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Homeowner Resources

When to Dethatch Your Lawn in New England

Posted by North Atlantic Landscape on Dec 4, 2020 6:54:51 PM

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Caring for your lawn is extremely important, especially in the hot and humid months of New England summer. If you have a lawn to look after, you probably take special care to make sure that your lawn is getting all of the water, nutrients, and sunlight that it needs to thrive. Though it is sometimes overlooked or even unheard of by some homeowners, one of the most important lawn maintenance activities is dethatching.

What is Thatch?

Thatch refers to the layer of grass stems and roots that have been unable to decompose and are therefore stuck on the surface of your grass. Thatch can be largely harmless when the layer stays thin; actually, a thatch layer less than ½ of an inch thick acts as a naturally-occurring mulch that helps to conserve the moisture in your soil and protect it against damages from large temperature fluctuations throughout the seasons.

However, as the thatch layer thickens, it begins to function as a dam for more and more dead grass particles, causing a vicious cycle of thatch development. This process forces your healthy, living grass to separate from the nutrient-rich topsoil over time, preventing it from absorbing the nutrients and water it needs. The thicker the thatch layer becomes, the less water, nutrients, and aeration are able to reach your grass’s thirsty roots.

Checking for Unhealthy Thatch Levels

If your lawn isn’t looking or feeling as healthy as it should, you may be dealing with an excessively thick layer of thatch. One easy way to check if your lawn’s problem is due to thatch is to try to insert a screwdriver into the soil. If the screwdriver can’t be inserted easily or your soil feels oddly spongy to the touch, your thatch layer has most likely ventured into harmful territory.

How Do I Get Rid of Thatch?

If you have determined that thatch is preventing your grass from thriving, it’s important to take action right away. There are three primary ways to dethatch a lawn:

  • Raking manually. In order to rake up your thatch yourself, you’ll need to invest in a dethatching rake. These are heavy rakes with short tines and curved blades that are specially made to dig deep into the thatch layer and pull it up. Dethatching rakes work best on mild thatch and smaller grass areas.
  • Power raking. These are motorized devices similar to mowers that rotate rake-like tines, digging into the layer of thatch on your soil and pulling it up. Using a power rake isn’t advised unless your grass can handle forceful raking.
  • Verticutters. Verticutters are vertical mowers that slice deep down into the thatch layer, often pulling up grass roots alongside the thatch that it removes. This device can handle even the thickest of thatch layers but are generally recommended for lawns undergoing a complete renovation.

Many layers of thatch can be removed by anyone with the right tools; however, if your thatch layer is excessively thick, you may want to consider recruiting a professional to get the job done right.

When to Dethatch Your Lawn in New England

Many landscaping designs in New England utilize cool-season grasses like Bentgrass or Kentucky bluegrass. The dethatching process works best during your grass’s peak growth period, which in the case of most cool-season grasses is the late summer and/or early fall. If you dethatch your lawn at the wrong time, you could cause irreparable damage to the soil.

If you don’t know what kind of grass is growing on your property or have questions about how New England’s regional factors can affect thatch growth and the dethatching process, reach out to the North Atlantic team to find out when to dethatch your lawn in our local New England climate.


North Atlantic Landscape has built a reputation for quality work and transparent values in the site work, snow management and trucking sectors. Our approach to landscaping is exactly the same. Invest in the best equipment, hire the best personnel, develop the best management plan and do what we said we would do. NAL provides commercial and residential landscaping services throughout the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire, York County in Maine, and Essex County in Massachusetts. Request your free landscape assessment today!