The Difference Between Aeration and Thatching


Thatching Your Lawn in Mississippi and LouisianaAeration and thatching are both used to improve the health of your lawn, but the terms are not interchangeable. They address different issues with your lawn, and both have their place in a healthy lawn program.

What Is Aeration?

Aeration pokes holes into the soil of your lawn, to allow oxygen, fertilizer, and water to more easily penetrate the grass’ root zone. Aeration is most commonly done in the spring or the fall, in lawns that are compacted. Spike aeration pokes holes in your soil, and core aeration pulls cores of dirt and turf. These are usually left on the lawn surface to decompose naturally, or broken apart.

What Is Thatching?

Thatching is sometimes called dethatching. It removes a dead layer of roots and stems that is found between the grass base and the native soil. When this layer is found to be more than a half-inch thick, it may interfere with the ability of oxygen, water and other nutrients to reach the grass roots.Thatching is done using power equipment in the spring or the fall. It tears out grass tissues. This is more stressful to your lawn than aerating is, and is generally only done if your lawn is thinning out due to thick thatch.
If you are having your lawn overseeded, the landscaper needs good soil to seed contact and proper watering. Aerating and thatching are both commonly recommended if your landscape company plans to overseed the lawn.

How Does Core Aeration Help Your Lawn?

Core aeration is helpful if your soil is compacted. It will allow more nutrients and water to get to the roots of the grass. It does not expose a great deal of soil. As a rule, the holes are about 1/2” across, so the holes do not comprise more than 2% of your lawn. Leaving plugs on top of the lawn rather than raking them or breaking them up will leave some soil exposed. It increases the amount of exposed soil and can dry out swiftly.

How Is Thatching Beneficial?

Thatching removes the layer of thatch and exposes more soil. Dethatcher tines cultivate your soil, which may help the seeds to become embedded in your soil, rather than laying on top. A dethatching tool is helpful in grooming the grass roots that lie closer to the surface. This gives new roots room to grow. Thatch rakes also expose grassy weeds and crab grass, since the blades and stems may be longer than the grass.

How Much Thatching Is Too Much?

For most average lawns, the amount of thatch is usually about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. If it is any thicker, it may hamper growth by preventing water, nutrients and air from properly penetrating to root level. It will also create an environment for disease and pests to flourish. Your lawn care professional knows how much thatch to remove.
Thatching is usually done with a rake for smaller areas, or with a machine for larger areas. Lawn care companies have the proper equipment to use for thatching. Thatching is often done in the late spring weeks, giving your lawn lots of time to recover and grow. The temperatures in the spring tend to be more moderate, which can also help your lawn to recover.
Your landscape professional will know how many times your lawn will need to be thatched each year. The buildup of thatch is related to the kind of grass in your lawn. Warm season grasses like Bermuda and Buffalo grass usually have more thatch. It is best for the lawn to be dethatched before it gets thick; so, many homeowners have it done once a year.

Aerating and Tilling for Gardens

Gardens can also benefit from aerating, but the process and the tools used are a little different. The size of your garden may be a factor in your decision making. A small garden less than 100 square feet will benefit the most from a cultivator. Cultivators are typically smaller than tillers and easier to use. You can purchase either a gasoline-powered or electric-powered model. If you have a garden larger than 100 square foot, then both a tiller and a cultivator are recommended to cope with the larger area and make gardening a bit easier. Tillers are more heavy duty, so cannot be used to aerate soil after crops have begun to grow.

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Aerating, Tilling, or Thatching Your Lawn In Louisiana & Mississippi

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