Dethatcher vs. Pine Needle Rake
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    Dethatcher vs. Pine Needle Rake

    I want to start overseeding my lawn and need some advice on dethatching tools. I see implements that are promoted as pine needle rakes, as well as ones that are advertised as dethatchers. They seem very similar. The differences that I have noticed are:

    • "Pine needle rakes" are 3 point implements that don't have gauge wheels.
    • Some "dethatchers" are 3 point implements that don't have gauge wheels.
    • Other "dethatchers" are tow behind implements that have gauge wheels.


    So, I am wondering -

    • Is there really a difference between pine needle rakes and 3-point dethatchers?
    • Are the wheels on the tow behinds just there so that the implement can be towed without engaging the tines?
    • Does a dethatching tool need wheels to prevent the tines from digging past the thatch and into the ground?


    I use a core aerator, but I think that de-thatching before overseeing would increase the chances that new seed makes contact with the soil.
    Last edited by KeyboardJungle; 02-07-2018 at 10:30 AM. Reason: Mistitled
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    Dave

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    sennister's Avatar
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    I have a dethatcher that mounts to the front of my X585 and it has the wheels. I would say you are right that the intent is so it doesn't dig in too deep on the grass. With a 3pt mounted dethatcher you can normally control the lower limit so keep it from digging in too far that way so they can probably get away without the wheels.

    As far as your use....

    We also have a bunch of white pines that drop a lot of needles. I typically will break them up with the front mount dethatcher (with wheels) just fine. It might not get all of them though if you have never done this but a few passes might do the trick. However you might need to pick up between the passes because if it gets too deep the wheels will prevent much more digging. I will go through, break them up and pick them up with the MCS before on the X585 and now with the Z950R. I typically do this in the spring when I am doing my other dethatching. However I dump the needles in a different pile as I don't want it in my compost which is a mix of grass and leaves.

    Since you are talking about seeding this area, I will just toss this out there as an FYI but you may already know this. At least with my pine trees, nothing much grows under them. Partly because of the shade which is the first challenge. The other issue though is the pine needles makes the soil too acidic. You can have your soil tested and there are options to treat the soil like lime. However if your pines are like mine, I have roots exposed in many parts of this area so even if I got grass to grow, it would suck to mow. That is where the composting of the grass clippings and leaves come in. I also have some buddies down the road that own a black dirt company so I will have them come by with the dump truck and drop a load a black dirt. Mix in my compost and spread that around. Not saying you want to just bury the problem needles because I picked mine up but just wanted to mention that you may find you have more work to do once the needles are addressed than simply tossing out some seed.

    Edit: Just looked at what you have for equipment. You have a bigger tractor but we have a similar mower. So you, (well at least your wife) knows how mowing with a ZTrak can be rough so I would really skip messing with testing the soil and a lime treatment and just plan on getting dirt delivered. That takes care of the acidic soil that you will likely have to deal with and any root issues and makes for a smooth base. Heck I would see what I could do with that landscape rake on busting up the needles and while I don't see a MCS in your list, you can at least bust it up and maybe pick up a lot of it with the FEL As for disposal. I didn't say this but I typically accidentally spill a bucket or two in my fire pit when I have a big burn a couple times a year.
    Last edited by sennister; 02-07-2018 at 11:37 AM.
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    JD Z950R 60" Deck with DFS Collection System

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    What about open yard areas (no pine needles)

    Thanks, sennister. I am leaving the pine needles alone for the very reasons that you gave.

    But, I am still trying to figure out the best way to dethatch the open lawn areas before I overseed.
    Dave

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    sennister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KeyboardJungle View Post
    Thanks, sennister. I am leaving the pine needles alone for the very reasons that you gave.

    But, I am still trying to figure out the best way to dethatch the open lawn areas before I overseed.
    Is there a big cost difference with the pine needle rake vs dethatcher? I would just go dethatcher and use it everywhere. That is what I do. It works great for overseeding. It is best to give the seed somewhere to go.

    I am looking at options to modify my front mount dethatcher from my X585 to the Z950R. Right now I have to pull the FEL and hook the dethatcher up to the X585, make a pass with that and then make a pass with the Z950R with MCS to pick up the mess. It would be nice to make one pass. I posted a thread in the Zero turn section the other day where the dealer had a used Z950R with a front mounted dethatcher (with wheels). The dealer wants something like $900 installed for it. That buys a lot of fuel for the X585 for something that is a once a year deal. Or a bunch of steel to adapt what I have to work on the Z950R. The biggest obstacle I have on my machine though is the 6 suitcase weights on the front of the ZTrak. It limits my mounting locations but they were able to figure it out so it should be fine.

