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dealing with Moss in my lawn

 
David Chritchly
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Hi,

I have been reading Paul Wheaton's lawn care for the cheap and lazy here. Since we have a youngster running around now I want to loose the chemicals. I've got my pH tested, ready to apply lime, mow high, leave the clippings on the lawn and aerate aerate aerate- however we are in the pacific north west. I can't exactly starve the lawn of water so I can water it once every 4-6 weeks too starve the weeds- it just doesn't get that dry here. Furthermore, every winter the moss grows back in.

If I apply lime and compost I expect it will encourage the moss right? Should I get rid of the moss prior to spring maintenance? I'd like to aerate and apply sand to improve drainage but its going to be hard to find that time this year. Should I ignore the moss this year?

Thanks
 
Tom Pavlo
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It was always my understanding that moss was a sign of your pH being too low. The lime should correct that. A couple of years ago, I had some moss growing between my grass. Once I limed, the grass grew in better and I haven't seen the moss since.

I think that your best plan would be to lime it up to a ph of 6.5-6.8 and then just do what you can to get the grass to grow thicker.

Why do you add sand to your lawn? The structure of your soil will dictate how much lime you are going to have to apply. For example, the dirt in my front and back yards are different enough that I need to apply double the amount of lime in the back to get the same effect. This has something to do with the soil weight and the front being more sandy.

I also believe that Paul generally discourages aerating as he sees it a waste of time.
 
Cris Bessette
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Tom Pavlo wrote:It was always my understanding that moss was a sign of your pH being too low. The lime should correct that. A couple of years ago, I had some moss growing between my grass. Once I limed, the grass grew in better and I haven't seen the moss since.



There are certain parts of my yard that I want to encourage moss growth (Its like a soft green carpet!) so I imagine I should purposely lower the PH somehow...

 
David Chritchly
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Tom Pavlo wrote:It was always my understanding that moss was a sign of your pH being too low. The lime should correct that. A couple of years ago, I had some moss growing between my grass. Once I limed, the grass grew in better and I haven't seen the moss since.

I think that your best plan would be to lime it up to a ph of 6.5-6.8 and then just do what you can to get the grass to grow thicker.

Why do you add sand to your lawn? The structure of your soil will dictate how much lime you are going to have to apply. For example, the dirt in my front and back yards are different enough that I need to apply double the amount of lime in the back to get the same effect. This has something to do with the soil weight and the front being more sandy.

I also believe that Paul generally discourages aerating as he sees it a waste of time.


Hi Tom,

I had read in my local paper than aereating and then adding sand should improve drainage and discourage moss growth. I'm not doing that this year anyway. I will adjust the pH first. Can I lime when the lawn is wet?
 
Rich Pasto
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water and pH are definitely culprits, but you need to also look at how much sunlight your yard gets. The lower sunlight levels in winter may be helping the moss spread/return every year.

Food for thought, what are the drawbacks to moss beside the cosmetics? You basically dont have to do anything to it, and it will develop into a soft green carpet if left undisturbed. I remember moss yards from back east and they were really quite nice.
 
David Chritchly
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Rich Pasto wrote:water and pH are definitely culprits, but you need to also look at how much sunlight your yard gets. The lower sunlight levels in winter may be helping the moss spread/return every year.

Food for thought, what are the drawbacks to moss beside the cosmetics? You basically dont have to do anything to it, and it will develop into a soft green carpet if left undisturbed. I remember moss yards from back east and they were really quite nice.


Yes, I am beginning to accept the moss. It is cheap and easy after all. Winter sunlight is a problem here, as well as "excess" winter "moisture".

 
E. Iseli
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Hi folks,

My first post here... I have moss in my lawn too. The street we're at being called "Moss Way" makes me think there must be a reason for it... I like grass so I do aerate and then I wonder what I should do with the collected biomass. I've read it's not a good idea to put it into the compost, and I really don't want to dispose it with the regular garbage and have it burnt along with it. So what could I do with all that material? Any ideas and hints highly welcome!

