Managing the level of thatch in your lawn is a vital part of maintaining a healthy lawn. Part of managing your lawn is knowing when and how to remove your lawn .
A little bit of thatch, about 1/2 inch, is really healthy for your lawn. It will protect the grass from drought and heat. The problem occurs when the straw becomes thicker, preventing water and nutrients from reaching the soil below. Signs of a thatch problem include weeds in a lawn with good weed control, poor grass growth, and poor drainage. You can always check by digging a small patch of grass and seeing how thick the layer of debris is above the ground. This layer of debris, stems and blades of old grass, bits of bark and leaves from your trees, is straw. Thatch build-up is often a problem on overwatered or fertilized lawns, or on lawns where long clippings are left on the lawn.
If your straw is a bit thick, but not too bad, try aerating your lawn. Pulling the dirt plugs will drag microorganisms into the straw layer that break down the material into nutrients for your lawn.
Rake your lawn. Dig the rake tines into the grass to lift the straw layer, but try not to damage the grass itself. Remove raked material immediately.
Rent an electric sheller or hire a landscaping company with one. This is a device that looks a lot like an electric mower, but the blades go vertically to cut straw rather than laterally to cut grass. If you rent an electric sheller, make sure the owner carefully explains its setup and operation. You will need to set the height of the blades to suit your lawn, as well as the blade spacing. The blades must not dig into the ground. Different types of lawns need a different space. Harder herbs should have the blades closer together, more delicate herbs need more space. It is preferable not to go over the same section more than once, as it increases the possibility of damaging the lawn.
Rake the straw that a power-thatcher immediately brings to the surface. If this material is left on the lawn, the problem will start again.
After removing the straw
Your lawn will look less than perfect after removing the thatch. Wait something.
Water the lawn gently and minimize traffic for about a month to allow the lawn to re-establish itself.
Fertilize your lawn lightly after removing thatch to encourage re-establishment.
Tips to prevent straw build-up
Get a lawn mower. This mower cuts grass blades into very small pieces and deposits them back on the lawn. It provides an excellent lawn fertilizer and small parts break down easily, preventing build-up.
Do an annual rake of your lawn care plan. This breaks up the straw a bit each year and lifts up the excess, saving you from having to rent a mechanical sheller every few years.