If your lawn isn’t growing the way it should, it could be a case of too much thatch. Thatch refers to grass clippings and other organic material that accumulates at the top of the soil. While some organic material there is good, as it replenishes the nutrients, too much can cut off the oxygen to the grass and prevent water and other nutrients from nourishing the soil. If your lawn is patchy and discolored, a dethatcher could be just the tool you need.
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A dethatcher is a device designed to remove the excess thatch from the surface of the soil, without damaging the soil or the grass. The design is based on a rake (you can even use a rake as a makeshift dethatcher), with long tines that scrape up the thatch as you drag them over the surface of the lawn. This allows you to bag and remove the thatch while your lawn gets the nutrients it needs.
Dethatchers come in one of two types – tow behind or pull. The tow behind models are hitched to a tractor and are towed along behind. The pull models are stand-alone, and you pull or push them around your lawn (these models often have engines to help with the process).
In order to sift through the many models available online, we created the following set of criteria to judge quality:
This helped us determine which models were the best on the market. We then chose our top five – each with a different niche so that you can find the model that’s best for your circumstances.
Our standout pick of all the models we reviewed was the Sun Joe AJ810E. The power of the design was what helped it stand out; a 12-amp motor provides all the juice you need, especially when combined with a 13” wide path, meaning you need to make fewer trips back and forth. Overall, this dethatcher doesn’t have one unique feature, it simply does all of the hard work in an efficient and quality way. It’s a really great addition to your lawn care team.
The big thing you’ll notice with the Greenworks model is the comfort. You can tell straight away that this was designed with the user in mind. The padded grip and adjustable handle make it comfortable to hold onto the machine as it does its thing. It’s also ergonomically designed, meaning you’ll feel fresh, even after an afternoon of yard work. On top of this, it also comes in at less than $130, making it one of the best value options around.
If you have the money to spend, then the Greenworks 40V is an incredible piece of machinery. Fully cordless, this has a powerful 40V battery that has a 30-minutes runtime. This gives you total unencumbered freedom around your yard.
This is also the best green option – with no gas or oil required. The absence of a gas engine means that it lasts longer without needing any tune-ups; it’s also less prone to breaking since there are fewer moving parts. To put it another way, this is the Tesla of dethatching mowers.
What makes the Agri-Fab model unique is the precision with which it does its job. The list of features is impressive and shows the manufacturers have true attention to detail. Don’t assume, however, that this model only works when conditions are perfect; it’s robust enough to handle even the roughest terrain.
Like the Agri-Fab model, this is an incredibly precise piece of equipment. It allows you to have a scientific approach to dethatching. However, it’s not just a fussy machine – it does the hard yards as well. This option is a great one if you want a model that can handle a lot of work while also maintaining high precision.
At a mid-market price, this was a near contender for our overall pick but just lost out to the Sun Joe because of the strength of the motor.
Lawn dethatchers aren’t for everyone; in some cases, the problems with your lawn may have causes other than an excess of thatch. If you’re unsure if a dethatcher is right for you, cut out a triangular piece of turf, a few inches deep (it doesn’t have to be triangular, this is just the easiest shape to cut using a shovel). Once you have that, you’ll have a cross-section of your lawn. Above the soil level, look to see if you have a spongy section of the material. If you do, and it’s more than an inch thick, then it’s time to get a dethatcher.
Whether to get a pull or tow model is also an important question. Generally, the rule of thumb is that if you have a yard you can cut with a reel mower, you can get a pull dethatcher. If you have a ride-on mower, then you’ll probably need a tow dethatcher. Both function in broadly the same way – it’s just a case of energy expenditure and time efficiency.
You can push a dethatcher around a large field, it’s just easier not to! A tow dethatcher is usually cheaper because it doesn’t require an engine; they also usually have wider paths.
Whenever you are positioning your body under a large piece of equipment, safety should be a top concern. Look for things like safety locks, arms, and catches that keep your mower secure and in position. If you have any doubts in a mower’s stability while you are under it, you should consider adding car jacks on either side of the mower to act as additional catches/stabilizers.
The path width is a crucial piece of information to consider. Generally, this should be based on the size and shape of your lawn. The path width shouldn’t be larger than the narrowest part of your lawn, or you won’t be able to dethatch that area. A larger path width means fewer times back-and-forth, but a smaller path width may be better on tougher grass, or deeper thatch.
Most dethatchers weigh around the same: somewhere between 25 and 30 lbs. However, within this range, there are many engine discrepancies. A 25-pound model with a powerful engine will be far easier to maneuver than a 30-pound model with a weaker engine. You should factor in your own fitness level to this process as well.
It seems fairly obvious, but the longer the warranty the better. Not only does it give you protection in case of malfunction, but it also gives an indication of how confident the company is in its build quality. A 2-year warranty is a good standard; anything less than this is not ideal, anything longer is a testament to a quality product.