Weed and pest control might get a lot of attention in lawn product advertising and marketing messages. Yet there is still an equally insidious problem affecting many lawns in the form of moss.
Those who have dealt with moss in the past know that controlling it can be an uphill battle once it managed to establish a presence on your lawn. Yet effective control is possible. Though you will first need to get a better understanding of what moss is, its life cycle, and what things can kill it and keep it out of your lawn for good.
What Is Lawn Moss?
It helps to start out understanding that moss isn’t just a different type of unwelcome lawn weed. Moss has ancient roots as one of the most primitive of all plants. Over the eons, it has adapted itself well to our world to the point where it needs not push its evolution further.
As a truly primitive plant, moss doesn’t process water and nutrients the same way more advanced plants like weeds, trees, and bushes do. This means that a lot of traditional weed killers won’t kill mosses. Even some of the strongest herbicides might kill moss temporarily, but still can’t 100% prevent its return.
Left unchecked moss will gradually start to force lawn grasses out. Especially when you consider that most types of grass struggle to survive in the kind of shady areas with acidic, overly moist, or compacted soil that moss thrives in. This essentially means that in the areas where grass fails, mosses succeed. When the prevailing lawn conditions can’t support healthy, vigorous grass growth, moss starts to take over.
Moss isn’t deep, and at most will only penetrate the top four inches or less of your turf. Though it acts like an acidic blanket that suffocates the turf and changes the soil chemistry. So, even if you physically pull moss out of your lawn, you can still be left with a bare spot that is already primed for a new moss infestation.
Identifying Moss In Your Lawn
Identifying moss in your lawn starts with understanding the light exposure and soil conditions in your turn. Moss is more likely to develop and thrive in shady moist areas. You are more likely to find it near trees, at the edges of your deck, and in other areas with minimal sunlight exposure. After all, there’s a reason why moss prefers to grow on the north side of trees.
Moss is typically coarse, green, or yellowish-green clumps scattered throughout the lawn, but they can also form large, densely matted clumps. It doesn’t immediately overtake or kill of the grass. Rather it prefers to move into the bare spots where the lawn is not growing.
How To Control Existing Lawn Moss
Treating moss is most effective when the patch is actively growing. Depending on where you live, this could be in the spring or the fall when rain and moisture levels are high and the sunlight isn’t as intense as it is in peak summer. Remember that lawn mosses don’t need much light or nutrition to live. However, moisture is critical to moss’s survival both in its surroundings and in the plant itself.
A lot of the moss control products you see for sale at the retail level are based on iron which is a naturally occuring substance with several organic derivatives. Chief amongst them in the real of moss control is ferrous sulfate, which is highly effective at killing lawn moss by extracting moisture.
This causes most types of moss to dry up, turn black and die. Though it isn’t the only product capable of controlling moss on your lawn.
Homemade Moss Control Alternatives
There are also less toxic lawn treatment options for killing moss. If you are a consummate do-it-yourselfer you could even try making your own moss control spray.
This calls for mixing gentle, organic dish soap with baking soda and lukewarm water to create a gentle, yet effective herbicide that will kill moss. You need to mix 2 to 4 ounces of organic dish soap with two gallons of water. Then add half a box of common baking soda. You can then pour the mixture directly into a garden sprayer and spray the mixture on the moss.
Can I Physically Remove Moss From My Lawn?
If you are only dealing with a small patch of moss in your lawn, you might be able to simply scrape it away or dig it up with a spade shovel. Just make sure to take away at least four inches of moss and soil. This will ensure that you have extracted all the fine root structures that many types of moss make in the soil.
Is It Better To Cover Moss With Grass Seed Or Sod?
Grass seed will not germinate properly over a patch of dead moss. You need to remove the decomposing moss and rake the soil clean before you can plant grass seed in an area that was previously infested by moss. This tends to be the preferred method for fixing small patches of moss in shady areas.
If your lawn has a more significant moss problem that requires a large area of extraction, then you might want to turn to replace the cleansed areas with a hearty layer of sod. The most established root system will give the grass a better chance of out-competing any stray moss colonies that attempt to repopulate the area.
How To Prevent Future Lawn Moss Problems?
Keeping your lawn free from the moss in the future requires a multi-prong, thoughtful approach. This involves getting a better understanding of how moss came to originally infest your lawn in the first place.
This typically starts with a simple soil test to confirm if your lawn needs lime to reduce soil acidity and encourage healthy grass growth. Make it a point to improve areas with poor drainage, and even consider thinning nearby trees or shrubs to let more light reach the grass below. You might want to also aerate your soil to prevent the kind of compaction problems that moss likes. This will also help boost the health of your grass to help outcompete moss in the future.
Try trimming back overhead branches and bushes. This will let a little more sun in, which will make it hard for moss to redevelop, while also helping to keep your natural grass growing vigorously.