin laced stems from the crown of the grass plant dont break down, and the thatch layer prevents water from actually penetrating to the soil and makes it hydrophobic. the water is just running off, and in a sense not getting into the soil. best thing to do is just dethatch the whole yard. get down on your hands and knees and see how much thatch is actually there in inches. if i left anything out, or messed up on something, im sure other guys will point it out, but this is what i have learned over the past few years. as for the yellowing after you cut, it may sound like you are mowing too low, but i dont know what type of grass you are cutting so i cant answer that. different types of grass are cut at different heights.

    SCAPEASAURUSREX LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 835

    Well Said Matt...

    The yellowing may be from dull blades too ? How often do you sharpen them ? You may want to power rake the lawns as opposed to just dethaching with a spring tine machine.. That is if the thatch is that thick.. But beware.... You will get a ridiculous amount of thathc out of the lawn.... Like truckloads... Especially if it is Zoysia grass.. Yuckkkk.....
  4. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    you should dethatch or better yet aerate that lawn.

    Lawn clippings have nothing to do with thatch. In fact by not bagging the clippings (if they are not clumps) can equal approx. 3 fertilizer applications a year.
  5. Chris Wagner

    Chris Wagner LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 252

    General mowing of the lawn won't cause thatch. The customers might be complaining of the clippings, but that's not thatch.

    We've had a lot of rain in the Chicago area (I'm just 15-20 minutes out of Bolingbrook). Turf is growing really fast right now. At our church where I'm the grounds director, I'm cutting some areas 3 times a week. If you're only cutting once a week on turf that is well maintained, there is going to be a considerable amount of clippings returned to the soil. Consider either more cuts, better mulching blades, or bagging the lawns.

    DON'T GET THATCH AND GRASS CLIPPINGS MIXED UP! Clippings are rarely the cause of thatch. Thatch is dead turf and other organics that haven't decomposed yet. Dethatching and even aerating will help, but so will good lawn care.

    As far as the "yellow" on the turf, there are few things that could be causing this right now (you're likely cutting mostly bluegrass, ryegrass and some fescue).

    1) Removing too much grass. As mentioned, the turf is growing like nuts here. If you are only cutting once a week (at least this week), you are probably removing quite a bit. This will cause some of the lower parts of the grass blade to be exposed... which aren't nearly as green (often yellowish). Cut more often or cut less off.

    2) Your blade height is too low. Although 2.5 is a pretty good height, especially in the early spring, you might want to raise it up higher. 2.75-3 inches is likely a better height and even more in the hotter months. Remember, the higher you cut, the deeper the roots go and the better the striping.

    3a) Although we've had more than enough rain to make up for any poor fertilization, the lawns may have some fertilization issue... although I don't see that at this point in the year.

    3b) If fertilization burned the lawn, you'll definitely get some yellow up to and including complete dead areas. If you applied too much (especially Nitrogen), the large amounts of rain might have helped wash some of it away. However, that's no excuse for over fertilizing.

    4) Dull blades. (Mentioned earlier) Dull blades won't provide a nice clean cut. It can split (or tear) the top of the grass blade which often turns it yellow. This can make the grass more susceptible to disease as well. If you have a dull blade, the next time you cut the yellow should disappear.

    My guess is you're cutting quite a bit off the turf right now since it's rapidly growing. Grass has a yellow-ish look when you cut a great deal off.

    Don't forget about the 1/3 rule. You should never cut off more than 1/3 the amount turf. (ie if turf is 3 inches you should cut off no more than 1 inch - this is just an example... 2 inches isn't a good height for most of our cool season turf)
  6. fshelton

    fshelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    Thank you all for your replies. I just put new/sharpened blades on the mower. So it looks like the general consensus is that I'm cutting the grass too low. I will adjust my blades before I get any complaints from other customers.

    Thanks all.

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