How to Dethatch a Lawn with a Mower Attachment [2 Types]

If you own a ride-on mower, use a tow-behind dethatcher for your lawn. For this process, mow your lawn to a height of 2 inches (5 cm). Then, hitch the dethatcher to your mower. Next, add cinder blocks to the dethatcher until the tines dig down into the thatch layer. Finally, tow the dethatcher slowly over your lawn until all the grass has been dethatched.

You can dethatch your lawn by using a walk-behind mower as well. For this process, mow the lawn first with a standard mower blade. Then, remove the standard blade and replace it with a spring-type dethatching blade. Mow the yard again, using the dethatching blade. Then, clean up the thatch you removed.

How to dethatch a lawn with a mower attachment

What are the Types of Dethatcher Attachments for Mowers?

The two main types of dethatcher attachments are tow-behind dethatchers and dethatching blades. Tow-behind dethatchers are designed for use with ride-on mowers. They can’t be used with a push mower. They allow you to dethatch large yards using a ride-on mower, without having to change your mowing blade.

  • Tow-behind dethatchers for riding mowers.
  • Dethatching blades for walk-behind mowers.
  • Both these options are substitutes for a single-purpose power dethatcher.

Dethatching blades are primarily designed for use with walk-behind or push mowers. To use one, you will have to remove your standard mowing blade and install the dethatching blade. Read our guide to dethatching blades for details on the best types of dethatching blades, as well as which blades to avoid.

How Do You Use a Tow-Behind Dethatcher Attachment?

A riding mower with a tow-behind dethatcher is great for large lawns. They cover much more ground much faster than a walk-behind dethatcher. To dethatch large lawns quickly and completely with a tow-behind dethatcher attachment, follow these steps:

Mow Your Yard

Begin by mowing your yard to a height of 2 inches (5 cm) using your riding mower. This height is much shorter than usual for many grass types, but it is essential so that the dethatcher tines can reach the thatch layer and remove it. You can follow your standard mowing pattern to cut your lawn during this step.

Hitch Your Dethatcher to Your Mower

Turn your mower’s engine off and engage the parking brake. Then, wheel this tow-behind dethatcher into place behind the mower. Slot the retaining pin into place to connect the dethatcher to the mower. Then, secure the retaining pin with a cotter pin to make sure the dethatcher is safely hitched. A poorly attached dethatcher could come loose, which may result in injury or equipment damage.

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Add Weight to the Dethatcher

After attaching the dethatcher to the mower, add weight so that the dethatcher tines sink low enough to dig into your lawn’s thatch layer. For most tow-behind dethatchers, the best thing to do is to put 2 cinder blocks on the dethatcher. Tow-behind dethatchers are even designed with brackets to accommodate cinder blocks for this purpose. Once you have put the cinder blocks into place, secure them with these bungee cords. Inspect the dethatcher tines at ground level—they should sink past the grass growth and ½-inch (12 mm) into the thatch layer.

Dethatch at Low Speed

Now that your dethatcher is ready, it’s time to begin the job. If possible, turn off the blade on your mower so that the mower moves forward but the blade does not spin. Then, engage the mower at a slow forward speed. Tow your dethatcher at half the speed you use when mowing. Use a circular pattern to dethatch the entire lawn. Pass over each area only once. Avoid passing over the same area several times with the dethatcher—this can damage grass roots.

Clean Up Loose Thatch

Once you’re done dethatching, store your dethatcher and mower. Then, use a rake, blower, or lawn sweeper to gather up the loose thatch you removed. Unlike grass clippings, thatch will not decompose quickly. To prevent it from piling up on your lawn, gather the thatch up off your lawn. It can be discarded or added to compost.

How Do You Use a Dethatching Lawn Mower Blade?

If you have a walk-behind mower, you can equip it with a specialized dethatching blade to remove excess thatch from your lawn. Just follow this process:

Mow Your Lawn with a Standard Blade

Do not change the blade on your mower immediately. Instead, mow your lawn with a standard grass-cutting blade first. Lower the blade height to 2 inches (5 cm). Long grass will easily clog a dethatching blade, so short, freshly cut grass is essential for this process. If you have an extremely short type of grass, such as Bermuda or Zoysia, consider scalping your lawn before you switch to a dethatching blade.