    Not sure if it would help your situation at all but something my father uses is a estate rake. It does a good job as well and has the benefit of making windrows. Might make clean up easier if you don't have a MCS on either machine. Not that you were looking for more options and I don't know what your yard looks like to know if it would work for you.
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    JD Z950R 60" Deck with DFS Collection System

    JD X585, 54C deck,
    CTC Model X4750 F.E.L - Modified Imp Pressure Relief from 900 to 1175PSI, Power Flow and MC519 cart, 54-inch Quick-Hitch Front Blade, 47-inch Quick-Hitch Snow Blower, 3-pt hitch, HF Quick Hitch, Heavy Hitch, 48" box blade/rear blade, Dethacher, 3pt Sprayer

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    I have a 72" pine straw rake from EVerythingAttachments that I replaced both my landscape rake and pull behind dethacher. My main reason for the landscape rake was to clean crop debris and small sticks that get washed into my 1 acre detention pond next to the house (which is dry 99% of the time). The landscape rake proved to be too aggressive and tears up the grass (especially when the ground is not totally dry). I was going to make a rake based on a dethacher's spring tines, but found the pine straw rake. It works great for cleaning up large debris, needles from my pine trees, is gentle enough to use and a dethacher and to bed in grass seed. I even rake the heavy leaves with it in the fall and then run the lawn sweeper over what's left.
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    estate rake

    sennister-how well does the estate rake dethatch?
    Dave

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    Pull behind dethatcher attached to 3-point hitch

    I am thinking about pulling a tow behind dethatcher with a drawbar connected between the lower arms on the three point hitch, and wondering if I will be able to raise the 3-point enough to lift the tines up until the implement is riding on it wheels.

    This would give me the convenience of the 3 point and also enable me to control the aggressiveness of tines.

    I'm probably overthinking this, but that's just one of the risks that SCUT owners face. For me, it started shortly after I dug the first hole with the backhoe, and it is progressing rapidly...
    Dave

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    sennister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KeyboardJungle View Post
    sennister-how well does the estate rake dethatch?
    My dad loves it. I might have used it once or twice before moving out and it did a good job. In comparison to my dethacher, in some cases better. I want to say it covers a wider swath. Where it might perform better is as you drive forward the friction causes the wheels to turn so I would say it gets better coverage. A dethatcher has the tines a set distance. What maybe 4" between them? The tines on the wheels are closer so it might do a better job. You can reconfigure it so you push everything to one side in a windrow. You could keep working your way tighter and tighter to make a pretty small pile if you wanted to come back with the FEL and pick up a lot of it. Might have to get off and rake or use a pitch fork type tool to load the bucket. I would say those are the main pros for it.

    Everything has cons so lets see. The tines and wheels can get hung up by sticks. Small stuff will get windrowed with everything else but something to keep in mind. Granted my dethacher can pick stuff up but I lift it at the end of a run and for the most part the debris will stay there. If small enough to get ground up by Z I pick it up that way into the MCS. It is a trailer and like I said I don't know your yard so is the width too wide to get between trees? It is hard to get as close to trees compared to my front mounted one. Though it sounds like you are considering a pull behind dethatcher so that one might be a wash. For me personally the front mounted dethatcher is perfect with the X585 and MCS on that machine. It dethatches up front and picks it up in the middle. So one pass to do everything. While I still have my mower deck and MCS for the X585, I am not going to put it on for this one task a year. The last couple years I just hold off until things are dry enough to do this in the spring. Take off the front quick hitch and blower/blade from snow duties. Put on the dethacher, make a pass on the yard then take that off and put the FEL on for the Spring/Summer/Fall. Then I pull the Z950R out from winter storage which already has the MCS on it from the fall and pick up the remaining leaves and thaching. Then if I am going to overseed I do that. Yeah it is two passes but that is why I am looking at options for mounting the dethacher on the Z. I should also mention that my father doesn't have any pines like we do. So I don't know how it performs in the pine needles. Across the yard it does a good job as long as the sticks stay clear. But it takes a medium size stick to be an issue.

    So what would I recommend? No perfect tool for everyone. That is why there are options

    Pine Needle Rake
    I have no experience with them so I don't know for sure. I get from the other poster how the pine needle rake could work for both. A problem area for me with a 3pt mount attachment like that is it is a PITA to set the lower limit on the 3pt. I don't have separate controls for 3pt from the dump on FEL and mower deck height. I have a ditch so I could see approach angles forcing too much pressure. I am sure it works fine on relatively flat ground or gradual transitions but I have a few spots where it would be better to let it free float with the guide wheels. If I didn't have those obstacles in my yard and had a different machine with separate 3pt control it would probably be a good option and I would look at the cost difference.

    Estate rake
    I could send the kids around with it on the golf cart. That would be the same with the trailer style dethacher. I guess where this one would move to the top of the list is going to have to do with what you plan on doing with the thatching. It doesn't look like you can pick them up because I don't see a MCS. The pine needle rake and dethacher brings it up from the base of the grass but just leaves it there. You could make a pass and mulch it a bit with the Z but it has a pretty big cast unless you have a MOD Deck (is that even an option on the 915?). So it won't windrow it for you. The only way to pick it up easily if that is what you wanted efficiently is an estate rake. I prefer a front mount because I have a MCS to pick up the clippings. I guess that the estate rake could be a good option for you if you thought you wanted to pick it up. Again personal preference. I thought I would mention it because it could work for your application and I wasn't sure if you knew about them.

