‘Damaging’ lawn mistakes to avoid that allow moss to ‘kill’ your grass

How to remove weeds and moss from lawns

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Moss is one of the most common lawn problems gardeners face. Mosses are small flowerless plants that typically grow in dense green clumps, often in damp or shady locations. Moss is not rooted and spreads through spore dispersal using the wind but will only establish if they land in a moist area. To avoid it growing in your lawn, Lawnsmith has shared the mistakes that gardeners can fall victim to that encourage moss growth.

A spokesperson from Lawnsmith said: “If you knew that some of the things you do to your lawn are actually harming the grass and helping the moss I’m sure you would stop straight away if not sooner.”

Lawn mistakes that encourage moss growth

1. Mowing too close or scalping the lawn

Scalping or mowing the lawn too close removes so much leaf that the grass can’t function properly and manufacture food. The expert said: “It may also damage the growth crown of the grass resulting in slow recovery or death. This damage also clears a space for the moss to move into your lawn.”

To combat this it is suggested that gardeners keep their lawn mowing height above three quarter inches for all lawns other than ornamental ones. The pro said: “At this height or above the grass plant has plenty of leaf to function properly. If you still scalp because of bumps either remove the bumps or set the mower even higher.”

If moss is particularly bad, gardeners can raise their mowing height up to two inches. This will mean the grass gets lots of light on its leaves and puts the lower growing moss in the shade.

The expert added: “Make sure that when you mow, the cut grass clears the moss by at least half an inch. If you chop the grass off so that there is none showing above the moss you are killing your lawn.”

2. Not mowing often enough

When cutting the grass less frequently (every two to three weeks) gardeners are more inclined to cut off too much. This causes the lawn to go into a state of shock, which then stunts growth temporarily allowing moss to take advantage.

Instead the lawn pro suggested gardeners mow the grass regularly and weekly if possible. They said: “This will cause the grass to spread sideways creating a denser lawn thus preventing the moss from moving in. If you follow the ‘one third rule’ – never remove more than one third of the grass height in any one cut – you won’t go far wrong.”

3. Lawn compaction or poor aeration

Lawn compaction occurs when that is a lack of air spaces between the particles of soil which means the soil holds no air and therefore cannot hold or drain water. The result is an “unhealthy, lifeless and slow growing” lawn, according to the expert.

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To avoid this, if the problem is in a small area, spike regularly with a lawn spiker, aerator shoes or fork. Sometimes it may be too compacted to get the fork in so wait until it softens with rain, spike it, then keep it watered and spiked so it’s always firm, but not hard.

4. Trees and leaves on lawn

Trees compete with lawns for water and light in the summer and then covers it with leaves in the autumn. The lawn specialist warned: “Leaves on the lawn for anything more than a few days will weaken and even kill the grass at a time when the moss is most virulent.”

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution, gardeners just need to clear the leaves at least once a week. The expert advised: “If it’s dry, use the mower to suck up the leaves. Other alternatives are a blower or rake. 

“Leaves will always be easier to clear if you have kept your grass at the right height. There is nothing harder than raking wet leaves in long wet grass.”

5. Lawn fertiliser 

If the grass is struggling because of a poorly fed soil then it “cannot fight off a moss attack”, urged the pro. 

They said: “Moss will grow quite happily on your driveway as it is used to low nutrient levels. Therefore a hungry lawn becomes quite inviting.”

Give lawns at least one good feed a year in the spring. For those who have a moss problem consider an autumn or winter fertiliser to keep nutrient levels at their optimum.

6. Grass damage

Lawns are an area of the garden that are constantly seeing foot traffic, causing excessive wear and tear, the expert noted that when the lawn is weak this can “damage or even kill the grass”.

To avoid this, where possible change the areas of the lawn they walk on so a worn area is not damaged to the point of no return. 

If this is not practical gardeners should be prepared to re-seed the area “before the moss and weeds take over”. Some areas may become compacted due to excessive or long term use.

7. Excess thatch 

If thatch starts to build up above half an inch deep it will start to reduce its fertiliser and water intake to the grass roots. This makes life difficult for the grass whilst providing good conditions for the moss.

While a thatch layer up to a quarter inch is fine and actually beneficial, if there is too much present it’s going to need removing by scarifying the lawn, instructed the expert. For small to medium sized lawns or for just certain areas raking it is an “excellent” method that requires little effort.

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