Finances & Money

Frugal Workout: Dethatching your lawn manually

Frugal Workout: Dethatching your lawn manually

First off, you’re probably wondering what “Thatch” is and why you would need to “Dethatch” your lawn.

Thatch, according to LawnStarter, is a woven layer of dead and living shoots, stems, and roots that forms on the surface of the soil and beneath the grass blade. However, if too much of it builds up, it can choke off new grass growth, which is vital at our home. See, not long ago, I had an accident with fertilizer and ended up burning an “American flag pattern into our front lawn. Luckily it was right around Independence Day, so I played it off as a patriotic stunt.


Anyway, back to the thatch. You can remove thatch two ways:
1. Manually with a rake (the heavy-duty kind, not a leaf rake)
Cost: Free when you borrow your neighbor’s rake
2. Rent a “power rake, which is like mowing the lawn with a supercharged rake
Cost: $35 for 4 hours, $50 for all day

I decided to try the manual route first

I borrowed Nick’s rake and started pulling up thatch from our front lawn. We have about 5000-6000 sq. ft. of open lawn and I finished about 200 sq. ft. in an hour. I pulled up a full paper lawn bag worth of thatch, which was quite impressive, but my abs and lower back were pretty sore the next day.

My bright idea for a workout
Since I didn’t have time to rent the power rake until later in the week, I figured I would try to do as much manual dethatching as possible the next day. I was really motivated in the the great ab workout I would get (I hate situps), and testing myself to see how much I could accomplish before the daylight ran out.

In 3 hours, I finished about 1500 sq. ft (about 3/4 of our front lawn). I only got 1 blister and definitely felt sore yesterday. However, as soon as I got into work this morning, I called to reserve a power rake for Friday morning. There’s no way I’m doing another 3000-4000 sq. ft. of open lawn with a stinkin’ rake!

Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Workout
So I calculated (in my head with poor math) that it will take me 2 years to dethatch the lawn manually with a rake. However, I can rent the power rake, split the cost with the neighbor, and pay just $25 for an all-day rental (even less with more neighbors pitching in). A number of people have claimed dethatching with a power rake is comparable to mowing your lawn. So, that means it should take me 1-2 hours to dethatch my entire lawn with the power rake.

Which one would you choose? I’m opting for the power rake. I think I make a little more than $25 for 2 years of work.

Incidentally, if you’re looking to buy a power rake, the one to get is the Sun Joe Lawn Dethatcher. Its electric, but the reviews are good. It retails for something like $123 on Amazon. Here is a picture of that bad boy:

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Photo credit: Faythe

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Clever Dude


  • Dethatching does suck and is extremely hard work. We did that last year when we moved in on about a third of an acre front lawn, and never again will I do it manually. It took weeks and I was sore for a month straight (although I worked off a few pounds).

    Using just a rake was very hard, so I did a little research and found they make a specialized dethatching rake (still manual). But the way it was designed allowed you to operate much more efficiently and it pulled up double the amount of thatch. It still required far too much manual labor for a large job though.

    That being said, once you get it cleaned up and if you maintain your lawn properly you shouldn’t have to dethatch again for many years. Hopefully that is the case.

  • I actually JUST came in from dethatching with the power rake. That still took 3.5 hours to finish (plus the 4 hours it took me to manually dethatch last week). 90% of the time was raking up the thatch and the rest was running the machine.

    I had 15 full yard bags of thatch for .21 acres (probably only .06-.09 of open yard).

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