Moss in Lawns

by Flora O’Brien

Don’t get me wrong. I love all things mossy. But recently, probably because of all the rain, I’ve been getting questions about how to get rid of moss in lawns. In the spirit of equanimity I will address this subject.

If you have moss taking over your lawn the problem isn’t the moss, it’s the lawn. Turf grass struggles in areas that are too wet, too shady, too compacted, too acidic, too lacking in nutrients. These are the ideal conditions for moss, though. In order to eliminate moss, you must resolve these conditions.

A moss lawn in Saluda, N.C., November 2017. Photo by Flora O’Brien.

First address the drainage issues. Limiting the amount and frequency of lawn watering would be a first step. Slowing or redirecting the flow of water by restructuring the topography might help. You could add topsoil or install terracing stones. Placement of a French drain or similar strategies will also work.

To manage excessive shade you might have to limb up or remove trees and large shrubs. Keep in mind that the roots of trees drink large amounts of water so removing them may add to your problems. You could expand the diameter of mulch under trees and around beds. You could also try planting a grass more tolerant of shade but all of them need some sun.

Dense, compacted clay soils like we have in this area will not support turf grass for long. Yearly aeration is recommended. Leave the plugs where they lie. They will decompose and add to the soil’s fertility.

Let’s talk about fertility. First take a soil sample. It may recommend the application of lime to raise the pH and suggest a fertilization regimen. When you mow the grass leave the clippings in place to feed the soil. Good cultural practices like regular mowing, fertilizing and watering will produce the healthy lawn that will resist the growth of mosses.

How about the moss that’s already there. For small patches, dig them out, including an inch or so of the base soil and plant them in another spot. Then add new soil, seed or sod. The entire lawn could be raked dislodging the moss, new soil added and the area reseeded. There are products on the market made especially for killing moss in lawns but if the underlying conditions are not corrected, the moss will return.

Now here’s the thing. If you have wet, compacted soil in the shade you are not going to have a successful lawn without major expenditures of time and money. So why not just let the moss establish itself? You will have a year round green carpet that never needs mowing, watering, fertilizing, spraying, or plugging. It is true that mosses don’t tolerate heavy foot traffic but you could add stepping-stones or pathways. Then find a small, dry area in the sun and plant a pocket of lawn there.

NC State Fair garden vignette, October 2013, Photo by Flora O’Brien.

Sources & Further Reading

https://njaes.rutgers.edu/FS426/

https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/homeowners/030329.html

https://sampson.ces.ncsu.edu/2012/07/why-does-moss-grow-in-areas-of-my-lawn-and-not-my-grass-2/

This article originally appeared in the EMGV newsletter.

Learn With Us, Week of September 10

Sep 12, 2017, 6:30 to 8 pm – Lawn Care

Maintaining a beautiful lawn in our area is a struggle for many of us. Extension Master Gardener Charles Murphy will discuss the pros and cons of cool season and warm season grasses, optimal lawn care for our Piedmont climate and soil. He will introduce you to the best maintenance methods and untangle the confusing range of lawn care products.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson St., Durham, N.C., 27708-0341.

Free. Registration required. Call (919) 668-1707 or email: gardenseducation@duke.edu

Lawn

by Michelle Wallace

The first two weeks of September is the best time to reseed your cool season lawn.  Do not wait! Use 6 pounds of seed/ 1000 square feet.  Choose seed with a germination rate above 90% and with as high a percentage of guaranteed seed 97% or better as you can find.  Plan to water 2-3 times a day at first for the first 2 to 3 weeks then gradually reduce the number of times a week you are watering to once a week (by the third mowing). The grass needs about an inch of water and the water needs to be reaching depths of 6 to 8 inches deep.  This will promote deep rooting and protect the grass from long periods of dryness.

Learn With Us, week of August 30

Sept. 1, 2 PM on WCOM 103.5 FM – Getting Dirty Radio Show
Last Days of Summer Missed the show on the radio? Listen after the air date on http://gettingdirtyradioshow.org/

Thursday, Sep 3, 2015 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Soil Preparation, Extension Gardener Seminar
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson Street, Durham, NC, United States
Durham’s native soil is somewhat difficult to work with. Charles Murphy, Durham County Extension Volunteer Master Gardener, will discuss what can be done to make the soil easier for the gardener & more productive for the plants. Remember, time & patience are factors.  Class is free. Registration required. Contact: gardenseducation@duke.edu 919-668-1707
Saturday, Sep 5, 2015 10:00am – 11:30am
Lawn Care, Extension Garden Seminar
Durham Garden Center, 4536 Hillsborough Road, Durham, NC, United States
Maintaining a beautiful lawn in our area is a struggle for many of us. Gene Carlone, Durham County Extension Volunteer Master Gardener, will discuss the pros & cons of cool season & warm season grasses, optimal lawn care for our Piedmont climate & soil. He will introduce you to the best maintenance methods & untangle the confusing range of lawn care products.
Class is free. Registration required. To Register: Sign up at the store or e-mail Ann at ann3dgc@gmail,com or call 919-384-7526

Educational Opportunities, week of September 1, 2014

Turf

Thursday, Sep 4, 2014 6:30pm – 8:00pm 

Where:Sarah P. Duke Gardenes, 420 Anderson Street, Durham, NC (Map)

Grass is one of the most difficult plants to grow in our area. Discussion will be on lawn care for our Piedmont area climate & soil; best maintenance methods & untangle the confusing range of lawn care products. Presented by Charles Murphy, Durham County Extension Master Gardener. Class is free, registration is required 919-668-1707

Lawn Care

Saturday, Sep 6, 2014 10:00am – 11:00am 

Where:Durham Garden Center, 4536 Hillsborough Road, Durham, NC (Map)

Maintaining a beautiful lawn in our area is a struggle for many of us. This class will go over the pros & cons of cool season & warm season grasses, optimal lawn care for our Piedmont climate & soil. You will be introduced to the best maintenance & untangle the confusing range of lawn care products. Presented by Durham County Extension Master Gardener, Gene Carlone. Class is free/ registration is required.
contact: ann at 919-384-7526 or ann3dgc@gmail.com