Both aerating and dethatching are important practices when it comes to proper lawn care. It helps with root penetration and easy flow of air, water, and nutrients in the core for better root growth. So, should you aerate or dethatch?
If your soil is healthy with enough microbial activity, you may only need to dethatch once a season and probably aerate once or twice a year depending on the type of soil you have.
If you’re growing grass in sandy soil, you’ll need to aerate just once per season, but if it is clay soil, twice a season may be the best option for you.
Should I aerate or dethatch first?
It is best to dethatch first before aerating your lawn. This way, you’ll remove the excess debris and promote healthy root development. Aerating is best done when there’s the problem of compaction. Both dethatching and aerating your lawn will improve air, nutrient, and water penetration into the root zone of your grass.
- Thatch is the main problem these two processes address. It occurs when your turf accumulates too much dead organic matter than can be broken down.
- It starts as a shallow layer of debris that makes your lawn feel spongy. If your lawn does not have enough microbial activity to break down the organic matter, thatch buildup occurs.
- Soon enough, your lawn will start suffering from thinning and slow growth due to poor water, air, and nutrient penetration through the thick core of thatch.
However, if the amount of thatch is low you can just remove it using a dethatching tool or a power rake.
Dethatcher vs Aerator
A dethatcher vs aerator, which one does a great job? The two tools may have closely related functions, but in general, they almost go hand-in-hand. Here are a few differences to help you decide which one to use:
|A dethatcher works by removing the top-most layer of dead grass to allow the soil to breathe.||A lawn aerator works by creating small holes into the soil to relieve soil compaction.|
|Dethatching loosens topsoil in preparation for overseeding.||You do not necessarily need to aerate before overseeding.|
|A dethatcher works well when you have a lot of dead grass on top of the soil, making the lawn feel spongy.||An aerator is best used when the core has a thick layer of thatch, usually more than 0.5 inches.|
|Recommended Dethatcher||Recommended Aerator|
|Sun Joe Scarifier + Dethatcher||Kapler Push Lawn Aerator|
You can decide to dethatch and aerate at the same time especially if it is in the spring and you have lawn debris and compaction problems. It will help with establishing a better lawn for the season ahead.
Some lawn machines come as a dethatcher and aerator combo, and can really come in handy for doing the two tasks at the same time.
How much thatch is too much?
About half an inch of thatch on your turf is beneficial because it contains microorganisms that break down organic matter into nutrients for your grass.
However, when it is more than 0.5 inches, the core becomes too tough for water to penetrate and your turf will easily develop what is called shallow root syndrome.
This is when you’ll notice roots starting to coil up and growing closer to the surface where there’s easy access to water instead of growing deeper into the soil.
A lawn with a thick layer of thatch becomes less tolerant to drought, prone to turf diseases, and will grow thin easily due to inadequate supply of nutrients for healthy growth.
Here are more problems with thick thatch:
- Poor fertilizer penetration into the soil which means poor feeding of grass.
- Pesticides such as grub control may not penetrate deep enough to be effective in getting rid of the pests.
- Grass fungus becomes common due to the accumulation of harmful fungi feeding on the debris.
The major reason for the slow decomposition of dead grass and debris on your lawn is usually too much use of chemicals for lawn care such as chemical weed killers or synthetic fertilizers.
Aeration is the process of creating small holes in the lawn while pulling thatch plugs out of the soil. It helps solve soil compaction and allows the lawn to breathe better.
Aeration is done using a lawn aerator – a machine with special tines that plug the soil to relieve compaction. Aeration tines should be sharp and go deep enough to pull out the thatch plugs out of the core.
If you’re used to leveling your yard using a lawn roller, you can easily create a soil compaction problem. I would recommend that you aerate the lawn almost immediately after running the roller over the yard.
My Recommended Aerator
For smaller yards, you can hand push this aerator around pretty easily, even on clay soil (water first to make it easier). Typically this unit is around $50 and worth it so that you can aerate whenever you need to. Check it out here on Amazon
- Fender Equipped: The most special of the rolling lawn aerator is equipped with a fender, which can prevent the splash of the mud, keep your shoes clean and foot unhurt when hand manual push pull the lawn aerator to work.
- Lawn Aerator: The rolling lawn aerator used for loose soil, dredge the air, regulate the soil moisture, to help the growth of lawn and crops.
- Easy Insertion Into Soil: Pull/push the rolling aerator, the heavy-duty spike can be easily inserted into soil, deep water for the lawn.
For larger yards or for easier coring, then check out the Step N’ Tilt
- Faster and easier to use than other manual aerators. Simply step and tilt. This patented lawn aerator (U.S. Patent No. 8,714,275 and other patents pending) makes core aeration easy and enjoyable for do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) and professional landscapers. New and improved clog-resistant tines. Case-hardened for extra durability. The tines may be sharpened or replaced when worn.