Iseli
 
Tom OHern
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I have been working for years to get more moss in my lawn. That and clover. Why would I do this? The more moss and clover you have, the less you have to mow and water. How can you not want that?
 
E. Iseli
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Tom OHern wrote:I have been working for years to get more moss in my lawn. That and clover. Why would I do this? The more moss and clover you have, the less you have to mow and water. How can you not want that?

Well, there's 2 things: one I like mowing the lawn, it's not that big so I don't mind the work. Plus it gives me material for mulching. Second, moss comes off much too easily when kids are playing on the lawn, and the bare spots look ugly. The clover you mention is not my favorite either because of its flowers. When the kids are playing barefoot in summer, the risk to get stung by bees. Don't get me wrong, I love bees and I have a small lot of garden with wild flowers.
 
John Flower
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Paul Wheaton writes about aeration at Best Time for Aeration and Aeration Panacea or Myth?. My interpretation is that aeration is useful if your soil is crap and you are unwilling to till it or to replace the grass with a cover crop for one season. Aerate before amending with compost and lime.

I have a lawn which had never been aerated in 15 years. There were patches where the grass was sparse and growing slowly. These patches were more compacted than the rest of the lawn (I stuck a fork in to test). After core aerating the grass grew better. You can read what I've done at Kiwi lawn on track?. Is your soil compacted? You didn't mention if it was - just that you wanted improved drainage (which compost will do). I picked my cores up by hand and crushed them, returning loose dirt and microbes to the lawn.

The long term solution is to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil. Leave your clippings on the lawn and spread compost. This will feed the worms. Worms make tunnels. Aeration.

I speculate that longer grass, with deeper roots, will help water to drain better than short grass. It will also make better use of whatever water is thrown at it. Can someone wise comment on this?
 
John Flower
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On clover. There are some microclover cultivars which produce very few flowers. They also have smaller leaves than usual. Against clover is that it is a little more slippery than grass for playing on.
 
Steve Slunick
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Hello,
I'm new to this forum and also have a huge moss problem.
I have a cottage in Northern Michigan that has a lawn the is probably 50% solid moss. It is a shady site, with a steep hill that leads down to the lake. So I have to be careful of what I put on the lawn as it could wash into the lake.

I can't tell you how much money I have spent trying to over seed to get the grass to grow. Now after reading this forum I feel really stupid.

I'm almost to the point of just accepting the moss because it does require no maintenance and feels great on your feet when coming out of the lake.

I have been mowing WAY to short. This is because we have a lot of beech trees that drop nuts and really hurt when you step on them in bare feet. So I have a tractor with bagger and cleans them up nicely. The main problem is the moss is terrible for high traffic areas.

I notice that where the shade stops and the sun hits the lawn the moss looses the battle to the grass. However the grass is very sparse and I need it thicker in the high traffic areas and on the hill for erosion control.

I have not had the soil tested yet but because of the high moss content I'm assuming it is low? So I need to add lime to help the grass and raise the mower blades. My concern is the lake. What happens if some of that lime ends up in the lake? Also because of the hill the soil could be very compacted. If I aerate on the hill will I risk a serious erosion problem?

Thanks for the advice.

 
Shane McKee
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Hi Steve, I guess part of the issue is that lawns per se are pretty overrated. If you were putting enough lime on your grass for run-off to pose a hazard to the lake, that would be WAY too much lime for anything - I think you're likely to be safe. However I'd be inclined to maybe just mow a few tracks in it; let the rest just grow over the next year, then scythe back and (if you really must) mow next year. The bees, insects and the kiddie will love you for it. I'm rapidly gravitating to the notion that lawns should be wild meadows rather than bland green carpets.
Here in Northern Ireland people spend tons on their lawns, scarifying, fertilising, aerating, etc. I've done it myself - too much hard work, and in reality the lawn (acid soil over tight waterlogged clay, crap drainage) was no better. So last year I just let it do its own thing mostly, and after our wettest winter on record it's actually looking pretty good. Oh, and I dug out a section and made a Mandala garden. Big win. Let the lawn do what it naturally wants to do; offer it gentle encouragement in the right direction, and it will reward you. (Sounds really nice where you are!)
-S
 
Matu Collins
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David Chritchly wrote:
If I apply lime and compost I expect it will encourage the moss right? Should I get rid of the moss prior to spring maintenance? I'd like to aerate and apply sand to improve drainage but its going to be hard to find that time this year. Should I ignore the moss this year?


