The Language of Lawn Care

The Language of Lawn Care

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Thatch is a layer of dead and living shoots, stems and roots between the soil and grass blades. A layer thicker than a half-inch affects lawn health. Experts recommend dethatching now because the lawn is actively growing and can bounce back from the abuse.

Dethatching machines can be rented for large yards, but a dethatching rake (different from a lawn or a garden rake, with half-moon-shaped tines) works well for most lawns that are small to moderate in area.

Dethatching also helps with over-seeding the lawn because it gives seeds the soil contact they need to germinate and grow.


Aeration is a fancy term for putting holes in your lawn. The better way to do it is to remove plugs of soil rather than simply using spikes. This preferred core aeration reduces soil compaction and allows moisture and nutrients to reach the roots.

Long-handled manual aerators are available. Gasoline-powered machines can be rented, but they are heavy, powerful and need at least two strong people to remove from a pickup truck.

Organic lawn-care specialist Paul Tukey says he likes to dethatch, aerate, over-seed and then place a thin layer of compost over the seeds. The compost acts as a mulch and does away with the need for straw or hay.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company