UK gardening help and assistance

Autumn lawn care – beating back the moss

Moss has a tendency to be a problem in even the best kept lawns. It spreads rapidly, preventing grass from growing and effectively suffocating the new grass shoots underneath. An important part of autumn lawn care is to tackle any moss patches before the damp weather gives them an opportunity to spread. If left unchecked, moss can quickly cover large areas of a lawn, resulting in a patchy, brown and rather sad looking mess!

Why have I got moss in my lawn ?

No matter how often you cut your grass or give the lawn an additional feed, moss can and does invariably start to creep in. Mosses are incredibly tough and resilient and can prove to be hard to get rid of. Not only does moss stop new grass shoots from sprouting but it also sucks nutrients out of the soil, causing the surrounding grass to die off and giving the moss a chance to spread.

The most common reasons for moss growth are excessive moisture, often caused by poor drainage particularly on clay soils. Shaded areas and compacted soil also offer a perfect growing area for moss to take hold and leaving a layer of ‘thatch’ on the lawn surface also contributes to moss growth. Poor levels of nutrients and cutting the grass too short can also encourage moss to get a foothold in your lawn.

Moss is dormant during the summer months, but as soon as the autumn weather starts to introduce higher levels of moisture into the ground, it can revive and spread very quickly. This is why an important part of your autumn lawn care should be dedicated to removing moss before it has a chance to spread during the winter and wet spring weather.

How to keep moss down to a minimum

Before you resort to chemical moss killers, there are a few things that you can do to prevent moss taking hold. One of the key elements of autumn lawn care is scarification. Use a stiff garden grass rake and vigorously rake the grass, removing all thatch that comes to the surface. If you have a larger lawn area, there are mechanical scarifiers that are specifically designed to tackle bigger spaces. This is a process that removes the dead ‘thatch’ from your lawn surface, pulling dead and rotting grass to the surface so that you can remove it without damaging the grass underneath. Thatch is one of the most common causes of moss in lawns. By compacting into a layer of dead grass beneath the grass stem and just above the surface of the soil, thatch creates a microenvironment of humidity and moisture – perfect for moss to flourish in.

Overhanging trees can cause shady areas in which moss can flourish. Trim back any lower branches to allow the light to get through and prevent moss growth.

Compacted soil or soil with poor drainage is also a breeding ground for moss. Ensure that your lawn is properly aerated. You can buy a drum aerator that fits onto a rotary lawn mower if you have a large lawn to cover. Alternatively, an ordinary garden fork driven into the turf at regular intervals will provide pockets of aeration and improve the drainage. If you are on heavy clay soil, sprinkle in some fine sand to improve the texture of the soil.

Chemical moss killers are extremely effective at removing patches of moss, but be aware that you will have a black patch on your lawn for a while whilst the grass recovers and regrows.

With regular scarification, aeration and, if necessary, chemical treatment, autumn lawn care that includes treating moss patches should keep your lawn looking great all year round.