Warm weather brings out the greenthumbs, and while nurturing a houseplant jungle and starting a garden are worthy endeavors, a lush lawn is what dreams are made of. One problem: lawncare isn't easy and is riddled with jargon and tools like the dethatcher, which happens to be one of the most effective grass management tools in the game. Here's what you need to know.
What is thatch? Thatch is dead organic matter. Thatch is not inherently a problem, but when it builds up more quickly than it's being broken down, it can pile up and choke out your grass, resulting in discoloring and dead patches. If you run your hands through your grass and there's a thick later of dead grass and other non-grass material, you should act on it.
What is a dethatcher? A dethatcher removes thatch using a series of tines (or springs) that dip into the grass bed and pull thatch to the surface, where it can be collected and disposed of. Dethatchers come in a number of forms, but their base function is the same: free the grass in your yard from dead matter.
How to dethatch a lawn? Before dethatching, check your grass height. If it's more than a couple inches tall, consider a quick and shallow mow before dethatching. Depending on the level of thatch buildup in your lawn, you can run the dethatcher over individual strips of the lawn once or twice. Pass over one time, check the dethatched area and assess whether it could use another run. Once the lawn is dethatched, all the dead matter that was lifted from the lawn bed will sit on top of the grass for you to collect (a quick rake job should suffice).
When to dethatch a lawn? There are two factors to consider the "when" of dethatching a lawn. Generally speaking, dethatching is suggested if there is 1 to 2 inches of thatch buildup in your lawn. If less, it may not be necessary. If more (or if it's particularly dense thatch), consider a power rake, which is essentially a more powerful dethatcher. The second factor is growth timing: only dethatch a yard during a growth period for your grass type.
The Best Lawn Dethatchers You Can Buy
Sun Joe is the first of two brands that dominate the home dethatcher world (find the second immediately following this one), and the AJ801E model provides a good standard bearer for the category at large. Its 13-inch mouth is suited to small- to medium-sized yards, as pushing a dethatcher is a slower process than pushing a lawnmower, and you'll need a pretty long extension cord, as it runs off outlet power, not gas or a rechargeable battery. A note on that: when pushing an electric dethatcher, you'll know you're going too fast if the motor begins to strain, slow or warble at all. One of the most appealing additions to Sun Joe's entry-level dethatcher is the debris collection bag, which most dethatchers opt out of. Not having to rake and collect all that extra thatch is a huge time saver.
Greenworks' is likely the most popular consumer friendly dethatcher. It's a hair more affordable than its competition and features many of the same features. When lined up next to the Sun Joe, the differences are minute. The most noticeable is the size; the Greenworks dethatcher is more compact, despite featuring an extra inch of spinning tines. Its 10-amp corded electric motor is slightly weaker than the Sun Joe's 12-amp motor, but the difference is negligible in most circumstances.
Worx's 14-inch, 12-amp corded dethatcher has two stand-out features. The first is a folding handlebar that folds all the way up. Other dethatchers offer folding handlebars for easier storage, but they don't go full send with it. The Worx dethatcher folds up small enough to toss in the trunk of your sedan to wheel over to your moocher friend's lawn. The second is its weight; a whopping 32 pounds. That extra heft (5 to 7 more pounds than most other push dethatchers) means less vibration when it's running, which is nice if you've got a lawn on the larger side of medium.
Got a big yard? Lucky enough to have a riding mower or ATV? This is what you want. It covers nearly three-times the yard a push dethatcher does, and, because there isn't an electric motor or many moving parts, its useful lifespan is significantly longer. The only thing you need to make this work: a few very heavy bricks or cinderblocks. The weight on the trailer is what keeps the tines digging into the thatch below.
One word: cordless. Einhell's dethatcher runs off a pair of rechargeable batteries. The pros are obvious: no need for a 50-foot extension cord and no charge of chewing up said extension cord. You will need to ensure it's charged, else you'll end up with a half-dethatched yard, which isn't ideal.