De-thatching St. Augustine grass - is it a no-no?

prissyrabbitSeptember 15, 2009

I live in a 5 year old house in far northwest Houston, Texas. I have very thick St. Augustine grass in my backyard. In the spring, when the weather has not gotten disgustingly hot yet, I have beautiful, lush green lawn. By the end of the summer, I am beginning to notice that there is a lot of thatch building up. I know some people have ruined their lawns by using a de-thatcher. I do not want to do that. I am already having to re-sod my front lawn due to not being able to keep it watered enough this summer. My back lawn made it through. For this type of grass in this region of the country, is de-thatching a good idea? Or is there something else I should try? If so, what time of year? I have already tried manual raking. I get about 6 square feet done and I am exhausted. I get a lot of dead stuff out, but as large as my lawn is, it will take me forever to get through it all. I know if you use a de-thatcher, you have to manually rake up the thatch. But digging it out of the lawn on your own is really a lot of work! I do pick up my lawn clippings when I mow. Every third mowing, I do not pick up the clippings but instead, let my mower mulch them back into the lawn. My grass is so thick that if I mulched the clippings every time, I think I would have a far bigger problem with thatch build up than I have now.

Thanks for any input.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Because St Aug propagates over the surface of the soil, if you run a dethatcher you will shred all those stolons and kill the entire lawn. If you have a thatch problem, then you are doing something wrong.

Usually thatch forms in St Aug because of too frequent watering and too frequent fertilizing. That kind of care allows the roots to develop so close to the surface that they need not even enter the soil. Thus the entire plant can live above the surface.

For your grass you should be watering once per week during the summer heat and monthly the rest of the year. This summer my grass was suffering badly so I had to water two weeks in a row for 7 hours each time. I watered 5 hours on Tuesday morning (our designated day to water) and 2 hours on Tuesday night. Normally I water 1-3 hours per week to get enough water to last all week. But after 20 months of deep drought, the grass was going downhill. The extended watering perked it up and I've been able to maintain it the rest of the summer with less water.

Also you should be mulch mowing every week at your mower's highest setting. The clippings will decompose and return valuable nutrients to the soil allowing you to fertilize less. By mowing at the highest setting you will be shading the soil better and keeping it cooler. Cooler soil does not lose as much moisture to evaporation. I usually (half jokingly) suggest that St Aug owners weld their mower deck at the highest setting. There is NEVER any reason to lower the deck on St Augustine.

I fertilize with organic fertilizer 5 times per year on the federal holidays. I start on Washington's Birthday and end on Thanksgiving. If you want to use synthetic fertilizer you can follow a similar schedule but skip the 4th of July (too hot) and don't fertilize as early as I do. Wait until you have mowed the grass for the second time to ensure you have active roots to take up the fertilizer. Organic fertilizer works much differently so you do it a little different.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2009 at 2:52PM
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