Dethatching, Aerating, Seeding

A Guide for Preparing Your Lawn in the Fall for Success in the Spring

Do you have bare or browning patches of grass? Do you find it difficult to maintain an even coverage of green grassy care throughout the lawn?

Your grass has weathered the harshest conditions of summer and now it’s time to reinvigorate the look of your lawn. There are a number of issues that may be stifling the overall growth of your turf.

First, decide whether the problem is occurring due to a fundamental issue such as drought, weeds, overuse, or poor management. If that’s the case, each of these issues is easily remedied by watering more frequently,
using a weed preventer, temporarily roping off an area from use, or contacting a local professional like CSE Landscapes in the Hampton Roads area!

If the issue is not so easily discernible there could be an underlying issue leading to a growth struggle. Over time, the ground becomes compacted and can compress root systems preventing nutrients, water, and even oxygen from reaching the plant. All three ingredients are essential for healthy plant growth.

Let’s look at some techniques for improving the overall growth of your soon to be luscious lawn!


Thatch is a mixture of living and dead plant matter that collects at the base of grass. A small amount of thatch is helpful in protecting the grass from extreme heat and limiting weed growth. Too much thatch will create a weak grass root system causing vulnerability to stressors. To test your thatch density, remove a plug of dirt from your lawn. The spongy area should not exceed 3/4 inch when squeezed.

If you find your thatch is too thick, consider dethatching using proper equipment which can be rented, or, the more arduous avenue, deep hand raking using a leaf rake. Careful not to damage existing grass when using the rake method. Also, make sure to compost the collected organic matter when finished with the process!


Aerating is the process of opening the surface of your lawn by removing plugs of dirt and penetrating the upper, thick layer of organic material covering the surface of your dirt. Too much organic material may block beneficial nutrients and water from reaching the roots of your grass. Aerating also promotes microorganism activity which further degrades
the excess organic layer providing more nutrients and strengthening for disease prevention. Loosening the dirt will build a stronger root system and allow new growth to flourish. New roots can easily expand and nutrients and fertilizer have been introduced by stirring up compacted soil.

There are several methods for aerating and usually you can rent equipment from a local hardware store. The best practice is to use core aeration as opposed to spiking or slicing. This removes the dirt in clods instead of slicing, which could further compact your soil. Make sure to water the lawn 24 hours prior to aerating.

Seeding or Overseeding

Overseeding, simply put, is adding grass seed to an existing lawn to thicken coverage and fill bare spots. This is common practice in the Hampton Roads area and other similar regions where cool season and warm season grasses mix. Combining grass seed will allow for a lush green lawn all year round. Seed selection should, however, be based on what type of grass already grows in your lawn. Some grasses grow better with each other.

When overseeding, cut existing grass to lowest height that will not cause permanent damage. Select a compatible seed variety for your lawn. Consider amount of sunlight, water, and traffic when choosing a variety. Seed your lawn after aerating or use a rake to lightly disrupt the top soil layer before laying down seed. Use a drop spreader to evenly spread seed across a large area or you can hand spread thin areas. Lightly rake the area after seeding to improve soil contact. Make sure to water your seed well during germination but not so much as to wash the seed away.

Thatching, aerating, and seeding are all activities best conducted in the Fall. The cool season provides the perfect environment to promote proper root growth for a thicker, fuller lawn. Following the best lawn care practices now will ensure a bountiful lawn come next spring. And, as always, if you need assistance to grow your best lawn, we’re here to help!