Power Raking

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Power Raking a Lawn

Thatch Management Overview:

  • 99.99% of lawns in Colorado will not benefit from a lawn de-thatching service.
  • Some thatch is good, ½ inch or less is a normal amount of thatch and can act as insulation helping to prevent evaporation from the soil.
  • Too much thatch is a symptom of a bigger problem and that problem is the absence of beneficial microbial activity. Power raking is not a cure for a thatch problem. The cure is rebuilding the soil's microbial activity.
  • Thatch buildup is usually caused by improper watering practices and improper fertilization techniques. Click here to read about proper watering practices.
  • If the thatch layer in the lawn is greater than ¾ of an inch, it is a candidate to be removed via power raking.
  • Power raking should only be performed before the lawn greens up. Typically power raking is performed in early March.
  • Fast release nitrogen sources (non-organic fertilizers) can stimulate thatch buildup and add to the problem. Do not use fast release nitrogen sources in your lawn.
  • Lawn aeration or even better double aeration is a good way to help prevent thatch buildup.
  • Have an Organo-Lawn technician perform a sprinkler audit to correct the improper watering practices. A professional lawn care technician will be able to properly assess if you have too much thatch buildup in your soil.

Please note that de-thatching a lawn can be damaging if performed incorrectly or at the wrong time of year. In Colorado a power rake needs to be done prior to the lawn greening-up. In the Boulder and Fort Collins area lawns tend to begin to turn green during the months of March and early April.

Does Your Lawn Need to Be Power Raked or Dethatched?

99.99%+ of lawns do not need a lawn dethatching service. In fact a power rake can cause a lot of harm to a lawn if not done properly by a lawn care professional. If you think you need a power rake or dethatching of your lawn please read this before ordering this service.

Thatch layer in a lawn

What Does Power Raking a Lawn Accomplish?

Power Raking is the act of physically removing the thatch from a lawn. Thatch is composed of a tightly intermingled layer of stems, leaves and grass roots, which accumulates between the vegetation and the soil. Too much thatch increases the turf’s susceptibility to diseases, reduces its tolerance to drought, cold, and heat; and hinders the movement of air, water, fertilizers, and nutrients into the soil. In severe cases roots of the grass will only take root in the thatch layer making the turf extremely susceptible to drought and heat stress. A power rake seldom needs to be performed in a lawn, this spring lawn care service in Boulder and Fort Collins can become very necessary in rare cases.

Thatch accumulation is a symptom of a problem and that problem is the absence of microbial activity or a dead soil. Thatch will accumulate if the production of dead material exceeds the ability of the beneficial microorganisms to break down the organic matter into elemental components. Thatch build-up increases when there is an absence of beneficial microbial activity.

What Causes Thatch to Accumulate in a Lawn?

Dead soils lack microbial activity and these microbes eat and decompose thatch. Dead soils can occur if there is poor soil aeration and drainage, improper watering practices, cold temperatures, the use of some pesticides, and the use of fast release chemical fertilizers. We most often see an excessive thatch layer accumulate in a lawn when the sprinkler system is set to water on a daily basis. After corrections are made to the lawn watering and organic fertilization applications are performed the lawn will often look worse before it looks better. This is because the grass roots are very shallow and are often only growing in the thatch layer instead of the soil. When the watering is corrected the grass may look dry until the roots begin growing into the soil instead of the thatch layer.

Other professional lawn care services that will help increase microbial activity and reduce thatch problems include: Double Aeration, sprinkler audit, adjustment in lawn care cultural practices (mowing tall), and a Humate application.

A lawn dethatching service is rarely necessary and only recommended in severe cases. Unfortunately power raking can only be performed during a very small window in March. To prevent damage caused by improper power raking this professional lawn care service must be performed before the lawn greens up.

Power Raking Boulder

This Organo-Lawn technician power rakes this lawn removing the thatch from the lawn. Power raking must be performed before a lawn turns green in the spring.

How to Get Rid of Thatch in a Lawn

A power rake is only a tool that professional lawn care companies use to reduce the symptoms of a bad thatch problem and is not a long term fix for eliminating thatch buildup. When a severe thatch layer is discovered, the first step to fixing the problem is to increase the beneficial microbial activity in the soil. The best methods of increasing microbial activity in the soil is by using plant based organic fertilizers, core aeration, having Organo-Lawn perform a professional sprinkler audit, and by adding a microorganism stimulant like Humate and MDS Super Tea to the lawn. It is important to remember that it may take months to rebuild the microbial activity in the soil and it typically takes one year to fully rebuild a soil's microbial population.

Always contact your local lawn care service, Organo-Lawn, prior to power raking or de-thatching your lawn. More than 99% of lawns do not to be power raked and therefore it is important to properly assess your lawn's thatch layer prior to ordering this lawn care service. Improper power raking or de-thatching can severely damage a lawn.

When is the Best Time of Year to Power Rake in Colorado?

The best time to power rake a lawn in Colorado is between March 1st –March 31st (The lawn has to be dry, mowed very short, and mostly still dormant)

This lawn in Boulder Colorado was power raked after it was too late in the season. The damage to this lawn could have been avoided if the homeowner had contacted Organo-Lawn prior to this service being performed.

How to Manage Thatch Buildup in a Lawn

Proper Lawn Mowing - Never cut more than 1/3 of the blade of grass at one time. If the soil is teeming with microbial activity the mulching of the lawn clippings will not increase the thatch layer. Change the mowing height to 2.5 inches in the early spring and late fall and increase the height to 3 inches or taller in the summer.

Proper Lawn Fertilizing - Fast release nitrogen applications will kill beneficial microbial activity and the result is a decrease in thatch decomposition and an increase in thatch production. Always avoid high dosages of synthetic nitrogen sources like ammonium nitrate and urea.

Proper Lawn Irrigation - Avoid light and frequent watering. Always irrigate the turf deeply and infrequently. This entices the roots of the grass to grow deep into the soil instead of the thatch layer. Changing from a light and frequent lawn watering to a deep and infrequent watering schedule might make the lawn brown out or look worse before it begins to look better. This is because the roots of the grass are currently shallow and it takes time for the deep watering to train them to dig deep into the soil.

Lawn Fungicides and Pesticides - Never apply lawn fungicides to control a lawn fungus or thatch. These kill beneficial microbial activity. Some pesticides negatively affect desirable microorganism and earthworm populations. Pesticides should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Lawn Thatching Service

FAQ - Power Raking

What time of year should a lawn be de-thatched?

Power raking should only be performed on a lawn that is currently dormant and will come out of dormancy within a few weeks after the power rake has been completed. The lawn should be dry and mowed at 2 inches in height. The ideal time to power rake is typically around the first few weeks of March but this depends if it has not rained or snowed recently Power raking will do damage to the lawn, but it will recover quickly if performed in early March and followed up with proper organic fertilization and proper deep watering. We only perform power raking to lawns that have a thatch layer that is greater than 1 inch and in the first few weeks in the March while the lawn is still relatively dormant (before it greens up).

Lawn Care Services FAQ

Is power raking a lawn necessary?

A power rake seldom needs to be performed in a lawn. Power raking should only be performed if the lawn has a thatch layer that is great than 1 inch. Because thatch accumulation is a symptom of improper cultural practices we also recommend correcting the lawn watering practices and lawn fertilization practices. A good alternative to power raking a lawn would be a double aeration, a sprinkler audit, and an application of Humate.

These lawn care services will stimulate beneficial microbial activity which will break down the thatch layer naturally. Adjusting cultural practices is the best ways to manage thatch in a lawn.