Change to a Dethatching Blade

To turn your push mower into a dethatching machine, you must change the blade. This process isn’t hard, but there are some important steps to take to prevent gas spills and keep yourself safe. Here’s how to do it:

  • Detach your mower’s spark plug wire.
  • Drain the mower’s gas tank to prevent spills.
  • Turn the mower on its side.
  • Prevent the blade from spinning freely by blocking it with a piece of wood wedged between the blade and housing.
  • Use a socket wrench to remove the bolt holding the blade in place.
  • Note the bottom of the blade and label it—mower blades can be installed upside-down.
  • Determine the bottom of the dethatching blade and position it for installation.
  • Tighten the blade-retaining bolt to install your dethatching blade.
  • Tilt the mower back onto all four wheels.
  • Reattach the spark plug wire.
  • Add fuel to the gas tank.

It is essential to always detach the spark plug wire before you change a mower blade. On some mower models, turning the blade can start the engine. If this occurs, the blade will begin spinning, which is extremely dangerous if your hands are in the area. If you’re not sure where the spark plug is on your mower, consult the owner’s manual.

Mow Again

With your dethatching blade installed, raise the deck height of your mower ½-inch (12 mm) higher than your normal mowing height. Then, mow your yard again. Because dethatching blades remove relatively small amounts of thatch, it is best to pass over your yard several times. Start with a circular pattern. Then, mow your yard in a back-and-forth pattern. Finish up by mowing in an up-and-down pattern. This will remove enough thatch to revitalize your lawn.

Rake Leftover Thatch

After mowing your yard again, rake up and remove the thatch. The thatch layer in your yard is made up of grass stems. These stems contain lignin, a substance that helps stems resist decomposition. Since this thatch won’t break down quickly on its own, your best option is to rake up the thatch and get rid of it. Given enough time, thatch will break down into compost. However, it won’t decompose if you leave it on your lawn.

Are Mower Attachments Better than Renting a Dethatcher?

A good-quality power dethatcher is almost always more effective than dethatching attachments for mowers. To truly remove thick thatch, there’s no better tool than a dedicated dethatcher (sometimes referred to as a “power rake”). Tow-behind dethatchers are the second-best tool for the job. Dethatching blades for push mowers are a distant third. Dethatching blades are only good for removing light thatch.

  • A dethatcher will do a better job than a dethatching mower attachment.
  • You can rent a dethatcher from most hardware stores.
  • Dethatching mower blades cost less than renting a dethatcher.
  • In the long run, buying a tow-behind dethatcher is more cost-effective than renting a dethatcher every year.

Although dedicated dethatchers are the best tool for the job, using them can be expensive. Purchasing a dethatching blade for a push mower is far less expensive than renting a dethatcher for one day. Purchasing a tow-behind dethatcher is slightly more expensive than renting a dethatcher from a hardware store for one day. But since dethatching is a yearly lawn care chore, you’ll save money in the long run by purchasing a dethatching attachment for your mower.

Can You Use Your Lawn Mower to Dethatch Your Lawn?

There are two ways to use a mower attachment to dethatch your lawn, depending on what type of mower you have. Here are the methods:

  • Riding Mower
  • Mow your lawn at a blade height of 2 inches (5 cm).
  • Turn off the mower and attach a tow-behind dethatcher.
  • Secure cinder blocks into the brackets on top of the dethatcher until the dethatching tines reach the thatch layer.
  • Use your mower to tow the dethatcher in a circular pattern to thoroughly dethatch your lawn.
  • Gather and remove the thatch from your lawn.
  • Push Mower
  • Mow your lawn at a height of 2 inches (5 cm) with a mower equipped with a standard blade.
  • Change the mower blade to a specialized dethatching blade.
  • Pass over your lawn several times with the dethatching blade.
  • Rake up thatch and dispose of it.

With these steps, you can dethatch your lawn no matter what type of mower you have. Using your mower to dethatch is much more cost-effective than renting a dethatcher every year.

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