Simply put, thatch is a layer of organic matter that forms underneath the top leafy layer of your lawn. In far North Queensland, and with the lawns that work in our local climate, thatch is made up of dead and living lawn runners or stolons and other organic matter such as lawn clippings that builds up and is in the process of breaking down.
Thatch is important to the health of your lawn; it provides insulation for the root system and prevents the lawn roots drying out through evaporation. It also provides the softness that you feel when you walk, sit, lay and play on the lawn. A healthy thatch layer is one that prevents damage by offering a thick, knitted layer of runners to create a cushioning effect to protect the lawn. An unhealthy thatch layer is essentially when the build-up is excessive. This can occur naturally or stem from bad lawn care practices such as infrequent lawn mowing. If excessive thatch exists it must be removed immediately or it will cause difficulties in mowing as well as:
- An unsightly lawn from the straw-like undergrowth being exposed
- Photosynthesis will slow with the removal of the green leaf and so the lawn with suffer and possibly starve
- With the lack of food the lawn will be unable to self-repair its damaged state and will go into further decline
Buffalo lawns such as Sir Walter DNA Certified can be at risk of excessive thatching so if you have this variety it is something to definitely keep an eye on. The only way to fix an excessive thatch issue in your lawn is to remove the thatch. And with warm season lawn varieties (lawns with stolons) the way to achieve this is through a process called vertimowing. Vertimowing is also known as scarifying or de-thatching and is an essential part of lawn care regimens for warm season lawns.
Note: Vertimowing is not always recommended for Buffalo grass. A process of lowering mowing heights over a period of time is often the best way to reduce and control thatch.
Learn more about Vertimowing here or contact the Harden Park Lawns team.