There’s more that goes into lawn care than most people realize, and if you’re digging into the details of dethatching and aerating, you’re probably starting to see that. The good news is that you’ve come to the right place to get more information on it.
We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about dethatching and aerating, from when you should do it to the easiest way to get the job done. It might not be the most fun thing to do, but you’ll thank us when your lawn looks like a professional is caring for it.
Dethatching and Aerating at the Same Time: Top Dethatchers and Aerators
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1. Agri-Fab 45-0299 48-Inch Tow Plug Aerator – Top Pick Aerator
Size: 48 inch
Application Method: Tow
When you’re shopping for the best lawn aerator, look no further than the Agri-Fab 45-0299. It’s an outstanding tool that turns one of the most labor-intensive tasks into a breeze.
While you need something to tow it around your lawn, once you have that you can knock out small, medium, and even large lawns in no time! It’s a more expensive option, but it comes with a three-year warranty to help give you some extra peace of mind.
If you’re tired of physically exhausting yourself when you’re aerating your lawn then this is exactly what you need!
- Covers a large area
- Easy to use
- 3-year warranty
- Extremely efficient·
- More expensive option
2. Agri-Fab 45-0365 16-Inch Push Spike Aerator – Runner Up Aerator
The Agri-Fab Push Spike Aerator offers industrial-strength rotator wheels and galvanized aerator spikes, perfect for penetrating even the most compacted soil. The mobile width allows for access to small areas of the lawn, and the unit’s 35-pound weight tray capacity gives options for added pressure during aeration.
Size: 16 inch
Application Method: Push
If you don’t have an extremely large lawn, and have nothing to hook up a tow lawn aerator, then the Agri-Fab 45-0365 is another great choice. While it’s more physically taxing to push the aerator around the lawn, it’s also a much more affordable product.
This makes it the perfect choice for smaller lawns, or those that simply want to get a bit of a workout in when they’re caring for their lawn! It’s not the most physically relaxing product, but it’s still a great choice.
- Very affordable
- No towing equipment required
- Great for smaller lawns
- Physically challenging to use
3. Greenworks 10A Corded 14-Inch Dethatcher – Top Pick Dethatcher
Size: 14 inch
Application Method: Electrical push
With a mix between manual labor and electrical prowess, the Greenworks 10A Corded Dethatcher gives you the best of both worlds. You don’t need any towing equipment, but it easily lets you tackle small and medium-sized lawns without needing it.
The dethatcher itself is a great mix of price and performance, and it’s not hard to see why it earned our nod as the top dethatcher out there. Just keep in mind that if you have a bigger lawn you should probably invest in a tower, and in that case the next dethatcher on our list might be the better choice.
- No towing equipment required
- Great mix of price and performance
- Great for smaller/medium-sized lawns
- Not a good choice for larger lawns
4. Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow Dethatcher – Runner Up Dethatcher
Size: 40 inch
Application Method: Tow
If you have a massive lawn, then the Agri-Fab 40-Inch Tine Tow Dethatcher is an outstanding choice. It’s surprisingly affordable, considering its size, but keep in mind that you will need something to tow it around your lawn.
And if you’re worried about durability and quality, Agri-Fab made this dethatcher right here in the United States! It’s a quality product through and through, and is exactly what you need to get your large lawn looking like it should.
- Great for larger lawns
- Affordably priced
- Made in the USA
- Requires a towing machine
If you’re still unsure what you need after reading the reviews, you’re not alone. That’s why we came up with this comprehensive buyer’s guide to walk you through everything you need to know.
What is Dethatching?
Thatch refers to the layer of living and dead plant matter, including crowns, stolons, rhizomes, and roots. In plain English, it’s a layer of grass material that forms between the grass blades and the soil’s surface.
To be clear, your lawn needs thatch. There are tons of benefits to thatch, but just like with most things in life, there can be too much of a good thing. If your lawn has more than ½” of thatch, it can prevent fertilizers and other necessary nutrients and elements from reaching the roots of your grass.
If you have too much thatch, then it’s time to start dethatching to get the most out of your lawn.
How to Dethatch Your Lawn
Dethatching a lawn isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds, but without the right tools, it can be a pretty frustrating job. Essentially, you need to rake the lawn in a way that penetrates the thatch to help break it apart.
You can try using a leaf rake or another hard rake, but they won’t work nearly as well as a sharp tined rake that helps rip the thatch out of the lawn. You can do this manually with a rake, but they also make an automated push machine that rips up the thatch for you as you push it along the lawn.
