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How to Get Rid of Moss in Your Lawn

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A lawn with grass growing in it.

The invasion of moss in your lawn occurs when you try to grow grass in places that are too shady, too wet, or on very poor soil-conditions that do not support grass. To eliminate moss and prepare the soil for grass, you'll need to change your lawn's growing conditions.

Start with a Soil Test

The best way to discourage moss is to grow better grass, and to do that you need to create the right conditions. If your lawn has moss, then you probably dealing with underlying soil problems such as compaction, low fertility, acidity, excess moisture, inadequate soil depth or excessive shade. Start with a simple soil test. Your county extension agency can give you more information on how to go about collecting samples and where to send them. Tests are inexpensive (usually around $15) and will give you a wealth of information about your soil, including pH and nutrients levels, as well as recommendations for fixing any problems.

Fixing Common Problems

The fact that the moss is growing in a specific area signals that it's not an ideal environment for growing grass. If you can change the following environmental conditions, you may be able to promote the growth of grass over moss. If you can't, planting a shade-tolerant ground cover may be a better solution.

  • Compaction. Aerate heavy soils with a mechanical aerator once each year, and give your yard a deep raking in the spring and fall. This will improve drainage by allowing air and water to get down to the roots, as well as lessen compaction.

  • pH imbalance. Most grasses thrive at a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. Soils with a pH below this may support the growth of moss. A soil test will tell you if you have a pH problem, and give you recommendations on how to correct it. You can also use one of the simple pH test kits sold at garden centers. These kits are less reliable, but they can give you an approximate pH value. If your soil is too acidic, you'll probably need to add some ground limestone to raise the pH. Just make sure you test the soil first, before adding any lime. Many regions throughout the U.S. contain ample (even excess) amounts of lime, and adding too much can harm your existing plants.

  • Low fertility. Even in sunny locations, moss will thrive if soil fertility is low. Grass won't. Take a look at your soil test. The results should indicate whether or not your lawn lacks nutrients, and if so, what they are. Follow the recommendations and fertilize your lawn regularly to encourage vigorous growth.

  • Excessive moisture. Moss thrives in moist conditions. If standing water is a problem in your yard during certain times of the year, try to grade the soil away from susceptible areas to prevent the water from pooling. Rake in 2-inch layer of compost to help increase the soil's ability to absorb moisture.

  • Inadequate soil depth. The shallow root structure of moss enables it to pioneer in areas with thin topsoil. Grass roots need about 8 inches of soil depth to establish a strong root system. If your topsoil is thin, add an inch or so of topsoil or compost each spring and fall until you feel like you've created enough depth for a good root system to develop.

  • Excessive shade. If shrubs and trees have overgrown the area where moss is growing, consider pruning some of the lower branches to let in more light and air. Seed the area with a grass variety that doesn't need a lot of sun, such as fine fescues.

Using Moss Killers

If moss is still a problem after trying the above methods, here are some simple homemade recipes to help get rid of it. Although these solutions are considered more environmentally friendly (at least compared to commercial moss killers), they should still be applied with caution as they are capable of killing or injuring the surrounding grass.

Homemade Moss Killer Recipes

Homemade Recipe #1

  • 4 ounces of a liquid dish soap like ivory or dawn
  • 1 gallon of water

Mix together and saturate small areas using a hand sprayer.

Homemade Recipe #2

  • 2 gallons of water
  • 8 ounces of baking soda

Mix together and saturate small areas using a hand sprayer.

Homemade Recipe #3

  • 1 cup antiseptic mouthwash
  • 1 cup chamomile tea
  • 1 cup Murphy's Oil Soap

Use this recipe if you need to kill moss over a large area. Apply with a 20-gallon hose-end sprayer attachment, and repeat every two weeks until the moss dies.

Once the moss is dead (it will lose its color and start drying up), remove it using a heavy garden rake with fixed metal tines. Keep in mind that killing moss is only a temporary solution, so if you want to remove it permanently you will need to correct the soil conditions that allowed it to thrive. After removing the moss, retest your soil, add any necessary amendments, and re-seed the bare areas with a grass mixture suitable for the light conditions.

If All Else Fails, Let it Grow!

If you have tried everything and the moss will simply not retreat, then consider living with it. There's nothing wrong with letting (even encouraging) moss to grow. In fact, there are entire books and websites dedicated solely to the art of moss gardening! As a ground cover, moss has a lush green color, it's velvety on bare feet, and it's virtually maintenance-free. Instead of fighting Mother Nature, try defining the area with large rocks, pieces of driftwood, or interesting statuary. If done right, a moss garden can be a beautiful way to enhance your existing landscape.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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By anne [10]11/02/2012

I love moss! Anne in NC

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