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How to use Dethatcher Blades (Do they Work)

If your lawn has excessive amounts of thatch, it can be a real problem. Harmful insects are attracted to this thick layer in your grass and eventually start messing up your beautiful lawn.

There are many supposed methods of dethatching a lawn, but not so many are truly effective. In this article, we will look at whether dethatching blades work, and if so, which ones, in particular, will get the job done best.

The short answer is – yes, dethatcher blades can work very well. But, if you want the best results, you should know a few tips and tricks.

So before we go into the methodology, let’s take a closer look at the problem…

What is Thatch?

Thatch is organic matter that is known to grow and accumulate over time in your lawn at the grass’s base. Things like stolons, rhizomes, roots, and crowns are commonly what makeup thatch as living and dead plant matter.

You might have thought grass clippings were a cause of thatch, but this usually isn’t the case. Instead, microorganisms in the soil easily break down the cut-up grass in a brief timeframe.

However, the same microorganisms find it very hard to break down the 25% lignin commonly found plant matter that makes up thatch. Lignin is a complex organic polymer and is the main reason why thatch occurs and why it’s so troublesome to remove.

Furthermore, certain types of grass are more prone to thatch than others. So if you’re having loads of thatch issues with your grass, you might want to opt for and replant a whole new species that works better for your needs.

Or the alternative to changing your grass species is to choose the right dethatcher blades for the job – which we will expand upon in the next section…

Types of Dethatcher Blades

First of all, it’s a good idea to get acquainted with the varied terminology used to refer to dethatcher blades. You can hear them referred to as vertical slicers, power rakes, or even vertical mowers. But whatever they’re labeled as, they all tend to employ a similar method to remove thatch.

In reality, a detacher can be just a simple rake. The rake can be attached to the tractor’s back and towed for a basic level of thatch removal.

On the other hand, a purpose-built dethatcher has metal tines or blades designed to comb across your grass. These blades or tines rip up thatch and send it to the surface of your grass – so it can then be easily picked up and removed.

A great little tip is to gather this thatch up and store it somewhere so it can develop into compost. This is only possible, however, if you haven’t treated your grass with pesticides.

More commercial scale jobs should get a motorized dethatcher to really get stuck into the lawn and rip out that pesky thatch.

However, it’s good to know that the different types of dethatcher blades will work for different grass species. For example, wire tines can work just fine for bluegrass and other similar species – wire tines are a relatively inexpensive option to buy. Flat steel bladed versions are pricier and heavier than ones with tines, but they work better for more stubborn grass varieties.

Yet, the most common type of detaching blades are flailed with knife-type blades fixed into them. They are a rotating design and are very heavy to handle alone. And since these blades can be so expensive, people usually rent this type of power dethatcher when needed.

How to Use a Dethatcher?

Whether you buy or rent your dethatcher, you need to get advice about blade settings for the type of grass you’re going to work on. You’ll want to find the perfect amount of blade separation for your lawn, for the dethatching blades to work their magic.

Blade separation…

As a general rule of thumb, more challenging grass species need about one to two inches of blade separations. More delicate types of grass can have a wider blade separation of between two to three inches.

Ultimately, you’ll only really find out through trial and error what blade separation will work best on your lawn.

Height considerations…

Next, you need to ensure your blades’ height so that they are effective but don’t rip up the soil underneath your grass. A quarter-inch of height is a good starting point, then adjust accordingly after testing a small patch of grass.

Softer and more delicate forms of grass may need a little more height than a quarter inch.

Get your grass ready…

Before detaching, mow your lawn to a level that’s about half as high as you usually cut it. By doing this, you expose the thatch better, which helps later in the removal process.

Now when you’re ready and the dethatcher blades are attached, proceed to carry out multiple passes on your grass to ensure that you’re really digging into your thatch problem. It’s also worth stopping once in a while to ensure all the blade settings are working correctly.

Most of the time, the thatch won’t be removed entirely, so you’ll have to grab a rake and finish the process. Besides, you’ll be surprised how much thatch a standard size lawn can have hidden away!

When to Use Dethatching Blades?

Choosing the right time of year and conditions is crucial when dethatching. The time when you should use dethatching blades can also be determined by the climate you live in and the type of grass being grown.

Ideally, you don’t want to be detaching too often as it does hammer your lawn a fair amount – and it will need time to recover. Indeed, don’t think about removing thatch with blades when there is a heatwave or a drought, as the damage caused by the process will be more substantial.

You should aim for at least a month or so for your grass to recover after the process. So if you need to have your lawn looking in tip-top condition for an event or show piece, timing is essential.

Early fall or late spring are common times when people tend to dethatch their grass. But you should consider that grass species such as buffalo or zoysia are vulnerable to frost – so around March time isn’t ideal. Instead, these species should be dealt with in the late spring and early summertime.

Which grass species are less likely to develop thatch?

Ryegrass, fescue, and bluegrass tend to be more resilient to thatching. The best time to dethatch these types is at the beginning of fall.

Dethatching Damage

Once used dethatching blades on your lawn, it’s not going to look so great. Dethatching is an intrusive process that can be quite aggressive, especially if the blades have dug into the soil in some areas.

So dethatching ideally should be carried out once a year. Once you’ve carried out the process, overseed any lawn areas where there’s soil exposure or visible damage. Finally, all you have to do is nurture your lawn back to health over the coming months so that it becomes lush and green once more – without the thatch.

Thatch Prevention

Regular lawn care will prevent your grass from excessive thatch buildup. One practice you should carry out at least once a year is aeration – an ideal time to do this is in fall or spring.

An aeration tool puts holes in your lawn and soil to help your grass grow better. It also helps to improve drainage of heavily compacted lawns – which commonly occurs through high footfall.

Also, instead of letting thatch build up to a point where you need to use dethatcher blades too often, why don’t you keep it under control by raking your lawn regularly?

Other prevention methods can include:

  • Deeply watering your lawn occasionally
  • Using slow-release fertilizers
  • Limiting the use of pesticides
  • Mowing your lawn regularly
  • Selecting a grass that doesn’t produce so much thatch

FAQs About Dethatching Blades

Are dethatching blades expensive?

Since they are specialist lawn care tools, they are typically expensive pieces of equipment. Many people tend to rent them as they only use them once or twice a year at most.

Is there a cheaper alternative to dethatching blades?

Power rakes are like a smaller version of dethatching blades. These rakes can look similar to a lawnmower, but they instead rake your lawn and can help remove thatch. Although, dethatching blades are definitely more suitable for larger scale and commercial type dethatching needs.

Can you use dethatching blades by yourself?

Usually, using dethatching blades needs two or more people to carry out the process. The blades can be really heavy to mount onto your vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Dethatching blades work the best for removing thick and stubborn thatch in large lawns. It’s a process that may cause some ugliness and damage to your lawn in the short term. But, with the right lawn care, your grass will restore itself to a lush green, without any thatch to be seen.

Plus, we think it’s great that the thatch doesn’t just have to be discarded and can be stored away as compost!

Overall, good lawn care is crucial to keeping thatch at bay. Raking your lawn regularly helps a lot, and choosing the right type of grass can make a big difference. Thanks for stopping by, and we hope you’ve gained some useful info here!

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