can you dethatch a wet lawn

Can You Dethatch A Wet Lawn?

Over time, organic material builds up in your lawn and forms a kind of ‘mat’ over the soil; this is known as thatch. In many cases, you won’t be able to see this thatch until it gets out of hand but regular dethatching will ensure that this doesn’t happen.

The problem with thatch is that it can take away essential moisture and nutrients from your lawn so it doesn’t get everything it needs to thrive. However, while it is important to remove this thatch, you must do so carefully as this process can be incredibly stressful for the lawn.

So, this begs the question: can you dethatch wet grass?

It is never a good idea to dethatch your lawn while it is wet. The excess moisture within the soil means that the lawn is more susceptible to damage. One of the biggest issues here is that you might end up ripping healthy grass up by its roots.

Doing this is going to damage your lawn and will require a lot of time and effort to put right. So, when it comes to keeping your lawn healthy, dethatching after rain isn’t a wise move. In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into this topic to help you better understand the risks.

As we have mentioned, you might not notice thatch at first as it really does need to build up considerably before it becomes visible. When this happens, you will notice that there are a number of brown spots all over the grass. Many people confuse this with parts of the lawn dying off but this is not the case.

If you aren’t sure whether the problem is dying grass or thatch, you can simply touch the lawn to find out. Grass that has a large layer of thatch underneath will be much bouncier and feel more spongy, especially when you walk on it. But using your hands will give you a real sense of the condition of the lawn and how much thatch is present.

You can also check how much thatch you have by digging up a section of the lawn in a corner of the garden. Yes, this is more work but it is also a viable method of finding out. You don’t need to dig out a massive section but you should make sure you dig down to the soil. Take a section from the ground and look at whether there is any visible dry, brown, organic material below the healthy grass. This is thatch and if there is any more than ¾ of an inch, you will need to get rid of it.

But you absolutely must ensure that you only do this at the right time. Dethatching after rain is only going to cause problems; let’s take a look at some of these.

Pull Turf Out By The Roots

When you use a dethatching tool on wet soil, it is much more likely to penetrate into the ground. The result of this could be damage to the roots of your grass. Even worse, you may end up pulling the grass out by its roots which will leave the lawn patchy and unattractive. Once this happens, the only way to restore those patchy areas is to reseed, which is time consuming, requires effort and can be costly, depending on how much grass seed you have to buy.

What’s more, you may find that the tool forces the thatch back down into the soil instead of pulling it away.

Clumps

More often than not, you would use something like a power rake or a dethatching machine to remove thatch from your lawn. However, these tools are not designed to be used in wet conditions as this could cause damage to the electrical systems.

More than this, you will find that the clumps of thatch you pull out will get lodged in the power rake, clogging it and making it impossible to use.

Clogged Power Rake

More often than not, you would use something like a power rake or a dethatching machine to remove thatch from your lawn. However, these tools are not designed to be used in wet conditions as this could cause damage to the electrical systems.

More than this, you will find that the clumps of thatch you pull out will get lodged in the power rake, clogging it and making it impossible to use.

When To Dethatch Your Lawn

It is recommended that you dethatch your lawn at least once a year, if not twice. The best time to do this will vary depending on the type of grass you have. Cool season grasses should be dethatching during the fall whereas a warm season grass benefits more from being dethatched in spring. This is because these are the times of year when the grass will be growing the most.

What’s more, while you don’t want the grass to be wet when you dethatch, a little moisture is good. At these times of year, the grass will be getting the most rain which can be useful.

dethatched lawn

It is important to make sure that you don’t dethatch the lawn when it is suffering from drought. While a dry lawn will be easier to dethatch, it is possible to take this to the extreme. When you do this, you will be taking away a layer that holds onto moisture that’ll feed the grass throughout the drought period.

Once this happens, you will find that the grass dries out and could die. If there is a drought, make sure to leave dethatching until this is over.

Does Raking Dethatch A Lawn?

You wouldn’t use a standard rake to perform dethatching but there are special rakes called dethatching rakes that you would use for this purpose. They are different from normal rakes in that the tines are thicker and sit perpendicular to the handle of the rake. The reason for this design is that it allows those thick tines to cut down through the grass and take hold of the thatch below.
When using these tools, it’s important to work on small areas at a time. Take the dethatching rake and place it into the grass before bringing it back towards yourself with a degree of force. Every time you repeat this motion, you will see less thatch coming up. When there is none left, you can move on to the next part of your lawn.

However, this method really only works on smaller lawns. For a big lawn, manual tools will be far too demanding on you physically. Instead, you might opt to use a power rake or a dethatching machine. These are mechanically powered and have tines that will lift up thatch easily, especially over large areas. In many cases, these machines look a lot like a lawn mower but you can even buy attachments for your mower so you have a two in one tool.

Should I Water After Dethatching?

Thatch acts as a sponge and holds a lot of water which your grass will feed off of. So, when you take this away, you’ll naturally have to water the grass more often. It’s so important to keep to a tight watering schedule after dethatching has taken place because there is a possibility that the lawn might go into shock. You’ll need to stay on top of this for at least a few weeks. Of course, it is possible to overwater your lawn so do this mindfully.

As well as upping the number of times you water your lawn after dethatching, now is also a good time to perform some other lawn care. Aerating your lawn is one thing you can do and this will improve the flow of water, nutrients and oxygen, keeping your lawn healthier.

You might also take this as an opportunity to overseed your lawn if there are any patchy areas. This is great if you want to make sure that the lawn remains thick and healthy. You can use the same grass seeds as you did when initially planting the lawn but it is also possible to use other varieties to create a hardy mix.

Again, the time of year you do this will depend on the type of grass you have. If you’re planting a cool season grass, you’ll need to do this in fall whereas a warm season grass is best planted in spring.

Finally, you might decide to test your soil after you have dethatched your lawn as the lack of thatch makes this the perfect time to do it. These tests will tell you the current pH level of the soil which allows you to add materials to make the perfect conditions for your lawn. If you’ve been having problems with lawn growth, this could be a result of an incorrect pH level. Most grass types prefer a slightly more acidic soil.

Final Thoughts

Thatch will build up on any lawn over time and it is something that you’ll need to deal with. This is a layer of organic materials that lies under the grass but can deprive it of important nutrients and water. You likely won’t see the thatch until it becomes overgrown so it is best to add dethatching to your annual lawn maintenance.

Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher

Andrew is a dedicated father of three who really takes pride in his lawn and garden. You'll find Andrew behind the scenes of almost everything Edge Your Lawn produces. When he's not helping readers find all the information they need, he's in his backyard working on his lawn and garden landscaping. This year he hopes to build an outdoor deck and sort out his veg patches.