Does Your Lawn Have a Moss Problem?April 25, 2016
A rolling stone gathers no moss. So does a well-lit, well-draining, nutrient-rich, healthy lawn.
If moss is taking over your lawn, there are several things that homeowners can do to try and alleviate the situation on their own, or with a little help from the lawn care professionals at Lucas Tree.
Just keep in mind, depending on the size of your lawn – and the size of the area that you are trying to fix – getting a quote from a professional lawn service company could be a good idea too. With easier access to specialized power equipment, stronger backs, let alone more experience treating similar lawn problems, you may find that hiring a crew of landscape professionals to take care of the problem to be not only cost effective, but a lot less work for you too.
Where Does Moss Come From?
As the proverb above suggests, the key to keeping moss away is through movement. In the case of a turf lawn, movement refers to how well – or how poorly – water, air and nutrients move through the soil. More specifically, moss generally becomes problematic in lawns with excessive shade, poorly draining, unfertile, compacted soil, poor air circulation and unbalanced soil pH.
The fact that moss is taking over a lawn is a signal that grass does not have the conditions it needs to grow. Wherever the grass has thinned, moss will move in.
Let the Sun Shine In
In general, grasses are sun-loving plants. To encourage healthy growth, most lawn grasses need at least 4 hours of direct sun a day. While there are turf grasses available that will grow in low-light areas, homeowners should remember to look UP and DOWN when attempting to do battle with moss.
While the bare limbs of early spring and autumn may provide ample sunlight, what happens when those branches fill in with leaves? The simple truth is that grasses simply will not grow without sunlight. If your landscape is heavily shaded during the growing season, the only option is to let in more light. This can be achieved by removing lower branches, pruning larger ones or removing entire trees to let in more light.
Getting rid of moss is typically a two-part solution.
Part 1: Dethatch and Aerate The Lawn Yourself
Scarification, as known as ‘dethatching’, is the process of raking through your lawn in order to manually remove patches of moss by separating its shallow roots from the soil.
Again, depending on the size of the affected area, this can be done manually by vigorously raking away the moss with a stiff, metal tined rake. If the area is widespread, consider adding a dethatching blade to your mower or, either rent or purchase a pull-behind dethatcher attachment for your riding mower.
Once you have removed the existing moss from your lawn, the next step is to address, and remedy the conditions that allowed it to thrive in the first place. Remember, the appearance of moss is a symptom – not the cause – of a poor growing environment.
Aerate – Along with sunlight, turf grasses also grow best when they have the ability to ‘stretch out’ their roots. Underground root growth not only allows the plant to store more water and other nutrients, roots also provide a stronger anchor to keep the plant in place. Over time, soils become compacted by normal foot traffic, vehicle traffic and naturally by the downward pressure of rain and snow here in the northeast.
Aerating tools can be purchased or rented from most hardware stores. Non-motorized aerators do a good job of puncturing through built up thatch to allow air and water down into the soil, stimulating root growth. Gas powered aerators are especially effective on densely compacted soil.
Check your pH – Homeowners concerned about the recurrence of moss on their property should also test the soil pH to determine the relative acidity of the soil. Soil that is too acidic will not be able to sustain the nutrients required for a healthy lawn. Accordingly, moss generally grows well in acidic soil.
According to Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s healthy landscape Yardscaping website, “soil pH should be between 5.5 – 6.5. Since most Maine soils are acidic with a pH of 4.8 to 5.2, the addition of pelletized limestone during the growing season can be used to increase soil pH, improving its effectiveness as a growing environment.”
When soil is acidic, the availability of key nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) is reduced and there are usually low amounts of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) in the soil. This makes it very difficult for plants, especially turf grasses to establish themselves and grow. Most local hardware stores sell soil do-it-yourself testing kits. Here in Maine, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension office also provides free test kits to residents (samples can be mailed to the Maine Soil Testing Service and analyzed for $15)
Part 2: Prune or Remove Your Trees
When it’s done right and regularly, tree pruning will ensure that the trees on your property will endure for generations while also creating a better environment below for vegetation to grow. Lucas Tree Experts have been leaders in professional tree service industry for more than 50 years.
Once an adequate amount of sunshine and fresh air is delivered to the ground, the next step is to improve the soil conditions.
As you can see, there’s a strong relationship between trees, grass and moss. Moss grows where grass won’t – and vice versa. Any effective moss remediation program should address not only the immediate conditions, but also fix the conditions that created a moss-friendly growing environment in the first place. If your trees are part of that issue, Call Lucas Tree Experts today and we’ll help you manage that important aspect of your moss problem.