How To Avoid Thatch Build Up In Turf Grass | Maintaining Lawns And Gardens

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How To Avoid Thatch Build Up In Turf Grass | Maintaining Lawns And Gardens

  • Thatchy spongy turf can be quite annoying to walk on, and when mown it leads to scalping. Hopefully by reading this you will discover ways to avoid too much thatch, or at least to control and fix the problem. Probably the best way to avoid thatch is to install a lawn that thatches less.

    Some good varieties that thatch less are Palmetto and Sapphire Buffalo, Greenlees Park couch, Empire Zoysia and even the humble Kikuyu, although Kikuyu has many other reasons why it should be avoided. Some really bad varieties when it comes to thatch are Shade Master Buffalo and Santa Ana couch.

    In cooler climates such as Melbourne, Santa Ana for example makes a reasonable lawn, but in warmer areas it thatches like crazy. Even the good lawns can sometimes get thatch given the right conditions, so what are the best management practices to avoid thatch?

    • Regular frequent short mowing. If you can mown at about 30mm to 40mm, at least once per week in the summer periods (10 to 14 days with Empire Zoysia), you will find less thatch build up. In shade a much taller mowing regime is required.
    • Try to avoid use of excess nitrogen, and where ever possible use a good slow release fertiliser, and try to limit fertilizing to twice per year.
    • An occasional application of seaweed extract, such as Kelpak, which is low in nitrogen, will stimulate microbial activity, which helps breakdown the dead organic matter.
    • Try not to over water, as this unnecessarily increase lawn growth and thatch development.
    • Some people believe an application of Primo Max, will not only slow the growth of the lawn down, resulting in less mowing, but will also reduce thatch build up.

    If you ever find yourself with a spongy, highly thatched lawn, there are procedures that can fix the problem. Firstly, you could hire a dethatching machine, which will quickly take care of the problem. Another way is to simply severely scalp the lawn, and remove the clippings.

    Generally after a couple of weeks the lawn will start to look good again. Avoid doing this in winter in cooler climates, and off course this can only be done to warm season grasses, and not cool season grasses such as Fescue and Rye.

    Another old time recipe that still works today is to lightly top dress with a sandy soil, making sure the leaf is still poking through the topdressing. Avoid doing this every year, as eventually levels around paths etc will be changed

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