    Dethatcher
    Really pretty similar to the rake. It probably works best in my application when front mounted but you can pull behind if you are fine with two machines or two passes. As for your question on getting the trailer version and being able to lift it with the 3pt. I can't say for certain. If you had it adjusted to where near full down was in the normal use position then I would imagine full up on the 3pt should be high enough to keep the tines from the ground. There is a plus though with a straight 3pt connection of being able to work it back into tight spots a little easier. There is a locking bar where I can lift the front mount one from the drivers seat on the X585 and it works well. I need this for runs to go dump the collection system.

    Like I said it really depends. One thing I don't quite know if I follow is what your though is on the pine needles. I originally thought you were trying to pick them up so you could seed that area. Your later post seems like you have that but you are mainly focusing on overseeing the rest of the yard. I just can't speak much to the performance of the estate rake in deep pine needle beds. It might do fine. I just haven't tried since I don't have an estate rake at my house.



    Hmm I don't have mine mounted to my quick hitch but this would be a slick idea.. I might have to consider this. My dethacher looks just like this one. It is hard to compare the two because they are not the same yard. The first video might be done every year and this second one it is the first time it was done in 20 years. I would say in this second video he is pulling up a lot more stuff than I ever do so this might be a first time pass ever on this yard. It is possible he never picks up clippings as well. I normally run MCS in the spring and fall and just cut normal in the summer with side discharge.



    JD Z950R 60" Deck with DFS Collection System

    JD X585, 54C deck,
    CTC Model X4750 F.E.L - Modified Imp Pressure Relief from 900 to 1175PSI, Power Flow and MC519 cart, 54-inch Quick-Hitch Front Blade, 47-inch Quick-Hitch Snow Blower, 3-pt hitch, HF Quick Hitch, Heavy Hitch, 48" box blade/rear blade, Dethacher, 3pt Sprayer

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    We have a boat load of White Pines as well. I found the Power Flow/MC519 cart would pick them up and now the 1025R with Power Flow/MCS20. However, that is every year. If you have property where they've been collecting for years, that likely would not be the case.

    We purchased a foreclosure as a second home and the back lot had been let go, un-mowed, for several years. So there was lots of long, dead grass, matted into the grass. The de-thatcher on the front of the 455 worked great for dealing with that. We had a burn pile in the middle and I would use the de-thatcher like a plow to bring the long, dead, grass to the burn pile.

    I just ordered the kit depicted in the YouTube video for X700 to convert my 455 de-thatcher to be mounted on the 1025R front quick hitch. It just arrived Monday and I don't have it out of the box yet, as I think it is safe to say it'll be a few more months before I can use it.

    If you have nearly perfectly flat ground, a 3-point attachment without gauge wheels will work. I've never had any property like that and short of the golf course fair way, who does? So I would think anything without gauge wheels is going scar up the lawn in patches and leave patches of clumped needles.
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    sennister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by martincom View Post
    We have a boat load of White Pines as well. I found the Power Flow/MC519 cart would pick them up and now the 1025R with Power Flow/MCS20. However, that is every year. If you have property where they've been collecting for years, that likely would not be the case.

    We purchased a foreclosure as a second home and the back lot had been let go, un-mowed, for several years. So there was lots of long, dead grass, matted into the grass. The de-thatcher on the front of the 455 worked great for dealing with that. We had a burn pile in the middle and I would use the de-thatcher like a plow to bring the long, dead, grass to the burn pile.

    I just ordered the kit depicted in the YouTube video for X700 to convert my 455 de-thatcher to be mounted on the 1025R front quick hitch. It just arrived Monday and I don't have it out of the box yet, as I think it is safe to say it'll be a few more months before I can use it.

    If you have nearly perfectly flat ground, a 3-point attachment without gauge wheels will work. I've never had any property like that and short of the golf course fair way, who does? So I would think anything without gauge wheels is going scar up the lawn in patches and leave patches of clumped needles.
    Yeah that is what I am thinking with a lack of gauge wheels. If the grade transitions gently it may be fine but my yard has too many rapid changes in slope.

    On that conversion kit for the dethacher. Do you happen to have a part number and remember a ball park cost? That looks slick. I didn't have audio playing when I found the video and thought that maybe it was a home made conversion. I might still do it myself but would be interested in what they charge for it if cheaper than my time and materials.


    JD Z950R 60" Deck with DFS Collection System

    JD X585, 54C deck,
    CTC Model X4750 F.E.L - Modified Imp Pressure Relief from 900 to 1175PSI, Power Flow and MC519 cart, 54-inch Quick-Hitch Front Blade, 47-inch Quick-Hitch Snow Blower, 3-pt hitch, HF Quick Hitch, Heavy Hitch, 48" box blade/rear blade, Dethacher, 3pt Sprayer

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