Thatch is responsible for the decline of many lawns after the first 7 years which is known as the 'Honeymoon period'

Maintaining a nice lawn requires proper fertilization and watering, good mowing practices, insect and disease control, and thatch control. It's easy for thatch to build up slowly in your lawn and go unnoticed until large brown patches begin to appear. These sorts of problem areas often show up during a summer drought when the lawn is under moisture stress.

Over a 35-year period, our lawn consultations on problem lawns indicated that excessive thatch build-up was the #1 cause of major lawn problems. Many of the worst "problem lawns" had excessive thatch depths of 1-inch or more. Sodded bluegrass lawns need more frequent thatch control measures than most other types of cool season lawn grasses, but even slow thatch producing grasses like red fescue can create serious problems over time.

By using annual lawn maintenance procedures, especially core aeration, you can help prevent excessive thatch build-up that leads to costly lawn renovations. Once you have a thick thatch layer it is often necessary to strip off the old lawn and begin a new lawn from scratch.

Thatch Control

Key Benefits of Controlling Thatch

  • Encourages rooting into the soil
  • Less insect and disease problems
  • Fertilizer applications are more effective
  • Saves on major renovations in the future

When do you de-thatch?

Spring or Fall
Thatch control is best performed in the spring or fall of the year, with fall being the best time of year for lawn work. The "ideal" period in the Pittsburgh area is August 20th through October 20th. The following three steps will help control thatch depth in the northeastern US: core aeration, dethatching, and liming (or other pH control) as needed.


Core Aeration helps prevent Thatch Build-up

Aeration of your lawn once (fall) or twice (spring & fall) a year will help prevent thatch buildup, improve the penetration of fertilizer and lime into the root zone, and allow the soil to "breathe".  We use machines that pull a soil plug or "core." The cores are left on the lawn surface to breakdown and usually disappear within three weeks.

Core aeration should be performed once or twice a year since it will help prevent thatch build-up which can result in later renovation expenses


When thatch approaches or exceeds the safe "threshold" of 1/2-inch thick, it becomes necessary to employ physical thatch removal techniques. We use a flail-type "thatching" machine to remove a portion of the thatch layer. For lawns with extremely thick thatch (1-inch or more) we recommend stripping the thatch layer and starting a new lawn from bare soil.  

Liming a Lawn

The third step in thatch control is making a light application of ground limestone. Even though your soil pH may be in the correct range, the thatch layer can be very acidic, reducing its tendency for natural breakdown. We use pelletized lime for our applications since it makes less mess and speeds our application. We recommend a soil test for anyone serious about improving their lawn's long term quality. Soil test results are usually back within 3 to 4 weeks.


Newly seeded lawn has real curb appeal!
New seeded lawn

Total Lawn renovation

Key Benefits of a Total Lawn Renovation

  • Speeds-up the process of lawn improvement
  • Introduces improved varieties of turfgrass
  • Increases property value with improved curb appeal

When do you renovate a lawn?

Spring or Fall
Lawn renovation is best performed in the spring or fall of the year, with fall being the best time of year for lawn seeding.  The "ideal" period near Pittsburgh, PA is August 20 through October 20, the earlier in that 60-day period the better. Good irrigation of newly seeded areas will greatly improve success.


Partial lawn renovation

In addition to the three procedures mentioned above in "Thatch Control", we also overseed your lawn with improved varieties of grass seed and apply a "starter" fertilizer. Depending on your individual needs, we may also fill-in depressions in the lawn with soil, and apply a mulch to help keep the grass seed moist.

Total lawn renovations

When thatch exceeds 1/2" thick, we recommend stripping the lawn down to bare soil with a sod-cutter and starting from "scratch" (bare soil). 
This speeds the renovation process and has the added benefit of seeding the lawn entirely with improved varieties of turfgrass.

Removing weeds & weedy grasses

On many occasions, an old lawn is infested with tenacious weedy grasses that can only be removed with chemical controls (herbicides). In these instances, we begin the "Total Renovation" process with an herbicide application to remove the majority of undesirable grasses and weeds.

Fall lawn renovation project

Lawn killed by drought and grubs
This lawn was killed by grubs and the drought of 1999 in SW Pennsylvania. In this photo the dead lawn is in the process of being stripped with a sod cutter.

Five week old lawn 
Five weeks later the newly seeded lawn had grown tall enough to be mowed.


Low maintenance lawns

Fall lawn seeding

September = Lawn month


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