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Lawn Problems > Moss

Moss can slowly creep in to your lawn, silently taking over, until one day, you realize that you have more moss than grass in your lawn. While this extra layer of carpet can keep your lawn a little less muddy, it can significantly degrade the quality of your turf. Following these tips can help you regain the healthy lawn you once had.

Cultural practices for keeping your yard moss free

As with most lawn issues, there isn’t just one single thing you can do to take care of moss. Following a few of the below cultural practices can help minimize the chances of moss showing up again in your lawn.

  • Eliminate the existing moss
  • Reduce the amount of shade in your yard
  • Improve soil drainage
  • Water deeply, less frequently
  • Check the soil pH and adjust if needed
  • Core aerate your lawn
  • Overseed with a shade tolerant grass
  • Mow the lawn higher

Eliminate the existing moss

The first step towards having a moss-free lawn is to eradicate and remove the existing moss. You can purchase products such as Moss Off at your neighborhood big-box stores or hardware stores. Treat the moss according to the instructions on the label. When the moss is completely dead, remove as much of it as possible from your lawn. Discard it in a lawn bag if you can. Don’t compost it and use it again as soil, because it can still spread throughout your yard. The dead moss usually comes up easily with a garden rake due to its shallow root system. Once you have the moss eliminated from your yard, you have to do additional work to fix the underlying conditions that are allowing moss to grow in the first place.

Reduce the amount of shade in your yard

Moss thrives in shady, most areas of the yard. One thing you can do to reduce shade is to trim back your trees and bushes to allow more sunlight to reach the lawn. Be sure to do the pruning in a safe manner and without causing damage to the trees and shrubs. If you are unable to do this, or if you have a fence or other obstacle that is causing the shade, you may opt for planting a shade tolerant ground cover or converting the area to a mulch bed.

Improve soil drainage

If the area in which the moss is growing tends to be moist most of the time, you may have a drainage problem. If you can’t improve the grade on your own, you may need to consult a professional landscaper to assist. If you live in Illinois, be sure to call JULIE or submit an online dig request before doing any digging to avoid underground utilities. Other states probably have similar services available as well. If the drainage seems ok, but your irrigation system is keeping the lawn wet, you may need to adjust your watering habits.

Water deeply, less frequently

All lawns need water to survive, however, they also need some dry time throughout each day. If you have a sprinkler system, and you notice that the area containing the moss seems to stay wet all day long, every day, you may be adding to the issue. Change your watering schedule to favor deeper, less frequent waterings. For example, instead of watering a quarter inch each day, water 1-2 inches in single watering, once per week. In times of drought and high heat, you may need to increase this to 2 times per week with a small splash thrown in on really hot afternoons. For more information, visit our good watering habits page. Once you have the watering schedule adjusted, it is time to check the soil pH.

Check the soil pH and adjust if needed

Moss favors acidic soil. Although slightly acidic soil is best for lawns, if the soil is too acidic, it can contribute to the moss issue. The soil pH can be modified by applying lime to the lawn. This is rarely needed in Northern Illinois, but it is good to rule it out. After you have done what you can to deal with excessive moisture and shade, you can start to re-establish the lawn in the areas affected by the moss. One of the first steps is to core aerate the lawn.

Core aerate your lawn

Regular core aeration in the fall is considered to be one of the best all-around cultural practices you can do for your lawn. It relieves compaction – one of the other potential causes of your moss issue, promotes deep root growth, top-dresses your lawn, and reduces thatch, allowing more water and nutrients to reach the root zone of the grass plants. Core aeration is also a great first step to perform prior to seeding your lawn or establishing a new lawn.

Over-seed with a shade tolerant grass

If you want to keep the moss out, you need to eliminate the bare spots that it is attracted to. If you have shade issues in that area, you will need to plant a shade tolerant grass. Keep in mind that shade varieties of grass tend to need much less nitrogen throughout the year as compared to full or partial sun varieties. Be sure to adjust your lawn care program accordingly. As I said above, you need to water deeply, less frequently, however, when establishing new grass, you will need to keep it moist every day for at least 10 to 14 days until the seed germinates. If there is standing water when you are done watering, you have watered too much. Once the lawn is re-established in the moss affected area, you need to make sure you are mowing properly to keep the turf healthy.

Mow the lawn higher

Mowing higher (2 ½ to 3”) will allow the root system of the grass to grow deeper roots. Deeper roots can help the lawn stay thicker and survive other stresses such as drought and disease. Read more about it on our mower height information and mow during hot weather pages.

Lawn care is an on-going process

Keeping your lawn healthy throughout the season requires continuous attention and a prompt, proactive approach to any issues that arise. Throughout the season, conditions regularly change – trees mature and provide more and more shade coverage each year, soil erodes, thatch thickens, and insects, weeds, & diseases attack. Whether you care for your lawn by yourself, or you have a service provider assisting you, “That Weed Guy” is glad to provide you with free tips and information to help you along the way.

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