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How to Manage Pests

The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns

Dethatch and aerate

An established lawn generally has some thatch buildup. Pieces of stems, roots, rhizomes, stolons, and debris are slow to decay because they have high cellulose content and therefore build up in a layer between the grass blades and the soil surface. This makes it difficult for water to penetrate the soil surface and reach the roots, causing patches of dead grass or thin areas.

Removing thatch

Where thatch buildup is a problem, the soil must be dethatched with a dethatcher or verticutter, which is a mower with vertical blades. Dethatchers can be rented from equipment companies. The dethatcher cuts through the thatch layer leaving the thatch debris on top of the lawn and leaves grooves in the soil so that new seed can be planted.

Aerating the soil

After dethatching, rake up the debris and then aerate the soil. An aerator pulls cores of soil from the surface, loosening it and allowing moisture and oxygen to penetrate.

Next step to overseeding your lawn

Seed, fertilize, and irrigate

Photo of removing thatch with a dethatcher

Photo of an aerator removing cores of soil

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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