Dethatching Solution

I have heard of a mixture of detergent, beer and I think ammonia that will enhance the decomposition of thatch. Of course I have no idea where I heard about it or the recipe. First has anybody tried it and how did it work? Secondly anybody got the recipe. I am planning to overseed and I do not want to have to manually dethatch; gas powered units just tear up the lawn, I watched my neighbor destroy his yard with one. Afterwards he mentioned a rototiller could not have done a better job ripping up the old lawn.
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that will accelerate decomposition? If you were to apply it to say, a compost pile, do you think that would accelerate the composting process? Decomposition occurs when naturally occurring organisms in the compost or soil process the organic matter. Certainly detergent and/or ammonia will not encourage the development of these organisms; rather they will likely help to destroy what organisms may be present.
Physical dethatching of lawns is recommended for good reason. Removal of the build-up of thatch that can occur when a lawn is not well maintained will allow water to penetrate to the turf roots and applied fertilizers to reach their proper destination, as well as allowing sunlight and oxygen to penetrate down to this root area, increasing photosynthesis and thus creating a stronger and healthier lawn. If your neighbor's lawn was 'torn up' by the dethatching process, it is likely that there was considerable thatch build-up and very little viable lawn left.
If you plan on overseeding anyway, what difference will it make if your lawn is 'torn up' during the dethatching process first? You have an opportunity to top-dress with a thin layer of compost, apply the seed and a starter fertilizer and give the new seeds a good chance to germinate as well as allow what remains of the existing lawn a chance to breathe. And while you're at it, I'd recommend you do core aerating as well. It doesn't pay in the long run to take short cuts if you want a succcessful outcome.
And for the future, you might want to consider investing in a mulching mower. Field studies have demonstrated that use of a mulching mower significantly reduces thatch buildup and results in a healthier and stronger lawn, less stressed by drought and requiring less chemical fertilizers.
pam - gardengal
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I usually have a lot of respect for Pam's advice, but here goes:
here is the receipe from America's Favorite Master Gardener and/or Loony Kook: (no, I have not tried it)
http://groups.google.com/groups?q thatching+tonic&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8 &selm7069581.127254750%40news.prodigy.net&rnum=1
-- cut here Here is Mr. Baker's recipe:
1 can beer 1 cup household ammonia 1 cup liquid dish soap a can regular (non-diet) cola
Apply this dethatching tonic with your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer as soon as the temperature stays above 50 degreesF in the Spring. -- cut here
Ammonia is very toxic is high concentrations, but the toxicity (to soil biota[1] at least) is questionable at the recommended dilution rate (maximum of 1:320, assuming 20 gallons of water, 100% NH4OH, neglecting beer, cola, soap volume). I assume the left over thatch is primarily lignin and cellulose. Being primarily tough carbon, they are not likely to decompose quickly* without additional inputs of energy and/or nitrogen. The sugar, and syrup provide accessible starting energy to initiate the decomposition process. I assume the dish soap is just a surfactant.
(*it seems moderate thatch can be decomposed by covering with grass clipping such as recommended by Pam with a mulching mower or in my case a push reel, the green clippings supplying the nitrogen needed for decomposition)
The acidity from the cola may cause neutralization of some of the ammonium hydroxide ( H3PO4 + NH4OH -> NH4H2PO4 + H20 ) while the excess ammonia either escapes as gas or is used by actinomycetes to decompose the thatch. Monoammonium phosphate (NH4H2PO4) is a fertilizer[2], however, I did pull the equation (and most of this message) straight out of my butt . Of course you may or may not also get some other strange chemicals of varying toxicity from the reactions.
The caffeine probably has some insecticidal effect.
Any real chemist out there want to comment or actually mix some reagents and run it through a mass spectrometer?
ammonia: (Austin's Clear Ammonia) Ammonium hydroxide (CAS1336-21-6)
soda: (Pepsi) carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, caffeine, citric acid, and natural flavors
beer: (? Internet) water, yeast, hops and malt
dish soap: ?
[1] http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/9s.html [2] http://www.efma.org/publications/guidance/section13.asp

I dethatched my lawn by running over it with aerator blades on a mini- tiller (yes I was actually trying to aerate it). The lawn looked bad for a while (days or weeks) but recovered and looks pretty good now that I started mowing weekly with a push reel compared to monthly with a gas mower.
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wrote:

Whatever you decide, the thatch needs to be removed before overseeding else the seed will just lay on the top and rot. Personally, I prefer using a tool that has a series of moon-shaped metal tongs to remove thatch. Seed needs to be in contact with the soil.
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