Peter Dowdall finally nails one of the most repetitive jobs in the garden — keeping a lawn in good shape.

Now, I’m not one to get excited about my lawn the way many people do. I’m quite happy for it to be green, level, as close as possible to moss free and not holding water. 

I don’t mind the odd wildflower (can’t bring myself to call them weeds).

In fact, I quite like a few daisies growing through the grass, it reminds me of my childhood. 

Why would I pour chemicals on this green area which is a haven for wildlife just to keep it completely free of dicots or broadleaved plants?

That’s not to say that I want it all to be unkempt and full of wildflowers. I am in the middle of a particularly long-fought battle with creeping buttercup. 

I manage to dig up every last trace of the marauder and just when I imagine I’m free of it, up it pops again in front of my eyes. 

There are selective weedkillers on the market which will work to control these unwanted friends from the green patch. 

Green Force produces a particularly good one, should this be the route you want to travel.

Moss in the lawn is a constant problem in Ireland. We live in a warm and damp climate, an ideal country if you’re a little moss plant. 

Lawns cut with a mower travelling in the same direction each week will develop thatch. 

Tips on how to keep a lawn in good shape

Grass grows vertically towards the sky and when we cut the grass the wheels of the lawnmower will push these blades onto the ground so that they are then growing horizontally along the ground.

If you cut the grass in the same direction each week, then this problem will become much worse and this grassy thatch can grow for metres. This will result in poor air circulation and a damp environment, bad growing conditions for a good lawn, but great for moss.

Scarify the lawn each year, in March and if desired, again in September, although once a year should really be enough. 

Scarifying the lawn is basically the same as giving it a good hard rake, which will pull the thatch up from the ground as well as removing moss from the soil surface.

Don’t forget the garden is your closest gym and this task offers as good a workout as you are likely to get from any aerobic fitness instructor. Your lawn will look desperate immediately after scarification but it will thank you in the longer term.

Every so often a new product arrives in the world of gardening that excites me and over the last few years a family owned company in Galway have been developing a new range of lawncare products called Lawn Gold.

Working on the correct principle that the best defence against moss and weeds in a lawn is strong and healthy grass, (a simple logic that applies to human health as much as garden health), it’s a message that seems to get lost among the marketing shout-outs of so many chemical problem-solvers.

Lawn Gold is an organic-based, controlled-release plant food and, being environmentally sound, it straight away appealed to me as trials of the product showed much higher populations of earth worms and micro-organisms in the soil, both of which again are vital for a good healthy green area.

It’s pretty basic stuff, but as I say, often forgotten. Small ones and pets too, are free to play away and don’t need to be kept off the lawn after using this.

It has an indirect action against moss and this too is its huge advantage, that unlike Sulphate of Iron and many of the weed, feed and mosskiller products that I had been persevering with over the years, the moss dies and disintegrates, breaking down in the soil and ending up in the bag with the grass mowings.

Sulphate of iron has long been regarded as the best defence against moss in a lawn, but it turned the moss brown and black and then the gardener was faced with the job of raking out the discoloured moss, a task I never enjoyed. I used the Lawn Gold last year and now I am a convert.

I did follow the marketing blurb and instructions. They recommend an application in spring, summer and autumn and have specially formulated mixtures for each season, offering the correct amount of nutrients at the right times for healthy grass growth.

So far so good, for my green space, if not quite a puttting green but certainly a healthy, environmentally sound play area, free of moss for the first time ever.

If not quite rid of the unwanted creeping buttercup — but then, there’s not a hint of a scarifier this year.


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