- All core lawn aerators require that the soil be VERY moist. This Step 'N Tilt is no exception. Please aerate one day after at least one inch of rain or irrigation. If you have a sprinkler system, each sprinkler zone will need to run for 60-90 minutes. In other words, the soil must be very moist. Question: Why must I wait one day? Answer: Because it takes time for water to be absorbed into the soil, particularly clay soil.
- Designed for operators between 4-feet and 6-feet 5-inches tall. Recommended minimum operator weight to use one set and two sets of tines are 80lbs and 150lbs, respectively. Recommended for aerating small yards or areas not accessible by motorized lawn aerators. It can be used to aerate large yards but will require significantly longer time and effort than a motorized lawn aerator.
When and how often to aerate your lawn
This depends on your type of soil. If your lawn is growing on sandy soil, you’ll only need to aerate it once a year during springtime. If you have clay soil, you can aerate your lawn 2-3 times per year.
Aerate during fall to give the thatch plugs enough time to decompose over the winter period, leaving behind all the nutrients for better growth come spring.
You can also aerate the ground just before your lawn soil temperature reaches 55 F in the spring. This will make it easier to put down a good weed pre-emergent to help control weeds such as crabgrass in your lawn.
Thatch is a layer of living and dead grass shoots, roots, and stems that forms between the green grass blades and the soil surface. It is actually beneficial to your lawn, but when it becomes too much, it becomes a major barrier between the atmosphere and the soil in your lawn.
A thick layer of thatch (more than 0.5-inch) prevents penetration of lawn food, especially liquid fertilizers, and even air from reaching the roots of your grass.
To fix this, you need to dethatch in preparation for overseeding or even aerating your lawn.
Dethatching to remove excess debris or dead grass helps your lawn in a few ways:
- It allows proper contact between fertilizer and the soil for proper lawn feeding.
- Dethatching makes sure new grass seed gets in contact with the soil when overseeding the lawn.
- It allows for better oxygen transfer, making your lawn breathe better for the healthy growth of grass.
- Makes the grass appear deeply green. Too much dead grass will quickly start to appear as though brown patches are forming in your lawn.
My Recommended Dethatcher
I really like the Sun Joe Electric Lawn Dethatcher, super easy to use on small to medium yards.
- Ideal for revitalizing Small to mid-sized lawns
- Minimum cutting Height (inches): -0. 12. Mower amperage (amps): 13 rakes a 12. 6" Wide path to get your job done faster
- Scarifier function to cut grass roots for thicker growth, healthier lawns
Anything over .3 of an acre I would recommend a pull behind dethatcher. Such as the Brinly Toe Behind.
- Maximum Thatch Removal: For larger mowers and lawns, a 48" working width and 2 rows of 12 independently flexing spring steel tines comb through a lawn, lifting thatch up and out of the lawn where it can be mowed or mulched to promote a healthier root system.
- Ideal for Large Yards: Wide 48" working width is perfect for larger mowers or bigger greenspaces - covering more ground for quicker results.
- Long-Lasting Construction: All steel construction, tines are made of durable spring steel; in the unlikely event of a breakage, a safety rod is included to catch the tine and prevent contact with mower blades. No flat rubber-tread transport wheels for durability.
A very important part of dethatching or power raking your lawn is cleaning up the debris. When aerating, you leave the thatch plugs on your lawn while you will need to remove the debris of dead grass from your lawn when dethatching.
Is it better to dethatch or aerate?
Dethatching and aerating seem to do the same thing, but there’s time for each. So should you dethatch or aerate? Core aerating not only breaks up thatch buildup but also relieves compacted soil.
Dethatching mostly loosens the top layer of soil and also removes the layer of debris (dead grass) from the soil. Dethatching can really help when overseeding your lawn.
Dethatch or aerate before overseeding?
Both aerating and dethatching are recommended before overseeding because they improve grass-to-soil contact for proper germination. In most cases, you’ll only need to dethatch to remove the debris that is covering the soil and preventing grass seed from germinating properly.
However, if you have compacted soil in your lawn, you may want to aerate the core to allow deeper penetration of water into the soil. Deeply and well-watered soil promotes healthy and deeper root development of the new grass seed.
After overseeding, topdress the area with about 1 yard of compost per 1000 square feet to increase the rate of grass seed germination in your lawn.
Does a Dethatcher aerate?
Most dethatchers are simple tools such as lawn rake. Depending on the type, you can use it to dethatch your lawn if it is not heavily compacted.
However, using a mechanical aerator often produces better results compared to a dethatcher or a rake.
Hi, Alex Kuritz. here. Growing up I remember that my family had one of the best lawns in the neighborhood. Richly green and lush. I did a lot as I grew up in terms of caring and tending for not only my family’s lawn but also my neighbors. I can say I have years of experience, and I am here to share it with you.
Please leave your comments below as I try to respond to everyone that has questions.