Thatch


My lawn accumulates an excessive amount of thatch. Does anyone know the cause of this, how to prevent it from happening and how to get rid of the existing thatch as easily as possible. I am in northern New Jersey. I use Scott's premium seed which hasn't seemed to help the way the lawn looks. Would all of this thatch be the reason? I appreciate your help.
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On Mon, 04 Jul 2005 19:37:31 GMT, "J. M. Russo"

How high/low is your mower set?
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Aspasia

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Aspasia wrote:

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J. M. Russo wrote:

If you did your own yard work you might have a better idea of what is going on. What fun is it to have a yard if someone else does all the work.
--

Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8
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On Wed, 06 Jul 2005 06:05:55 GMT, "Travis"

Cutting grass is fun?
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Bourne Identity wrote:

Cutting the grass is just a small part of it.
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Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8
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On Wed, 06 Jul 2005 17:56:23 GMT, "Travis"

We don't have a service because I have removed 75% of the turf from our property. It only exists in small areas on our half acre. If we had a large lawn I'd hire someone. Now, actually doing the gardening is the fun part. However, this year will make it the sixth year since we bought this house and I need to do less and less. I don't need another plant. The fun part also is watching the wildlife we've attracted. There is a bunny who loves the horseherb and keeps that mowed nicely. He/she also really likes the ruellia.
Anyway, I like to garden, but mowing...nah.
Victoria
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Bourne Identity wrote:

I wouldn't exactly call mowing "fun". It's about as much fun as playing Solitaire.
"Whoopee! I went clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, and it's blowing my mind!"
I suppose it's more like fishing. You can get away from everything (no one tries to engage you in mindless chatter over the roar of the engine), and you can pretend it's an athletic activity. But on the other hand, I've also reduced the size of my lawn, so this sports getaway (of sorts) doesn't last nearly long enough to matter. And if it did, I don't think that would make it more "fun".
Even though I apparently don't have as much fun as Travis has mowing the lawn, I would be very concerned if it were too much work for me. A walk around the yard behind the mower is still easier than the so many other necessary parts of gardening that require bending or digging. I suspect that mowing my lawn will be the last part of maintaining my landscape that I'll give-up.
The real fun part is sitting on the bench in front of my pond, with my cat on my lap, and both of us looking around at the tranquil landscaping punctuated with splashes of color, and contrasts of texture and foliage. And if I'm munching on something I grew myself, that's a fun bonus.
But that'll have to wait. I need to mow the lawn now. ;)
--
Warren H.

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These factors increase thatch development in grass by increasing production of stems, leaf sheaths, and decay-resistant tissue: 1. choosing particularly vigorously growing grass varieties 2. applying excessive amounts of nitrogen, especially in spring 3. mowing infrequently or allowing grass to grow too tall before mowing 4. growing varieties that are known to produce large amounts of tough, fibrous tissue 5. compacted soil conditions leading to shallow root development
Other contributing factors are factors that decrease the rate at which thatch decomposes: 6. acidic soil conditions 7. pesticides that restrict micro-organism or earthworm activity 8. allowing lawns to go dormant
Newer, improved varieties of Kentucky bluegrass that have been developed for vigorous growth and better recovery on athletic fields and high-quality home lawns develop thatch more quickly than the less vigorously growing common types of Kentucky bluegrass.
Ways to prevent thatch include:
Fertilize only enough to maintain the lawn's desired color and growth. Fall fertilization (mid to late October) is preferred to spring fertilization because the resulting growth is not as rapid and lush.
Compacted soils and soils with poor drainage tend to accumulate thatch faster than well-drained soils. Aerification promotes better moisture and air penetration into compacted soils. It helps establish a deeper and healthier root system and also stimulates the microbial activity involved in decomposing the thatch layer. To be effective, the aerifier must have hollow tines or spoons that bring the cores of soil to the surface.
Mowing frequency is determined by the growth rate of the grass. If the desired height is two inches, grass should be cut when it is no more than three inches tall - regardless of the mower used.
Avoid using pesticides as much as possible. Many pesticides affect the microbial and earthworm populations that are involved in decomposing the thatch layer.
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Stephen Henning wrote:

done some of the don'ts which from your information I can understand why my lawn has so much thatch. You all have been so helpful and I really appreciate your sound advice.
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Stephen Henning wrote:

Using a mulching mower will reduce the need for fertilizer.
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Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8
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On Mon, 04 Jul 2005 19:37:31 GMT, "J. M. Russo"

