At this time of year one of the most common problems faced by gardeners is a build up of moss in the lawn. In our damp climate moss is a thing that almost every gardener has to deal with from time to time and whilst most people will tolerate small patches in their lawn, they will very often panic when these moss patches start to spread, discolour and become unsightly. While a build up of moss in a lawn is usually the first sign of trouble that a gardener notices, it is worth noting that the moss itself is usually a symptom of deeper problems that exist in the garden. These problems include; poor growing conditions, bad drainage, soil compaction, a lime deficiency, cutting too short or excessive shade. While moss can be treated on a yearly basis the only way to be entirely free from its return is to find and tackle the underlying causes.
To tackle poor drainage and compaction, a lawn should be aerated at least once a year. This can be done by pushing a garden fork into the ground to a dept of about 5 or 6 inches to make channels in the soil. This process should be repeated about every 4 inches and a top dress of sharp sand should be brushed into the surface of the lawn to keep the channels open. At this time of year lawns will also benefit from a raking and a good feed. By raking the lawn we are removing all the rubbish that has built up over the winter and we are allowing the water air and fertilizer to reach the roots more easily.
In Donegal it is almost impossible to completely get rid of moss from your lawn, but it is usually possible to keep it under control with the use of either, Sulphate of Iron or Feed, Weed and Moss Killer. These spring treatments come in granular form and are distributed on a lawn using a garden spreader. When treating moss always follow the instructions on the bag and be very careful around driveways and patios as the iron content of these chemicals can stain concrete and paving. Following treatment dont panic when the lawn turns black as this is just the moss dying off. After two weeks the lawn should be thoroughly raked to remove all the dead moss (it might be worth hiring a scarifier if you have a big area to do) and all bare patches should be re-seeded to stop the moss re-establishing itself.