Spending just a few hours preparing your lawn this spring is an investment well worth making, as it will keep garden maintenance to a minimum for the rest of the year. Of course there are lots of things you can do to get started, but one action that will make a big difference to the health and appearance of your lawn is … (drumroll)… raking! While there’s certainly no rocket science involved in raking, it is important to understand the reasoning behind it, as well as how to do it correctly.
Most people know that they should rake their lawns in autumn in order to remove fallen leaves, however few are aware that a good rake in early spring is just as important. The reason? Thatch.
Thatch is a tightly wound organic layer of dead and living stems, leaves and roots, which builds up between the layer of actively growing grass and the soil underneath it. It occurs because some parts of dead grass are slow to decay and rot (thanks to a compound called ligin), so when new stronger plants grow in place of the dead grass, a build up occurs.
So what can you do about thatch? Get your rake out, of course! Raking is the simplest way to remove excess thatch. But we’re not talking about a quick skim over the grass here – to really control thatch, you must rake deeply and thoroughly.
Late spring and early autumn are the best times to do a deep rake. Before you start, it’s advisable to mow your grass a fraction shorter than usual before you begin de-thatching, as removal becomes much easier. Remember to avoid deep raking too early in the year (i.e. January) as new grass can get torn quite easily.
Hand rakes with sharp blades are great at tearing through tangled thatch layers, and aerators can be a real help too. Both require hard graft and are fine for small gardens, but if you’ve got a large lawn then it may be best to hire a landscaper or turf manager for the job. They will have specialist equipment (known as vertical mowers or de-thatchers) to cut and remove the thatch quickly.
As well as controlling thatch, the humble rake (when in use!) offers many other benefits. In spring, raking will remove grass blades that have died over the winter, cure matted lawn patches, allow water and nutrients to get back into the soil, and improve your lawn’s health and appearance.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your rake, get out there, and give your lawn some ‘rakey’ healing this spring!