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What is aeration, overseeding and thatch removal?

April 1st, 2007


My lawn care company wants to aerate and thatch and overseed my lawn. We just had the lawn installed last year by the same company and. I am concerned they are more interested in money than product. Can you offer me some advice?

Robert K.



Kevin writes to Robert,

Overseeding, aerating and thatching is a part of the normal turf maintenance which should be done fairly often, however I am a bit concerned that a new lawn would need that maintenance service so soon. If the turf coverage is weak, sick, dying or in need of any of the three above mentioned then we need to look closer at the core problem.

Let me explain in more technical terms.

THATCH: Thatch is the build up of grass clippings which fall to the ground and build up over time. Thatch thickness of 1/2 to 3/4″ is normal. Over that limit, sunlight, rain and turf food have a harder time reaching the earth, thus removal of the thatch with a slit seeder or vertical cutter is required. A thatcher can also be used to “Slit seed” the lawn, which is a machine that cuts the thatch then puts in vertical grooves in the soil for best seed to soil contact.

OVERSEED: overseeding is a term for applying, injecting, spreading new turf seed in the soil at an existing lawn. Most golf courses overseed twice per year on high traffic areas. Again, this is more of a help the lawn look and feel healthier process. Once the thatch is removed, a machine is used or it can be done by hand to place the seed in direct contact with the soil. Some businesses like, Athens Lawn & Gardening, will leave some thatch as a covering for the newly sewn seed. Overseeding is a maintenance program we like to use every 3-5 years if needed.

AERATION: when soil becomes compacted from whatever reasons (i.e. vehicles, children playing, heavy foot traffic or years of neglect and thatch build up), the soil can no longer breath or receive water and turf food easily. An aerator is a machine that comes along and punches holes about 2-3″ deep and 3/4″ in diameter and also pulls plugs of soil out of the ground. Thus, the holes allow the soil to breath then over time collapse. The procedure is thatch first, aerate second, and overseed third.

To make this a more “Readers Digest” condensed question, I am skeptical that the lawn would need the surface that your provider is suggesting. As I said earlier, if the lawn is weak, has huge bare spots, or is sick then the procedure might be warranted



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