Thatch is for huts not for lawns…
By our favorite South Austin contributor-Patti P.
Gasp; let your soil breathe already…sheesh.
Having ears like radar, dragging hoses across our Austin lawn this weekend I swear I heard little gasping noises coming out of my grass. And I was totally sober. Once I determined the little wheezers weren’t coming from the hose or my not so little bowsers, I started to leap like a gazelle with thighs across the rest of the lawn in fear that thatch was going to link around my ankles and wrestle me to the ground leaving my husband to find me tied to the lawn like Gulliver (picture a smaller Gullivette in a pretty embroidered tunic—thank you).
Making it to the garage I turned on the computer and quickly “wikied” what might make my soil gasp. I quickly came to the conclusion that I’m suffering from compaction & thatch. My soil that is. Serious problem with a semi-simple cure. Read on. Especially if you’re looking for a greener lawn to frame your home which you’re getting ready to put on this competitive real estate market for sale…
Thatch is meant for huts not lawns.
Thatch is usually dried botanical material (straw, reeds, rushes or heathers) layered on roofs to shed water from material that lies below. So if you have thatch (layers of live & not so live organic material lying between your semi-green grass and the soil surface) it’s going to be very hard for any precious water, nutrients and vital air to penetrate the thatch and feed your soil. Thus the audible gasping.
How do you know you have thatch?
Moisten a patch of lawn (don’t make it WET, just moist) and wiggle a screwdriver down into the soil. If the screwdriver goes down a few inches with ease, you’re probably thatch less and don’t need to read on…oh but do. I promise to entertain as I love your company.
OK, you’re still with me. Which means I’m wicked persuasive and/or you tried the screwdriver test and it did not penetrate the soil easily. Did you hear the gasping too? You have thatch and most likely compacted soil.
In Austin, summer is the time to treat the thatch on St. Augustine and Bermuda grass, so make some lemonade, put on your best brimmed sun hat and get to work; preferably early in the morning when soil is just moist—again not wet—if you work with wet soil, you’ll just make compacted soil balls.
Notes to the compulsive and short-cutters:
DON’T try MORE water as over watering probably caused your compaction and thatch in the first place. Once your lawn is compacted water will just run off to your least favorite neighbor’s yard or the street (wasteful) and hits you in your wallet.
DON’T add more fertilizer as this probably caused your grass to grow too fast, thus the compaction and gasping for air. Your grass is suffering from a post- Thanksgiving dinner.
DO go to your favorite gardening center (mine is the Natural Gardener in Austin) and purchase a sod corer for $25.
What is a sod corer?
A sod corer looks a like an aluminum pitchfork except a corer has only two tines and they are hollow. This lightweight corer has a bar above the hollow tines where you can place your foot to push the corer down into the moist soil. The hollow tines push up tubes of soil just like a play dough maker pushes out stars and hearts and moons. Leave the little tubes of soil lying on top of the lawn and keep moving along pushing up more tubes. It is kind of meditative or at least brings you back to good Play dough memories…as long as you didn’t eat the stuff.
Note: if you are trying to “aerify” a large lawn you may want to consider renting a commercial rotary sod corer at your local hardware store. I’m going to continue with my Play dough/aluminum manual sod corer as I don’t want to spew gas or pay for gas to allow my lawn to breathe.
Benefits of using the sod corer:
- your lawn will breathe again because you are loosening up compacted soil
- the corer will make nice breathing holes in the compaction and thatch
- coring will stimulate new grass growth & will save you $$$ by reducing water running off
- your lawn will start to look lush as the corer cuts through roots; just like a starfish, the grass will quickly grow back new “arms” to cover any open spaces
So, liberate your grass this Fourth of July! Let it breathe! Drop us a line and let us know how your coring fared. Thanks for reading–Patti P.
© Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Reatly, 2008-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Entry filed under: Austin, Fix It, Green. Tags: Add new tag, Austin seller, Bermuda grass, curb appeal, lawn maintenance, sod corer, soil compaction, St. Augustine grass, summer lawn care Austin, thatch.