Weapons of Moss Destruction: Not!

Note from author: it’s happened again; I’ve been distracted by the plot, by real life and by apathy. I wrote this thirteen days ago, but it never got posted. Hope it still makes sense. Thanks for putting up with my tardiness.

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It’s well into spring time now, blossom on the plum and damson trees up at the plot, the dessert pear tree that had all of the pears stolen on that point of perfect ripeness is also smothered with creamy white flowers, regularly visited by bumble bees. The last thing we need right now is a punishing frost … so, of course, that is what is being predicted by the Met. Office.

And, on BBC TV that old chestnut Gardener’s World is back to lighten up/disturb our Friday evenings (should we have pruned the apple back so harshly?). Always a harbinger of summer.

Sunny days, it seems, now stretch endlessly before us, although the air loses its warmth once the sun dips below the horizon. We have already had two fire pit evenings, down in the Dell at the bottom of the garden. Time, perhaps to dare to empty the crowded, disorganised shed, all furniture to be returned to its allotted place: on the lawn, on the patio… ?

“Hold those horses,” (a favourite phrase of my maternal grandfather). Why not, before we get all of the stuff strewn across the lawn give it a good going over, y’know: give it a first, high mow, scarify it, spike it, put some fertiliser down?

As an idea it sounded brilliant (as brilliant as any idea concerning a lawn can, but convincing enough: I hate lawns, you understand, and the fuss that is needed to maintain them; hence our part grass, mostly moss, clover and daisy expanse) but really?

Now I know that the perfect, flat, lined lawn with perfectly edged borders is the stereotypical image of an English garden, but not for me. I am not so formal, which may be why I can be mistaken for being idle.

So, out with the spring tined lawn rake, the made-for-children garden fork that we keep at home and a box of After Cut fertiliser (nothing in it to kill moss or weeds (a.k.a. wildflower species)). It’s a fairly big lawn, includes a patch that began life as a No-To-The-Mow concept, then became a wildflower patch and is now partly bark-chipped with ornamental grasses), a Beauty of Bath apple tree, the Woodland Edge with cowslips, Pasque flowers, blue bells and self-heal and is bordered by ill-defined edges. And, with that touch of laziness I can never be bothered to do more than simply follow the lawn mower over it every now and then, I believe that it is the burgeoning moss that gives it the carpet-of-green appearance. Get rid of the moss, end up with a straggly, untidy piece of ground: surely?

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So I began scraping. Honestly though I have waved the rake at the lawn several times since we moved here, over thirty years ago, this is the first time the lawn has been seriously scarified. It isn’t easy work, raises a sweat and so I split the whole into three days work. Do the job properly rather than just – er – scratch the surface.

After the first day’s efforts I noticed a robin, hopping around, picking up scraps of material: moss, bits of thatch, the odd creepy crawly. It was taking the bits into a hole in the wood pile against the wall in the Dell. The place we store fuel for our fire pit … and surely enough, building a concealed nest. Robins are very imaginative when it comes to nesting. As a child I can remember one nesting in a discarded kettle, another in a paint tin without a lid at a factory where I was labouring. But this one, this year, is a bonus for me. We, hopefully have enough fuel elsewhere so can avoid disturbing this bit of the pile. And, equally hopefully the robins will not be disturbed by our using the Dell in summer evenings. There is, of course the problem of the patrolling neighbourhood cats, but who knows …?

Over the next three days my work is completed, some areas of the lawn re-seeded, with a little flower bed soil scattered on top. Most of the moss goes into the garden waste bin, to be collected by the council; but some is reserved to go into our hanging baskets. The work of the robin goes on parallel to mine: quietly, unobtrusively.

It does look satisfyingly rough – I can certainly tell where I have been – when I have completed it. So much so that I take a certain pride in it and the hard work that went into it: strange that hard work can make something look so, frankly, scruffy. But should settle down and thicken up, becoming a tidier lawn again in the next seven days or so, though it may need some additional raking. Here’s hoping.

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