Controlling moss in your lawn calls for a twofold approach; First removing existing plants and secondly preventing a new invasion. Learn more in this blogpost.
What is moss?
Moss is a primitive plant which is biologically quite different from grasses, trees and flowering plants. It doesn’t have stems, leaves or proper roots and it reproduces with spores – rather like a fungus. That means that it needs certain conditions to survive.
- Plenty of moisture
- An undisturbed surface
- Minimal competition from other plants
Discouraging moss in a lawn
Knowing what moss needs to thrive is your weapon against the plant. If the grass in your lawn is strong and healthy, it should, in theory be able to resist an invasion. Also if your lawn drains well and is nice and airy, the surface will dry out relatively quickly creating the wrong conditions for this particular pest.
When you create a new lawn, take care with the drainage and ensure that the soil is rich in nutrients. If your garden is shaded, use a grass variety that copes well with lower light conditions and do what you can to let as much light in to the garden. (Trimming back tall plants etc)
What to do when moss invades your lawn
If moss does invade your lawn, don’t beat yourself up too much. In the British climate it’s hard to avoid completely.
Remove as many of the offending plants as possible by scarifying the lawn.
Next, treat with a proprietary moss killer. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions very carefully. Too strong a dose of some chemicals can damage the grass and leave your lawn looking black and nasty. Speaking as one who has slipped up in the past – it takes a LONG time for a lawn to recover from an overdose of moss killer.
There are two trains of thought here – some prefer to apply a chemical killer and then scarify, others work the opposite way around. I think it depends on the severity of the problem. If you’ve caught it early, then use chemical controls before scarifying. If the lawn needs major refurbishment, scarify first, then apply moss killer at regular intervals to prevent regrowth.
Whichever way around you scarified and sprayed, your next job is to reinvigorate the grass plants so they can outcompete the moss in future.
Restoring your lawn’s vigour
First of all address any long term problems such as compaction, poor drainage and shade. Aerating the lawn will reduce compaction and help to improve drainage.
Overseeding bare patches
If removing moss has left your lawn looking a bit bare and baldy. You need to increase the plant population by overseeding. Choose the right seed for the lawn. If you have a fine lawn, choose a fescue-bent mix. If it’s in shade, choose a shade tolerant grass seed. Simply scuff up the surface with a rake, sprinkle the seed over and keep it well watered until it is growing strongly. You may need to protect it from hungry birds too.
Anti-moss lawn care regimes
Don’t skimp on your lawn’s nutrition. It’s tempting to miss a feed or two to slow down growth so you don’t have to mow as often but if you want a lovely lawn, that’s not a helpful practice. You want to build strength not weaken it. Human bodybuilders need the right nutrition and so does grass.
Rules for anti-moss mowing
Mow little and often but raise the cutting blade a little. Longer grass (2.5-4cm long) is much better at resisting invasion from moss, weeds and indeed lawn diseases. It also stays much greener and definitely won’t need watering in summer.
Aeration and scarification
We’ve briefly mentioned aeration and scarification already in this article. They sound like big jobs but done regularly (twice a year) they’re really not too onerous at all. They certainly help to keep the lawn healthy. If you really don’t fancy doing it yourself then ask a lawn care professional for help. They’re surprisingly good value for money.
Moss killer as a precaution
Bring moss killer into your annual lawn care regime. I’m not normally one to advocate using chemicals “just in case”. But when it comes to moss in lawns, it’s so much easier to kill the spores as soon as they “land” than wait until the plants are mature. Your lawn is most vulnerable to invasion during the winter months so apply moss killer between September and March.