Buffalo Lawn Thatch
Thatch In Buffalo Lawns
Thatching in Buffalo lawns can become a major problem over time. Buffalo produces thick stemmed runners (stolons) which are categorised as a thatch layer. As each stolon produces the next generation of stolons, these new stolons grow above the old ones, and that’s how a green Buffalo lawn is continually maintained.
Due to the thickness of the stems, the thatch layer in Buffalo lawns can continue to build on top of each other and significantly raise the height of the lawn. The process can continue for decades where the thatch layer can raise to 20 centimetres thick. The result is that the roots no longer live in the soil, they live in the old thatch layer which doesn’t contain nutrients, and cannot hold onto water. The problem continues where the lawn may be many centimetres above the surrounding path or outdoor area.
The lawn is in poor health, is spongy, looks ugly, is very difficult to mow, and can be a major hazard for tripping and injury. In short, the lawn is no longer a lawn because it has lost its functionality.
Controlling Lawn Thatch
The easiest way to control the build up of thatch over time is to mow lawns regularly. Through regular lawn mowing we remove some of the excess stolons from the lawn, which would have become thatch at a later time. After the lawn is mowed, the turf will use its energy and growth to repair the leaf material that was just cut, as well as to produce more green leaves to replace the green leaf that was lost through lawn mowing. This process is called the ‘tillering’ effect.
The great thing which is happening here is that when the turf uses its energy to produce more green leaf, it uses far less energy to produce more stolons.
More green leaf = beautiful green lawn,
Less stolon growth = less thatch.
While thatch build up can be slowed, it will always remain a beneficial part of our lawns, and over time it will still build up to excessive levels and will often need to be addressed and removed as part of our lawn care.
Thatch is removed by a process called Vertimowing. When vertimowing Buffalo lawns it is important to de-thatch the lawn before the thatch layer becomes too thick, otherwise and as previously mentioned, the roots of the green lawn will no longer be in the soil but in the thatch layer. So in removing the thatch, we also remove the root system and the lawn will die.
Just be aware that many vertimowing contractors may not de-thatch Buffalo grass at all, as many believe this process is unsuitable for Buffalo grass - due to its lack of underground runners from which to repair itself from.
Another method to cut back thatch in a Buffalo lawn is to reduce the lawn mowing height once a year, or once every couple of years in the Spring. This will cut into that thatch layer and remove a lot of the excess thatch, while not damaging the lawn so much that it can’t repair itself.
Controlling Buffalo thatch over the life of the lawn with this method of mowing - is always a far better option than to wait until this thatch layer gets too thick that it becomes so much more difficult to remove without damaging the lawn.
Severely Thatched Buffalo
The only solution for a severely thatched buffalo lawn (15 cm thick or more) may be to remove it altogether with a Bobcat or Dingo Digger.
Before taking this drastic action, always consult with a Vertimowing Professional who can properly assess your lawn and either its suitability to vertimowing, or to otherwise advise its removal.
Don’t Be Put Off
In all cases, do not be put off by the possible thick thatching of Buffalo. Buffalo, and especially the new soft leaf cultivars remains a very good grass for use as home lawns in shaded areas. And regardless of the variety, all warm season lawns require vertimowing or other thatch control at least every few years to control thatch build up in our lawn care regimens.