Chances are you are not watering properly. This is the number one reason thatch is produced. When you do not water deeply, the roots of the turf stay near the surface. People who water five minutes a day, vs. people who water once a week putting down one inch of water have far more problems with thatch buildup.
So, how are you watering?
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Bourne Identity wrote:

He probably has a watering service.
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Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8
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Maybe your lawn service is not bagging the cut grass or maybe their equipment is not picking it up very well. If they are using mulching type mowers it's possible that it's not cutting it up fine enough. We had a Troy Built mulching mower that did an excellent job of mulching but when we replaced it with a Craftsman mulcher it did a sorry job so had to go back to bagging, in other words, all mulchers ain't equal. RM ~
PS, The new Troy Built mowers are not half the mower the old ones were, which is the reason we changed.
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I find that statement interesting. I'm no expert but I thought that thatch was still attached the the roots, not clippings. I've been trying to get an expert opinion on that for years.
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It is both the clippings and dead roots and leaf sheaths and other dead material that harbor disease at the ground level. If air can penetrate, it is not all bad. I hot weather it can help shade the roots. However when is too dense it can prevent aeration and harbor disease.
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Ben wrote:

The thatch is the dead, fibrous material still attached to the roots, and often has green tips. It could be a result of a chain of events that includes clippings, but it's not the clippings, and normal clippings aren't the cause.
If the lawn isn't mowed often enough, and if when it is mowed too much is consistently mowed-off at once, those clippings can essentially form a mulch that'll make it difficult for air and water to get to the soil. Combine that with frequent, shallow watering, and you'll get shallow roots. The shoots growing off those shallow roots are more likely to form a layer of dead thatch.
Putting too much nitrogen fertilizer on the lawn will cause it to grow too fast, setting-up the whole cycle. With just the decomposed clippings providing nitrogen on my lawn this year, I've had to mow two -- sometimes three! -- times a week. And that was with the mower at the highest setting, I was often finding myself mowing close to 1/3 the height of the grass even when mowing that often.
I don't have a thatch problem, but my neighbor does. His lawn service spread fertilizer in mid-spring, and only mowed once a week. And when it was mowed, it was practically scalped. The only plus was that the service bagged the clippings. We've gone only about 4 days without rain, and my neighbor's lawn is already just golden tips on top of a layer of thatch.
So the lawn where the clipping were bagged has a thatch problem. The lawn where the clippings were left doesn't. Looking at the two lawns makes it obvious that it's not leaving the clippings that causes thatch problems. It's a combination of fertilization, and mowing frequency and height.
Once the neighbor starts watering, he'll water for 15 or 20 minutes every day, so later this year you'll also be able to see how daily shallow watering vs. weekly deep watering will also affect lawn health. The layer of thatch on his lawn is only going to make it worse, too. By fall, he'll have one dead lawn with a few patches of fungal problems, at which point his lawn service will spray some more crap on his lawn. The fall rains will come, and by November he'll have a halfway decent looking lawn (if you look fast), and he'll be convinced that it was whatever the lawn guy sprayed on it at the end of summer.
I'm not sure how many more times we'll repeat this annual cycle before he believes me when I tell him that it all started with the fertilizer his service dumped on the lawn in the spring, or that the biggest factor was the low, only weekly mowing. Or that his summer solution of shallow watering didn't help, either. He still hasn't figured out that his lawn looks the best during the 4 months that his lawn service doesn't touch it each winter.
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Warren H.

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Thatch is a layer of roots on the surface. This happens due to shallow watering, not grass clippings. If anything, the clippings add a bit of nitrogen back to the turf. If you have a serious problem and water is not penetrating the thick layer of thatch, hire a service to come in and remove it, or rent a dethatcher for the day or hours, etc. After you so that service done, have them do something called "core aeration." This is where actual plugs are removed from the soil, beware of any wires of sprinklers when doing this or having it done. All service companies with wires in the ground will come out for free and mark their wires on the ground so you can avoid them.
If you do this, and water deeply less often, you will never have thatch. Do a search and find out how to determine when you've watered an inch of water. Do that once every week, or in the south, every five days. Never water on a timed schedule. Always water based on the volume of water you are putting down. The deeper the watering, the deeper the roots, and the roots will not hover at the surface where the shallow watering is.
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wrote:

Myth: grass clippings cause thatch.
Fact: poor watering practices cause thatch.
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