Here are two things to know about moss: It is a very simple plant and it is an opportunist.

It uses its root-like structures (rhizoids) only to anchor itself not for nutrition. It doesn't need compost or lime or acidity or anything like that. Soil nutrition is all the same to moss. The amount of sun it needs varies among species as does the amount of moisture, but on the whole it is tolerant of shade and drought.

Moss is slow growing and as you have observed not very well anchored to its spot. It makes up for its inadequacies by growing where other plants can't grow well. So if you do things that make the soil better for grass, the grass will be able to overcome pretty easily. Compost and lime help the grass. Shade is your hardest hurdle to overcome, I think.

Me, I love moss. Oooooooooh especially this time of year when my eyes are starved for green the moss is a visual feast. My kids know how much I love moss and run around other places. I'm blessed with plenty of room, so that works.


I'm almost to the point of just accepting the moss because it does require no maintenance and feels great on your feet when coming out of the lake.


If this was me I'd make a path of flat stones through the moss and leave it. mmmhmm I love that green green green

 
Ivan Weiss
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I am dealing with these issues right now. My method for dealing with moss is to rake it out of the lawn altogether, add it to the compost pile, and plant White Dutch Clover where the moss has been. Once the clover takes hold it will be tougher for the moss to re-establish itself. I take this trouble because my lawn clippings get fed to cattle and hogs, who devour them greedily. Obviously the clover serves that purpose better than moss does. Plus it fixes nitrogen so that the other grasses benefit from it. Yes it involves some additional input, but hell, if it was good enough for Fukuoka, it's good enough for me.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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There are certain parts of my yard that I want to encourage moss growth (Its like a soft green carpet!) so I imagine I should purposely lower the PH somehow...



Lowering the ph (acidifying) isn't hard to do, you can use pine needles as a mulch or spray your yard lightly with a very mild acetic acid solution (diluted vinegar at 1:3 then use a syphon sprayer to further dilute the 1:3 solution) This will lower the ph of the soil slowly, just like nature prefers. But You don't need acidic soil to have nice moss beds spring up. The big thing to remember about mosses, they begin life looking like pond scum and then progress to becoming adult plants so, keep water on the land so it is continually damp and your mosses will flourish and spread. The best moss areas I have are in a sandy loam area that only gets dappled sunlight at mid day, the tree canopy doesn't allow the moisture to evaporate very quickly either, and by the way, the ph of the soil under my moss beds is a nice 6.5 which occurs most everywhere on my forested homestead. I used to be an avid grower of Bonsai, I grew moss all the time so I would have it for my displays. I did have one bed that I acidified using the method above, but it was for a mountain found moss and once I got the ph down to 5.0 and keeping the soil moist with a timer misting system, the spores I spread took off. I decided to test the soil after 6 months of growing and found that my added acidity was going away through leaching, after two years the ph of that bed was at 6.1 and it didn't effect the growth of the moss, harvesting bits of it for re-potting of Bonsai was the only thing that kept it from overflowing the raised bed I grew it in.
 
John C Robinson
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My grandmother's yard had a patio type structure made entirely of moss. It was flat, raised, soft, and I've never seen anything like it anywhere else.

Unfortunately, when the title of the home was transferred, the septic system needed to be upgraded, and this resulted in the entire yard being torn up, leveled, and the massive trees being taken down. What was once a hilly, shady, mossy wonderland, filled with hostas and violets, became a sunny slope of whatever grass was in the hydroseeder that day.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Steve Slunick , the corps of engineers as well as most game and fish agencies will lime a lake occasionally to promote lake health, I would not worry about the minute amount you would possibly contribute to the lake. You can always work on your yard in small stages with will keep possible runoff to a minimum. I would aerate then spread a thin layer then water it in with a gentle spray of water, wait a few days and repeat.
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