image of thatch

The Difference Between Clippings…And Thatch!

An Ever-Green client asked last week.  “Do you think I need my yard thatched this fall?”

“Why do you think you have thatch,”  he was asked.

“Well, I’ve been using a mulching mower now for a few years and I think I have a buildup of clippings.  I’ve heard that’s a bad thing?”

And in fact, “thatch”, if you have it, can be a bad thing.  Thatch is nothing more than a buildup of clippings and other matter like chopped leaves that gather along the ground at the base of grass plants.  At its worst it can choke off access to water and nutrient.  Under certain conditions it can cause fungus disease.  Some say it can literally choke the life and color out of a lawn if allowed to grow too thick.  So yes, thatch, if you have it, can be a problem.

However, as with this client, most people really don’t have a thatch problem at all.  And here’s the key to knowing.

1) If you mow on a typical weekly schedule, and cut 1 inch or less off the top of an average yard, those clippings are going to disperse and decompose with sunlight and moisture (see above photo) long before they can accumulate to the point of becoming “thatch”. If, on the other hand, you don’t mow regularly, and cut excessive lengths of grass, you can have thatch buildup, and that quickly…literally suffocating your lawn.

2)  Take your finger and dig down around the base of your grass plants.  Chances are all you’ll find is dirt…bare dirt.  And if you do you don’t have thatch problem.  Simple as that.

Even those who do find a modest buildup should not be alarmed because over the winter those clippings, with moisture and changing temperatures, become little more than healthy compost by spring.

Check it out the next time you mow.  The clippings you leave are barely noticeable by the next day.  They dry up and many times simply blow away with the wind.  And those that don’t rarely get to ground level in a healthy lawn.  They get ground up and blown away the next time you mow.  Stop worrying!

It’s good to know the difference…between clippings, and “thatch”.