Buffalo lawns produce a series of thick stemmed stolons or runners which create a thatch layer. When each new generation of stolons is produced, the new grows above the old and this is how your green Buffalo lawn is maintained. The thickness of the stems can significantly raise the height of the lawn with each new generation.
The result of the continually growing layer is that over time the roots no longer live in the soil but in the old thatch layer and the problem with this is that the thatch layer does not hold water, nor does it contain the required nutrients. This can also lead to a lawn which is in poor health, looks ugly, is difficult to mow, offers a trip hazard and is extremely spongy underfoot. Overall, it is no longer a viable lawn since it has lost all functionality.
How to control thatch in Buffalo lawns
The best and easiest way to control the build-up of thatch in Buffalo lawns is with a regular mowing regimen. This practice will remove some of the excess stolons from the lawn each mowing, removing stolons that would have become part of the thatch layer at a later stage. When the lawn is mowed the lawn will use its energy and growth to repair the grass material that was just cut and will replace the green leaf removed. This process is called the ‘tillering’ effect and ensures that the lawn focuses on creating more leaf rather than more stolons. Essentially, this mean more green leaf and a nicer, green lawn as well as less stolon growth and less thatch.
While some suggest vertimowing, de-thatching or scarifying as a process for removing thatch, this practice is not recommended for Buffalo lawns. Why? Buffalo grass does not possess the underground runners required from which it can repair. As an alternative, reduce the lawn mowing height throughout the year; this will cut into the thatch layer and will remove a lot of the excessive thatch while not causing damage to the lawn itself. Managing the thatch layer over time, with frequent mowing is the best long term option to control thatch.
If you have a Buffalo lawn that is severely thatched (15cms or more) then the lawn may need to be removed entirely and a new lawn installed. Before undertaking this process seek the advice of a vertimowing professional who will be able to correctly assess your lawn and advise whether or not it can be repaired or if it should be removed.