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How to Use a Pull Behind Dethatcher

How to Use a Pull Behind Dethatcher

Pull behind dethatchers are designed for dethatching big lawns and mount to the rear of any rider or tractor, including most ZTRs and even your ATV or UTV.

The tines are super strong, and the frame extremely sturdy, so they waste little time extracting thatch no matter how dense the underlayer is and hold up well.

Most are very user-friendly but to get the most out of your tow-behind dethatcher, you must understand how to operate it properly.

So, here’s how to use a pull behind dethatcher to free your lawn from heavy thatch buildup for a thicker, healthier turf.

How to Use a Pull Behind Dethatcher

Before you even think of how to dethatch with your model of pull behind lawn dethatcher, your first task is to ensure that you have gotten the hook-up right.

Some are sold with a universal hitch pin, meaning it attaches to virtually all kinds of tractors, utility vehicles, and more seamlessly.

However, you may have a unit that requires modifications to fit your riding mower- or other equipment you might want to tow it with. Luckily, even for those that need alterations, it’s usually not much work.

Here are some general setup guidelines to get you started:

How to set up a dethatcher

  1. Park your tow vehicle on a suitable smooth flat surface – the driveway, garage floor, sidewalk, etc.
  2. Attach the pull-behind Dethatcher to your towing vehicle using the appropriate attachment accessories (Refer to your owner’s manual for the specifics about your model).
  3. Adjust the height and level as you deem fit.

Once that is completed, you are ready to begin the important chore of dethatching your lawn.

Follow the steps below to lift thatch and deposit it on the lawn’s surface, where you can mow or mulch it to stimulate healthier root growth.

How to use a pull-behind dethatcher to dethatch like a pro

It is worth mentioning a word about how the dethatcher works:

When running, tines engage the thatch and deflect to the rear while the Dethatcher is dragged forward. The spring will get the better of the resistance by the trapped thatch and pull it upward.

Now- and this is pivotal- if your tines are set unreasonably low, the tine fails to “flip” forward properly, causing problems.

For this reason, ensure the optimal tine height is set before everything.


Simply run the dethatcher over your lawn at least 3 (three) times while dethatching in a different direction each time.

That is because dethatching cannot be accomplished efficiently in just a single pass- in fact, it may regularly take you more than three passes to achieve good results. Remember that you alternate the dethatching direction by 90 degrees – this profoundly improves the dethatching effect! 

Also, don’t forget that the machine will bring up roughly the same amount of dead grass, moss, roots, and other accumulated organic material each pass.

Another helpful trick to produce the desired result is to make adjustments, up or down, as necessary.

Furthermore, you should maintain the recommended operating speed – I have seen some manufacturers insisting on towing at 3mph (or less).

Keep going in this manner until the entire yard has been dethatched thoroughly.

Of course, the last step is collecting and removing all the thatch from the yard.

Step-by-step process of constructing a pull-behind lawn aerator

How to use a pull-behind dethatcher : Safety tips

As with any other attachment, caution must be taken when towing and using your tow behind dethatcher. Failing to exercise care may lead to severe injury or even death if an accident occurs.

You should particularly be careful about:

  • The weight distribution in relation to the maximum weight your towing vehicle can pull- the combined weight (of your towing vehicle = weight of tow vehicle + operator weight) should always be greater than the total towed weight of the attachment (weight of empty attachment + weight of load).
  • The turning radius (when turning)- slow down before turning and never turn sharply.
  • Speeding- to maintain control, towing speed must be slow enough. Also, use caution and travel slowly when maneuvering rough terrain. Finally, avoid rocks, holes, and roots.

Bear in mind that the attachment or the towing vehicle can also be damaged if operated without observing the safety precautions.

For peace of mind, follow each safety guideline noted in your towing vehicle and the dethatcher’s owner’s manual.

How to operate a pull behind box scraper

Dethatching Tips

  • The height of your grass matters– For quality results, grass needs to be less than 3-inches tall. That said, I should point out that shorter grass will, for the most part, improve tine action.
  • Dethatch at the right time– You should only dethatch your yard when conditions promote rapid recovery. The rule of thumb is for the operation to be timed to allow three to four weeks of fine growing weather (after dethatching). 
  • Soil should be moist- To enjoy an easy time when dethatching, the soil should be moist (though not wet). Subsequently, water the grass adequately about 2 days before your planned dethatching day.

Pulling a car behind an RV the right way

Post dethatching housekeeping

Thatch removal is often distressing for your grass, and your lawn may take time to heal and resume deep growth if you abandon it without undertaking essential post-dethatching operations.

The most vital are overseeding the lawn and topdressing – topdressing helps keep thatch from returning and is considered a good thing to do each time you dethatch.

Note that you should apply your favorite slow-release fertilizer before topdressing – the slow-release formula encourages a rich, greener lawn. Perhaps more importantly, you won’t need to fertilize constantly. 

Excessive thatch buildup causes problems such as limiting root growth and may also promote disease because of retaining humidity longer than necessary.

But with a pull-behind dethatcher, help is at hand, particularly if you’re maintaining a large property.

Use the tips and the procedures I have explained in this guide to get rid of thatch and help your turf flourish again.

References and Citations:

1.Purdue Extension and University of Illinois Extension: Mowing, Dethatching, Aerifying Mowing, Dethatching, Aerifying and Rolling Turf and Rolling Turf-

2. The Texas A&M University System: Thatch Management for Home Lawns-

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