Aeration and Dethatching: What’s Right for Your Property?

As property managers are well aware, a healthy and pristine lawn doesn’t simply appear overnight—it requires regular care to become the gleaming highlight of a property. From weed control to appropriate irrigation, there are several areas regarding lawn maintenance that property managers must consider. Included among these should be aeration and dethatching, two methods that can substantially improve the health and appearance of turf. Below we examine the basics and when to tackle each job.

Thatch 101

Every lawn has thatch—the layer of growth that lies between the soil and the grass. This layer is comprised of decomposing roots and debris. A certain amount of thatch actually helps keep a lawn healthy. It provides soil with mulch, slows the loss of moisture, acts as a cushion layer to protect soil from compaction, and serves as insulation from drops and rises in temperature.

Over time, however, thatch can increase in thickness and deprive a lawn of what it needs to thrive—literally cutting grass off from its root system. Thatch thickening can simply happen over time, but it can also be brought on by overwatering, too much nitrogen from overfertilization, and regular mowing that is too high for the grass type. When thatch becomes too thick, it can cause a host of issues. It can prevent fertilizer and lawn treatments from penetrating the soil and reaching the roots. Similarly, it can prevent water from soaking into the soil. On the flip side, too thick thatch can also hold moisture against grass blades, which over time can foster disease. It blocks sunlight from young grass attempting to grow upward, and forces the roots of more mature blades to grow into the nutrient-lacking density of the thatch rather that into the soil. As thatch thickens, property managers may notice lawns that are uneven and more difficult to maintain.

To prevent significant damage (which can be costly to address as well as unsightly), thatch should be checked regularly to determine if it’s harming a lawn. For the cool-season grasses that are typical for our area, a healthy layer of thatch shouldn’t exceed 0.5 – 0.75”. Testing your lawn is easy. A visual inspection should reveal peeks of soil among turf crowns. If you can’t see any soil, chances are the thatch is too thick. You can more precisely measure thatch by cutting a wedge out of a lawn and inspecting the layer.


If you determine that a lawn’s thatch is too thick, it needs to be dethatched. Most property managers have large enough lawns that call for vertical mowers, which have vertical blades that get under the thatch to lift and remove it. Once thatch has been lifted to the surface, it should be raked up and removed. For tough or large areas, it may be beneficial to hire professionals.

Ideally, lawns should be dethatched yearly. For the grass types typical in our climate area, early fall is the best time to tackle the job.

Aeration – Letting the Good Stuff In

Considering the basic needs of grass—moisture, nutrients, and air—aeration simply refers to venting the soil to allow these elements to more easily penetrate. If after an inspection it’s determined that the thatch isn’t thick enough to require dethatching, but the lawn still has areas that appears uneven, aeration may be the solution. This is especially true for lawns that experience a lot of foot traffic and soil compaction.

For large lawns, the aeration process entails going over the area with a core aeration machine. This device has hollow tines that pierce a lawn and removes plugs of soil, leaving them on the surface to break down. When aeration is performed to improve spotty patches, it’s often followed up with reseeding to help restore growth. Aeration should also be performed as part of regular lawn maintenance to keep soil healthy and to help prevent issues. It’s recommended that cool-season grasses be aerated yearly in late summer and early fall during its peak growing phase.

Bringing the Out the Best on Your Property

Dethatching and aeration can breathe new life into lawns, but they can also be big jobs. If you need support when it comes to the lawn maintenance of your properties, we are standing by to help. Whether you need traditional lawn care, irrigation maintenance, or specialized restoration treatment, our lawn care services can be tailored to fit your needs. Please contact us today to set up a consultation.