Creating a new lawn with turf instead of grass seed holds many advantages, providing you with a lush carpet of grass with a fraction of the time and effort that can be spent growing it from scratch. However, turf is not an instant solution, and newly laid turf will require time to adhere to topsoil and root itself properly. During this vulnerable period, moss can quickly infiltrate the turf, starting colonies that can grow into vast, unsightly sheets of springy moss.
Without proper care and attention, what starts as a small patch of moss in a shady corner can quickly overtake an entire lawn. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to discourage and destroy moss spores and plants that attempt to establish themselves in delicate new lawns without causing unnecessary damage to the turf itself.
How can I prevent moss growing in my new lawn?
As with many things in life, prevention is cheaper and easier than the cure, and you should ensure that your new turf has the best possible chance of fighting off moss infestation. Taking some or all of the following precautions will do a lot to discourage moss growth:
- Fertilise judiciously: Applying excessive amounts of fertiliser (particularly nitrogen-rich formulations) to newly laid turf can adversely affect growth and grass density, leaving patches of bare earth vulnerable to moss invasion. Conversely, too little fertiliser leaves turf weak and vulnerable to moss and weeds. Apply appropriate, measured amounts of fertiliser in autumn and spring to avoid these problems.
- Water when necessary: Be careful not to water new turf excessively, as this can leave topsoil waterlogged, encouraging moss while causing grass roots to rot and die off.
- Remove shade sources: Moss thrives in cooler, shaded areas of lawns, and turf overshadowed by thick trees and shrubbery can be particularly vulnerable. Consider having foliage thinned and branches pruned to bring light to shady patches.
- Remove weed shoots: Any weeds that sprout in your turf during this early period should be removed as quickly as possible -- this prevents large, aggressive weeds from killing surrounding grass, leaving patches of earth vulnerable to moss encroachment.
What if moss has already appeared on my turf?
If you lay your turf in particularly damp and humid conditions, or the turf has been left in storage too long prior to laying, small patches of moss can quickly appear in your turf during the first days and weeks after laying. These patches can be removed relatively easily before they become established, but care must be taken not to damage the young, fragile grass by taking the following actions:
- Promoting drainage: Overly damp soil with poor drainage can promote rapid accumulation of moss in new turf lawns. Applying gypsum, sharp sand and other fine substrates to your turf can break up dense clay molecules and allow water to drain more quickly. Alternatively, simply aerating your turf with a garden fork or hollow tiner can promote drainage, but be sure not to cause excessive wear to your new turf while you work on it.
- Anti-moss lawn treatments: Turf suppliers generally carry a range of lawn treatments suitable for specific turf types, and you should take care to match the strength of your moss treatment to the durability of your turf, as fragile ornamental turfs such as St. Augustine may be damaged by stronger treatments.These treatments cause moss to quickly yellow and die, at which point it can be manually removed and disposed of.
- Iron sulphate: Also known as ferrous sulphate, this powder is applied directly to turf, and repeated applications can cause moss to quickly blacken and die off. Again, different turfs have different tolerances to this kind of treatment, so speak to your turf supplier about dosages.
- Moss raking: The humble rake is still one of the most effective ways to rid a turf lawn of moss -- however, large rakes and motorised thatch rakers can cause excessive damage to fragile new turf. Use a small hand rake for isolated patches of moss, and weaken larger patches with herbicides or iron sulphate before attempting to tackle them.
For more tips on protecting your turf from moss growth, contact a local turf supply company.