Tuesday, January 22, 2013

All Thatched Up!

This is my next door neighbor's lawn. I'm showing it because she has an excellent sprinkler system and gardeners to take car of it. It's the same kind of grass as mine, St. Augustine, and as you can see in the wintertime, it's not a real lush green. In fact it goes kind of dormant. Still, this shows what a perfect St. Augustine lawn should look like at this time of the year.

I don't have a sprinkler system and I'm the gardener. My lawn is far from perfect. St. Augustine has some built-in problems that have to be dealt with on a regular basis. It goes dormant in winter (a plus for me since that means around 2 months I don't have to mow) and the hot, midsummer sun scorches it, so in the height of summer, it looks pretty much like it does in winter.

In fact, there only about 3 or 4 months of the year when it looks really good...in the spring.

Another problem that it has is thatching. St. Augustine puts out many rhizomes, runners to some people, that creep along the surface, taking root as it grows. Great, the lawn spread itself, I hear you thinking. 

Not so much but it does tangle up in itself, creating a dense mat that eventually chokes out everything underneath it...including itself. Above, you can see a significant patch of my lawn that has very thick thatching. Below is a close up of that mat...probably about 2 inches thick including the root layer.

Every now and again, it becomes necessary to break up that thatch. I've tried wearing golf shoes, buying special de-thatching tools that tend to fall apart as soon as you stretch them, and even attacked it with a hoe to varying degrees of success...mostly not too successful.

This year I'm going to try something different.  I'm taking my heavy duty gardening fork, sticking it in the ground, and pushing it forward so that it rips up four holes of thatching and roots, thereby not only breaking the thatch but also aerating the lawn, letting water and nutrients down to the roots below.

Here is what it looks like after I do one.

Now, repeat around 300 times to cover this patch of lawn and then the finished project looks something like this.

I mow to get rid of the raggedness and then we'll wait for spring to see how this idea worked.

Stay tuned!

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
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