What is Aerating?
Another way to open up your lawn to fertilizers, seeds, water, and other nutrients is aeration. Simply put, aeration is the process of creating small holes throughout the lawn to allow nutrients to penetrate through the thatch and reach the soil.
The concept is pretty simple, by creating holes in the thatch, there’s a clear path for everything to get through and reach the soil where it can help new grass grow and get nutrients to the roots where it can help the existing grass take off.
How to Aerate Your Lawn
While you can use a regular garden rake to complete dethatching, even if it’s not the most effective way, there’s no way around getting a special tool for aeration. These tools have special tines that create the holes needed for aeration.
The good news is that these tools are extremely easy to use, typically all you need to do is push a roller with the special tines around your yard. Even better, they almost never need maintenance or replacement, so once you own one, you’re usually set for life!
Do You Need Dethatch And Aerate?
When you’re reading through the definitions of dethatching and aerating, it’s only natural to wonder or even assume that you only need to do one or the other. And while doing at least one is sure to help your lawn, the truth is that if your lawn needs both, the only way to achieve the best results is to do both.
But it all comes down to whether or not your lawn has more than ½” of thatch. If it doesn’t, there’s nothing wrong with skipping this step and going straight to aeration! That’s because thatch is an essential part of your lawn, and the last thing you want to do is to pull too much up.
In short, if you need to dethatch do both, if you don’t have an excessive amount of thatch, you can skip straight to aerating!
Should You Aerate or Dethatch First?
If you need to aerate and dethatch your lawn, it’s only natural to wonder which one you should do first. It’s not controversial though, always dethatch before you aerate your lawn.
The reason for this is two-fold. First, it’s simply easier to aerate when there’s less thatch to work through. When you’re aerating, you’re pulling out small sections of thatch and soil to allow the nutrients to work through to the soil.
It’s a lot easier to work through ½” or even a ½” of thatch than it is to work through ¾” or 1″ of thatch. But this reason alone makes it seem like dethatching before aerating is only about making your life easier.
And while it certainly will make your life a bit easier, it’s not all about convenience. It’s also about effectiveness. That’s because the second reason you should dethatch before you aerate is that when you’re dethatching it can cover the holes back up where you just aerated!
When you think about it, it makes sense. When you’re dethatching, you are pulling the thatch out by digging in and dragging it across. When you’re dragging the thatch to pull it out, you can easily pull sections of thatch over the holes you just aerated!
So, to get the best results you should always dethatch before you aerate. Not only does it give you great results, but it’s easier to do too!
Can You Dethatch and Aerate at the Same Time?
While you can aerate directly after you dethatch, dethatching and aerating at the same time simply isn’t possible. That’s because the two processes are completely different, and the tools to accomplish each task are completely different.
While aerating can accomplish some dethatching, it’s not nearly as effective as using a dethatching rake. So, if your lawn doesn’t need a serious dethatching, you might be able to skip the dethatching process by aerating your lawn.
When Should You Dethatch and Aerate Your Lawn?
A mistake many novices make when caring for their lawn is that they dethatch or aerate too often, or they do it during the wrong time of the year. The truth is that dethatching and aerating are necessary when completing specific tasks, but it actually damages your lawn.
This is why it’s best that you aerate and dethatch your lawn during the early spring or early fall. This is peak growing season for your grass which means your grass can recover quickly and get back to growing as it should!
But that inevitably leads to the next question, if dethatching and aerating damages your lawn, why should you do it in the first place? The truth is that you should do it when you’re overseeding your lawn or applying fertilizer.
While you might be damaging your lawn a bit when you’re doing this, the results of overseeding and fertilizing outweigh the drawbacks that come by skipping the dethatching and aerating.
Essentially getting the nutrients and the seeds to the soil gives your lawn enough benefits that it easily outweighs the small damage you’re causing your lawn by dethatching and aerating. Of course, if you do it too often or if you do it when you’re not overseeding or fertilizing, you’re just hurting your lawn with no benefits.
What Causes Thatch?
There are three things that lead to an excessive thatch build-up, mowing, watering, and fertilizing your lawn. These are all things you need to do to properly care for your lawn, but they can also lead to an excessive thatch build-up if you do it too often.
But keep in mind that thatch is also essential for your lawn to stay healthy, and you can always remove thatch by dethatching if you get too much. It’s all about finding a nice balance, and the way most people figure out what’s best for their lawn is through trial and error.
