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Remove thatch from lawns for summer jump-start

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There may be more lurking beneath the surface of your lawn than you realize. And what’s hiding below the green grass could be keeping your yard from reaching its full potential.

Over time, dead grass, stems, roots and leaves accumulate above the soil and below the live grass, forming a tightly woven material called thatch. A thick thatch layer prevents the soil from absorbing water properly, and can lead to soggy patches and brown spots in the grass. 

“When you have too much thatch, sometimes the roots will try to grow toward the surface … and that’s not a good thing,” Quality Lawn Care owner Rod McCrea explained.

Along with mowing, weed-eating and other landscaping services, McCrea offers dethatching, which he does with a motor rake. The power rake, which is similar to a rototiller but doesn’t puncture the ground, brings the thatch to the surface of the yard. Then McCrea goes over the yard with his riding lawnmower and picks up all the debris, leaving the soil able to breathe and drain properly. 

The best time to dethatch a yard is early spring or in the fall once the weather cools, McCrea said. If done in the spring and followed with an application of fertilizer — McCrea uses Emerald Country 20-10-10-5, a mixture of nitrogen, phosphate, pot ash, iron and sulfur — dethatching will provide a lawn with much-needed rejuvenation.

“Winters are pretty tough on lawns,” McCrea explained. “(Dethatching) is kind of a jump start for your lawn.”

Many homeowners don’t realize what a boost dethatching can give their lawns, he added, explaining that even in yards with thick green grass, dethatching usually removes a lot of trash from the lawn.

“What’s really amazing is how many people don’t do (dethatching),” McCrea said.

Some lawnmowers come equipped with a dethatching rake, but “they don’t do near the job of the motor rake,” McCrea said.

Manual dethatching is also possible with a garden rake, but depending on the size of your yard, can be quite a labor-intensive chore. And a motor rake like McCrea’s runs about $1,000, so if you aren’t up to raking your whole yard by hand, you’ll probably want to opt for hiring a professional to do the job. Dethatching costs about double what McCrea charges to mow, since he has to go over the lawn twice, once with the motor rake and once with the mower. And pricing depends on the size of the lawn and type of terrain.

The only thing you don’t want to do, McCrea said, is dethatch a yard after a rain when the ground is damp. On wet ground, the motor rake “turns into a rototiller and tears the soil up,” he said.

A former employee at Plum Creek’s Pablo sawmill, which closed in 2009, McCrea started his lawn care business seven years ago as a side job. 

“Now that I don’t work at Plum Creek anymore, I have plenty of time to take on more thatching and lawns,” he noted.

For more information about Quality Lawn Care’s services, contact McCrea at 406-529-7393.

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