The Importance of Thatch Maintenance

A thatched roof is an iconic feature of many villages and country homes. It is also popular in tropical-themed venues and is an ecologically friendly roofing option.

Thatch is an organic layer of dead and living grass plant parts that develops between the green turf zone and the soil surface. It provides natural insulation for lawns against temperature extremes and soil moisture fluctuations.

Dressing Up

Dressing up your lawn and thatch is a good idea to make it look its best. There are many ways to do this, but the most important is to remove excess material that may be blocking your grass from getting what it needs to grow healthy and strong.

One of the easiest methods is to hire a thatch worker to rake up thatch and debris with a leaf rake or a hand-held weeder, leaving a layer of compost-like residue on your lawn. This can help build up the soil structure and improve drainage.

It’s also a good idea to perform a bit of core aeration to move air and water around the root zone more efficiently. This will lead to improved thatch decomposition and better root growth.

Brushing Down

Brushing down your thatch is integral to a regular thatch maintenance program. This process removes the top layer of thatch, which is usually up to an inch thick.

A thatch management program should also include preventative practices such as appropriate grass species and cultivar selection, liming, core aeration, and proper fertilization and mowing.

Thatch accumulation occurs on a seasonal cycle for cool-season grasses. It accumulates the fastest during periods of active growth and decomposes the fastest during the summer.

Generally, turfgrass species that generate a large amount of stem tissue as rhizomes or stolons produce more thatch than those that do not. This is because rhizomes and stolons provide a food source for microbial thatch-decomposing organisms.

To control thatch buildup, maintain healthy soil conditions by following soil test recommendations to keep pH and nutrients at optimal levels. Adding lime to thatch-prone soils promotes the beneficial activity of soil thatch-decomposing microorganisms. Annual aeration alleviates compaction and improves air movement into soils, encouraging microbial activity.

Flush Ridge

A thatched roof will need re-ridged around every 10-15 years. This is done in one of two ways; either a simple flush ridge that contuses at the same pitch as the primary coat without stepping up or a blocking ridge that fastens an extra coarse of straw to the roof underneath the final rough.

Flush ridges are easy to apply and are less expensive than block-cut ridges. They also reduce the risk of gulleying as water runs down them more evenly.

Butts-up ridging, consisting of a layer of combed wheat reed, butts up; and is mainly found in the West Country. The other more commonly used ridging method is a wrap-over, where the apex of the ridge is covered with a long straw, combed wheat reed or sedge grass.

These ridges can be completed in a block or flush style, but a simple wrap-over is more common. This is usually a cheaper finish than thatched roofs, where the ridge is wrapped over and secured.