The Proper Ways to Rake Your Lawn
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The Proper Ways to Rake Your Lawn

Winter is over and spring is in the air. Your lawn looks brown and dry and you think you should have something done. Power raking is what too many people do and that is usually the wrong thing to do to your lawn. Learn about the best way to rake your lawn.

Raking your lawn is important to maintain your lawns health. You can hire someone to power rake your lawn, but is that really necessary. Raking your lawn the wrong way can damage your lawn not only for this year, but for years to come.

The Wrong Way to Rake Your Lawn

You and I get those flyers on our front door every day during the spring from the power raking companies. It sounds easy, just make a phone call and hire someone to power rake your lawn and it is all done.

After a long winter, the soil can be so compacted it compares to cement. The lawn is flat and brown and the clay soil underneath is hard as a rock. What should we do?

Many homeowners will just call the power raking company and make an appointment. I have always found that power raking can be destructive and usually not necessary. Power raking can tear out new grass shoots and damage grass shoots that haven’t turned green yet. This is especially bad if you power rake too late in the season.

Power raking is just that, power. And that power can tear out clumps of soil with clumps of green grass and soil, whether it is wet or dry soil.

What is Thatch

Some mistakenly think that the grass clippings mulching lawn mowers leave behind is the cause of thatch and that is not correct. Another mistake is to think that just the dry dead grass is thatch.

Thatch is a layer of grass roots, shoots and runners between the surface of the soil and roots of the grass. This is different than grass clippings. If there is too much thatch, it can act like a blanket or wet sponge that can keep air and nutrients from getting into the soil of your lawn and can suffocate the lawn and soil causing fungus and other lawn diseases to develop later in the year.

One sign of too much thatch is if you walk across your lawn and it feels spongy. Another way to find out if you have too much thatch in your lawn is to cut out a small triangle section of your lawn. If the spongy area above the soil is 3/4” to 1 inch while it is compressed, that is too much thatch.

Thatch can be caused by the overuse of high nitrogen fertilizer, insecticides and fungicides. The beneficial organisms and earthworms can be killed by the overuse of pesticides. Watering for a short amount of time, for example a couple of minutes per area can also cause shallow roots to grow too close to the surface. As thatch accumulates it can starve your lawn for air and nutrients.

Dethatching is done with a power raking machine with different blades and can tear up the lawn. Only dethatch your lawn if you find you do have too much thatch and it is damaging your lawn. Dethaching is not a routine maintenance or something you should do often or each year.

Some amount of thatch is healthy for your lawn and dethaching or power raking your lawn every year can do more damage than help.

Using the Proper Rake for Your Lawn

Hand raking will not pull up too much new green grass or soil. This can be a lot of work, but hand raking is worth it.

Thatching Rake

If your lawn does have more thatch than you think is healthy for your lawn, a thatching rake is what you can use. A thatching rake is hard work since it will pull up a lot of the dry grass along with the thatch. You will also see some green grass and soil pulled up. Using a thatching rake by hand will minimize the amount of green grass and soil that could be pulled up by a power raking machine.

Thatch rake

Bow Rake

A bow rake will not rake as deep as a thatch rake. Raking your lawn in the spring with a bow rake will not only rake up the leaves and dry grass after a long winter, it will also fix any matting of your lawn. Matting can happen in areas where your lawn has had snow packed on it for months. The matted parts of your lawn that has been buried under snow for months can cause snow mold and raking can relieve your lawn of this problem.

Bow rake

Leaf Rake

Raking your lawn with a leaf rake is much easier than using a thatch or bow rake. A leaf rake will also rake up the leaves and twigs from the winter and also pick up plenty of dry grass. If your lawn is in good shape, you might not have to rake with a bow rake every year and a leaf rake will do just fine.

Leaf rake

After Raking Your Lawn

Once you have raked your lawn, it now looks better and you can almost feel your lawn breathe again. The next step to help your lawn is aeration. You can rent or hire someone to aerate your lawn or buy a hand aerator. Do not rake up the dirt plugs from the aeration; let them dissolve back into your lawn for the nutrients. Each time you water or it rains, the plugs will dissolve into your lawn.


Hand raking your lawn each spring is a good way to rake up the excess dry grass, leaves and twigs and help your lawn breath without damaging your lawn. If you rake your lawn yourself, make sure you have a good pair of gloves. Raking can really cause blisters.

Copyright © Sam Montana April 2012

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Comments (7)

Great information, not only saying what to do, but also what not to do and why not.

Valuable information here...article very detailed and nicely executed.  The rake images are great, this helps one decide which rake to use and when.  Also, I'm sure many (me included) didn't know there was a proper way to rake a lawn.  This is good to know!  Thanks

Ditto Brenda's comments, Sam.

Well done, Sam.

Thanks for the great instructions, Sam

This is a helpful article on raking. Thatching in Colorado is rarely necessary but people do the strangest things, and once one person in a neighborhood does it, it seems like everyone thinks it is a good idea!

Never knew a simple work could be much complicated, but it's worth it.