Many homeowners aspire to have a picture perfect green lawn, but when the green is because of moss, then you have a problem. When trying to get a lush carpet of grass in place of moss, you might find that you have less than perfect conditions for growing a thick lawn. Since moss is an indicator of many things, you may have to take additional steps to improving your yard. Here is how to get rid of moss in lawns and correct any problems causing moss to grow.
In order to understand how to get rid of moss, you have to first know what moss actually is. Moss is a cluster of tiny plants that is most native and benign. Though moss will usually cover bare ground and prevent soil erosion, it can also creep into your lawn. Moss does not kill grass like a weed would so a typical good weed killer would not be applied to remove, but it is a sign that something within your soil might be preventing grass seeds from taking root.
Moss spores are produced around April. Some regions will see moss spores releasing earlier than others. After initial sporing in April, moss produces again in September. Use this time frame to your advantage and tackle moss growth before sporing, if possible.
Causes of Moss Growth
Moss is not a cause of lawn problems. Moss is an effect. There are a couple of conditions that can cause moss to grow instead of lawn grass, including the following:
- Too much shade – One cause of moss that can be easily spotted is too much shade. Grass needs sunlight to grow, so consider establishing more shade-tolerant grass types to cover these areas.
- Acidic or infertile soil – Earth that is too acidic (low pH) will hamper grass growth. Turfgrass needs a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 to grow well. Lime will raise the pH level, making ground less acidic. Also, soil needs to have a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to promote grass growth instead of moss.
- Bad soil conditions – Compacted soil or excessive thatch makes moss grow easily while choking off grass.
- Too much or too little water – The wrong amount of water will encourage moss to grow instead of grass. Look for signs that your lawn is receiving either too much or too little water, such as browning, wilting, stunted growth, desiccation, and limpness. Inadequate drainage might also be a cause of too much water. Consider dethatching and aerating the soil.
- Lawn stressors – Your lawn can get injured from certain biological, chemical, and environmental stressors. This includes things like disease, excessive foot traffic, damage from pets, and insect infestation.
Methods of Moss Removal
Once you have identified the cause of moss in your yard, you can begin to remove it from the lawn. The most commonly used method is to apply a moss killer (usually ferrous sulphate based) then raking up the moss once the solution has taken effect. However, depending on the size of your yard and when you plan on removing the moss, a simple rake will not suffice. Here are various methods to consider getting rid of moss:
Also referred to as dethatching, this is the process where you vigorously rake and agitate the lawn to remove loose moss and other compacted material. Rakes are best for small lawns, while larger yards benefit from a mover with a dethatching blade attachment.
Some considerations when using scarification:
- Time – you don’t want to rake after moss has spored, because you will be spreading those spores to the healthier sections of your lawn.
- Use herbicide – If you plan on raking after using herbicide, you may have to wait up to two weeks to rake out the moss.
There are a number of chemical and organic options, so you can choose according to your preferences. Amongst the latter, a lot of people choose to use a baking soda and water mixture or dish soap. Whether you choose ferrous sulphate herbicide or an eco-friendly option, you need to keep in mind that a thicker blanket of moss will be harder to kill.
You can either apply moss killer before or after your rake. Each way has advantages and disadvantages. Raking first means loosening the moss and killing it at the roots, especially if it’s thick. However, spores may be spread around. Raking after application means that the moss killer will dry out the moss, reducing overall bulk. But this doesn’t kill all the moss.
Spraying before and after will tackle the moss well enough; yet you have to keep in mind that the condition of your soil might worsen from the chemicals soaking in. You will need to make sure the herbicide you’re using doesn’t have fertiliser (nitrogen), because this overdosing can blacken your lawn.
Lastly, be aware of what ferrous sulphate might do to your lawn. Since ferrous sulphate sprays acidify the soil, pH will be affected. In order to ensure you are not stimulating more moss growth next year, spray the herbicide throughout the yard, let it sit for 7 to 14 days, dethatch and aerate your soil, spray soil again after 1 week from raking, lay down calcium-based agricultural lime, then seed and fertilise to complete the process.
Keeping Your Lawn Moss-Free
Now that you know how to remove moss, let’s have a look at how to keep it at bay.
- Reduce damages to the lawn. Again, mowing the grass too short, trampling the lawn, and chemical imbalances can cause grass to die. Take necessary precautions to avoid damaging gross.
- Seed and fertilise thin areas. In areas where grass is thin, especially after raking up moss, it is pertinent that you seed the aerated soil quickly to stimulate growth.
- Plant shade-loving plants and shrubbery. If you cannot locate shade-loving grass seed, then choose flowers and shrubbery that takes well to shade instead. This will help prevent moss from spreading in these areas.
Battling moss is just part of the ongoing struggle with maintaining a picturesque yard. Remember that the best defence against moss is to correct the soil condition. Once you have found out what is causing moss to grow, you can soon start to address the problem and work on keeping that green lawn in tip-top shape.