Moss and thatch. No, not an Eighties pop act, but actually two problems affecting most lawns this Spring. You probably thought that your grass had been happily put to bed before winter, and are quite rightly troubled by the patchy mess currently outside your back door.
Moss is an “opportunistic plant”
I invades lawns under stress. It takes advantage of periods of drought followed by heavy rain. 2009 gave us a dry autumn followed by the wettest November on record. The recent snow means even more water saturated our lawns. In dry weather moss grows into cracks in the soil, and in wet weather it copes with waterlogging much better than grass. Moss hasn’t had it this good for years!
Does your lawn look more brown (or white) than green?
The cause may well be “thatch”. This is the name given to dead grass and old stems that get pressed flat as you mow or walk across your lawn. It may make you feel better to know that even ‘brand spanking new’ rolls of turf bought from a garden centre have a layer of thatch - it’s the light brown layer you can see between the soil and the green grass. Turf growers usually let grass grow for 18 months specifically to let this layer build up to give the rolls some stability once cut from the field.
Thatch, unlike moss, should not be regarded as a “lawn problem” as it builds up naturally over time. It is not such an issue to begin with, as a thin layer of thatch helps to conserve moisture in drier weather. But after a few years the vigour of the grass lessens and the overall appearance is no longer predominantly green.
So what's the answer?
The solution to moss and thatch is two rather scary words – ‘Scarification’ and ‘Aeration’. But don’t hide behind the curtains! Let’s find out what they mean…
What exactly is scarification?
‘Scarification’ is the removal of thatch and moss using a big metal comb. Whether you use a “spring-tine” rake or an ultra-efficient mechanical Scarifier, the effect is the same. Dead grass and moss is pulled away from the living, fresh shoots, giving your lawn a new lease of life. The main difference between the two methods is that a spring-tine rake will leave you with backache that last a week, whereas the purpose-built mechanical version is incredibly quick and collects the waste as it passes. This is particularly important with moss eradication, as it prevents moss “cuttings” from spreading and taking roots in other parts of your garden.
What exactly is aeration?
Aeration is simple – you are simply making holes in the ground to allow the grass roots to breathe. Don’t forget, as with all plants, healthy roots mean healthy shoots. You can use a garden fork to do this but it requires much effort to make deep holes, and covering a large area is too much for even a Bank Holiday weekend. If you haven’t got a gaggle of girls in sharp stilettos to hand, why not use a lawnmower-sized aerating machine built for the task – leaving you with more time to enjoy the Sunday papers.
Article written by David Salisbury
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