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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Moss in Lawns - from David Robson

Posted by John Fulton -

If your lawn is overly shaded and has poor drainage, moss may be a problem. Moss is a fast-growing, shallow-rooted plant that covers the ground, smothers grass and exhausts food reserves from the soil.

When moss appears in a lawn, it is usually because growing conditions for grasses are adverse, such as overly shaded or moist areas of the lawn, states David Robson, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, Springfield Center. Other conditions favorable for moss invasion include soils with poor aeration, compaction or drainage, low fertility and high acidity or alkalinity. To control moss permanently, conditions that allow its growth must be eliminated.

Because shade is a major cause of moss growth, you might want to prune some of the trees surrounding your lawn. Removing lower branches and thinning the crowns of large trees will also help.

Improve your lawn's drainage by filling depressions, redirecting downspouts and adding tile. Slicing or core cultivating will improve aeration or reduce compaction.

Mechanical devices such as aerifiers, core cultivators and vertical mowers can be rented at local rental stores.

Test the soil pH to make sure your lawn is not too acidic or alkaline for the variety of turfgrass grown. Incorporate needed amounts of fertilizer and lime or sulfur to correct the soil pH.

In addition, raising the mower cutting height to 2 1/2 or 3 inches will improve the vigor of the grass and will help shade out moss.

Moss can be temporarily removed by raking or can be chemically killed by thoroughly soaking the moss with a ferrous sulfate solution at 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Dead moss may be removed by raking, and bare areas can be reseeded.

Where conditions are not corrected, moss will continue to grow.

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