Each area has unique requirements, and the exact type of grass you’re growing has quite a significant impact. So, while we’d like to give you an exact recommendation on how to keep the thatch of your lawn at an optimal level, the truth is that it varies quite a bit depending on your exact lawn location and materials.
What Does Too Much Thatch Do?
While the right amount of thatch helps hold your lawn together and keep it firmly rooted in the soil, with thatch you can quickly get too much of a good thing. Too much thatch hurts your lawn by preventing necessary nutrients like water, fertilizer, and nitrogen from reaching the roots.
You notice this because your grass will start to grow slower than normal. While you might view this as a perk since you don’t have to cut your grass as much, it’s simply not good for your lawn and can lead to long-term damage.
Your grass needs nutrients to thrive, and too much thatch keeps your grass from getting the nutrients they need.
How Do You Know When You Need to Dethatch?
While you might notice that your lawn isn’t growing as fast as it usually does, this can come down to various factors, and too much thatch isn’t always the answer. Other signs that your lawn has too much thatch include excessive water runoffs and brown spots forming in your lawn.
If you notice this is happening in your lawn, it’s time to check the thatch. The good news is that this is pretty easy to check. Simply cut a small section of your lawn out. The cut needs to be about two inches deep, but the overall size of the cut doesn’t need to be much.
From looking at the cross-section, you should be able to determine how thick the thatch is in your lawn. You’re looking for thatch that is ½” thick or less. Anything thicker will keep water from soaking into your lawn.
If your lawn has more than ½” of thatch, you need to dethatch. If it has less than ½” of thatch, then the problem isn’t the thatch. You might need to aerate and fertilize, or your grass simply might not be getting enough water!
If you still have questions about dethatching and aerating after reading through the guide, you’re not alone. That’s why we decided to answer some of the most common questions you might come across here.
Should I Aerate After Dethatching?
While you don’t always need to dethatch before aerating, if you decide to dethatch your lawn, you should always take the time to aerate it afterward. This is because aerating gives seeds and fertilizer a direct route to the soil, which is great for your lawn.
While dethatching certainly helps throughout your entire lawn, the aerated portions will give your lawn an extra boost of nutrients.
How Often Should You Dethatch and Aerate Your Lawn?
If you’re doing it right, there’s no reason to dethatch and aerate your lawn more than once a year. And for mast grass types, there’s no reason to dethatch your lawn every year. It’s just something you’ll need to keep an eye on in case the thatch starts to get too thick.
However, you should aerate your lawn every year before fertilizing. This gives the fertilizer an extra boost and a big head start to jumpstart your lawn.
Do I Need To Mow Before Dethatching?
Absolutely! You should mow your lawn to about half its normal height before you start the dethatching process. This gives you better access to the thatch and reduces the chances that you’ll pull up a ton of grass when you’re breaking up the thatch.
While dethatching your lawn naturally causes some damage, the goal is to damage the grass as little as possible. Mowing the lawn to give yourself shorter grass to work with, which makes this easier to do and is our number one recommendation before dethatching your lawn.
Is It Better To Dethatch Wet or Dry?
It’s a bit of a trick question because it’s best to dethatch when the soil is moist, not overly wet or dry. When you try to dethatch a wet lawn, you can pull up chunks of turf. Meanwhile, if you dethatch a dry lawn, your lawn won’t be able to recover as well from the damage you’re causing.
Moist soil is what you need, and this isn’t always the easiest thing to achieve. If you’re dethatching when the lawn hasn’t received much rain, it’s best to mist the lawn a bit before dethatching. Just ensure you don’t overdo it, or you’ll end up with chunks of turf in your rake!
Should You Aerate in Two Directions?
Yes, yes, and yes! Not only should you aerate in two directions, but they should be in two opposite directions. This gives your soil plenty of holes, and ensures that the soil can absorb nutrients, fertilizer, and seeds from a variety of locations.
It might seem excessive to run your lawn over twice with the aerator, but this is how you’ll achieve the best possible results.
Caring for your lawn and getting the best possible results is a lot of work. But when you do it right, the end result is a beautifully manicured lawn that leaves all your neighbors oohing and aahing over your lawn.
And one of the best ways you can do that is by keeping up with dethatching and aerating whenever you’re overseeding or fertilizing your lawn. Now that you’ve read through this guide, you’re better equipped than ever to care for your lawn and take it to the next level.