Thatch And Your Turf

What is thatch?


Thatch is a combination of alive and dead grass stems, shoots, and roots that embeds itself between your turf grass and soil. This happens when your turf produces debris much faster than it can be broken down or decay.


Thatch can also build up because of certain turf and soil conditions as:


  • Soils that contain acid, as they are not the right environment for thatch decomposing organisms and microbes.
  • Soils that contain too much clay or sand
  • Compacted soils or soils with poor structure
  • Grass types that produce large quantities of stems, as these are one of the most decay resistant parts of turf.



What problems does thatch cause with turf?


Thatch is not necessarily a negative thing. It can help to build your turfs health and resiliency through protecting against extreme temperatures and adverse soil moisture levels. However, “good thatch” will be half and inch thick or less, and anything more can be harmful to the soil.


Some problems that thatch can cause when too thick are:


  • Root damage
  • Root rot
  • Harboring of disease causing organisms and insects


These problems can cause detrimental damage to your turf and seriously deteriorate its health. If you are invested in the proper growth and upkeep of your turf or sports turf, it is important to learn how to manage thatch growth issues in order to avoid these problems.


How do you manage thatch?


Managing thatch can be frustrating at times. However, there are quite a few steps you can take in order to prevent thatch from even growing or to get it under control after it already has.


Some of these options are:


  • Choosing a grass or seed that does not produce too much thatch
  • Taking regular soil PH level and nutrient tests
  • Raise soil PH levels if too low by using something such as dolomitic limestone to help with thatch decompositions
  • Perform preventative core aeration every fall
  • Avoid applying the wrong kind of fertilizer, or applying it too much or too often
  • Use pesticides and fungicides sparingly and only when truly needed
  • Physically remove the thatch by raking or using a vertical mower




If you have any questions on how to prevent or get rid of thatch in your turf, get help from a professional that can walk you through the process. Contact Commonwealth Sports Turf Services today for more information.

Keith Kitchen