out the cold weather, the dark days and the moss and lichen.
Because most grasses
fail to thrive in winter, moss is able to establish and dominate
a lawn in a relatively short period of time. It loves damp conditions;
unlike grass, it does not require a good supply of oxygen in the
soil to survive. Thus, waterlogged areas with poor drainage are
prone to developing moss. Moss also likes shade, and one example
where moss can thrive is the area beneath trees.
There are several chemicals on the market that will
control moss, but it's important to note that these will give only
temporary results. Moss is a symptom and not a cause of unhealthy
lawns. The best thing to do is to remove the moss and improve your
lawn's health to prevent moss from reappearing.
moss. Run a rake over the surface of your lawn to remove
the moss. This will also remove any thatch (a build-up of old
grass) which can form a spongy layer on the lawn's surface and
retain water. If the moss is difficult to remove, apply sulphate
of iron. Iron compounds kill moss and stimulate grass growth.
(Mix it with water in a watering can and apply). The moss will
eventually turn black and can then be raked off.
Simply aerating your lawn with a garden fork may be enough to
improve drainage conditions.
shade. Remove lower branches of trees or shrubs to
allow for more sunlight, and when mowing, set your mower at
a higher setting. Mowing too closely to the ground will weaken
the grass, or may even scalp the surface and leave bare patches,
allowing for the moss to take over, particularly if it's in
a shady area.
Moss enjoys acidic soil conditions, so a dressing of lime will
discourage moss. It won't kill it, but it will encourage better
And finally, feed your lawn regularly to encourage strong, healthy
grass. Use a specially blended fertiliser high in nitrogen and
apply in autumn and spring.
When lichen is wet from
rain or dew, it grows actively. It also likes sunshine, and will
grow well in winter after the leaves have fallen from deciduous
trees and no longer block the light, or on trees with badly
If you have lichen growing
on the trunks or branches of your trees or shrubs, don't
panic. Lichen will not actually harm your trees. That's because
it takes its nourishment from the air rather than from its host.
Lichens are often blamed for the decline and death of shrubs and
trees because they are commonly found on dead branches and limbs.
In actual fact, exposed limbs on damaged plants simply give lichens
access to the sun they need for growth with little competition.
Lichen will grow on all
sorts of surfaces rocks, woody debris, soil, fence posts,
rusty metal, sand and, of course, tree bark where they don't
have to compete with other plants. They tolerate the most
extreme environments, from hot dry places, to the wettest rain forests
or arctic conditions.
Lichens act like sponges,
taking in everything that is dissolved in the rainwater. They cannot
excrete the elements they absorb from air and rainwater. For this
reason, they're an excellent indicator of poor air quality. Lichens
will not grow where there are toxic elements of polluted air. So
if you have lichen in your backyard, it's got to be a good thing!
There is no need to do anything, as lichen is not detrimental to
the health of your plants. But if you do wish to get rid of it
if it's covering ornamental bark, for example there are a
couple of very simple things you can do. First, you can get a scrubbing
brush and water and gently rub off the lichen. Or you could cover
the trunk or limb for a while with shade cloth; eventually the lichen
will die from a lack of sunshine.
with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH