Thatch

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1. an intertwined layer of dead and living roots, stems and blades of grass plants. It holds water, pesticides and fertilizer like a sponge, preventing them from reaching the roots.

turf%20with%20thatch2.jpg

A thatch layer that is more than 1" thick may need core aeration spacing as close as every 3" to be effective.
Source: http://hflp.sdstate.edu/Pestalrt/alert809.htm

thatch%20excess.jpg

An example of excessive thatch buildup.
Source: http://hflp.sdstate.edu/Pestalrt/alert809.htm