How to control moss in your lawn
Moss has to be amongst the top ten most successful plants in Scotland. It seems to thrive just about anywhere – on roofs, in gutters, in cracks in the path and yes, unfortunately, in our lawns.
If your lawn is under attack from moss, here are Stewarts Turf’s top ten moss control tips.
Scarify your lawn
If you can see moss in your lawn, it’s time to take a radical approach. First job is to rake it all out.
If you like exercise, want to build your upper body strength and have a good cardio workout, you can use a springtine rake to remove the moss. Believe me, it’s great for burning calories. But, depending on the size of your lawn and the extent of the infestation, it can take an awful long time. Maybe think about hiring a mechanical scarifier instead?
It's surprising how much debris accumulates in the thatch layer of your lawn. Moss, dead leaves etc. Scarifying once year is what my Nan would describe as "making a mess to clear one up"
After most of the moss has been raked out, you can apply a moss killer. Sulphate of Iron is my favourite. It doesn’t come with fancy packaging and you may have to ask for it in the garden centre but it’s relatively cheap and works really well.
By applying moss killer after most of the offending plants have been removed, you’ll make sure that the chemical gets to the roots and shoots of all the remaining plants. When the moss is too dense the killer can’t penetrate it effectively.
When to tackle moss
Thorough scarification can really take the energy out of your lawn and leave it looking sorry for itself. It’s best done in early spring or in autumn time, that’s when grass is growing vigorously and will make a quick recovery.
What to do with the moss you remove from the lawn
Provided it hasn’t been treated with herbicides, moss makes a great addition to the compost heap, especially when mixed with grass cuttings and kitchen waste.
Aerate the soil
Moss needs surface water to reproduce. If your lawn is damp and the drainage is poor, moss will thrive. By aerating the soil – and by that I mean making little holes all over the lawn with a hollow-tine aerating tool – you help water to drain away from the surface and down to where it can be used by the lawn but not the moss.
Shade is absolutely the worst culprit for helping moss to thrive in a lawn. Some species of grass struggle to survive in shade and the moss will take advantage of their weakness.
Wherever possible, cut back bushes, shrubs and trees to let as much light fall on the lawn as you can. It’s not always easy to do – especially if there are privacy issues or there’s a risk of disturbing nesting birds. But do what you can.
If the shade is being cast by buildings or fence panels, moss management will be an ongoing job for you.
Introduce shade tolerant grass species
Once you have scarified your lawn you will probably find there are big spaces between the grass plants. With time, the plants will grow wider and fill those gaps but if you want to speed things up you could overseed the area with some shade tolerant grass seed.
Poa Supina is an excellent grass species for shaded lawns. If you prefer to use turf for lawn repairs, try Shadesman turf, available to order online from our sister-company Turfonline
Raise the height of your mower blade
When a lawn is stressed it’s vulnerable to attack from moss. Guess what stresses a lawn more than anything – especially if it’s in a shady spot? That’s it! Close mowing.
A closely mown lawn is beautiful to look at, it is neat and manicured. So is a lawn that is mown regularly but at 5cm long rather than 1.5cm. If the edges are kept trimmed and the grass is all the same length it will look amazing. PLUS longer grass makes it harder for moss (and other weeds) to establish.
Sharpen your mower blades
Again, this is all about keeping the grass healthy and stress free so that it can outcompete any moss that tries to grow in your lawn. Sharp mower blades slice through the grass with a clean cut. Blunt blades leave ragged edges with open wounds that heal slowly. Which do you think is healthier for your grass?
Feed your lawn regularly
Hungry grass is weak grass. Weak grass can’t compete with moss. Challenge yourself to bring a regular lawn feeding regime into your garden. Set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget to apply fertiliser every 6-8 weeks. Trust me, it’ll make a huge difference to the way your whole garden looks.
Keep fallen leaves off the lawn
Fallen leaves are oh so pretty, lovely to scrunch through – until they get wet and start to rot! Give yourself a workout once a week in autumn by raking off all those fallen leaves. You’ll allow more sunlight to reach the grass plants and you might get some of that moss out too!
Apply moss killer EVERY winter
Moss spores tend to establish themselves between October and March. Catch them early by applying moss killer in the winter. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions though and NEVER use feed and weed type treatments in winter – they contain the wrong type of feed for this type of year and could increase the risk of fusarium patch disease.
Keep your lawn healthy
It’s a space invader is moss. Where there’s a gap between grass plants, that’s where it will plant itself. If you keep your lawn healthy, the grass plants strong and the sward thick and lush, moss won’t be able to infiltrate it.
The key to moss control is a simple all-year-round lawn care regime. It’s not complicated, it’s not difficult but it IS worth it.