Moss vs. Your Lawn… Who is Going to Win?

*** This is an update to a previous blog about moss. Because of our record rains in October people are already starting to see an early emergence of moss. This is not the time of year to control it because you want your grass growing quickly to fill the places the moss used to reside. It is, however, a really good time of year to apply a good application of calcium (lime) to sweeten your soil. Calcium is a mineral and the winter rains will help to wash it in and break it down in your soils over the winter and bring the pH closer to what grass wants and further away from the pH moss likes. If you are an Organic Service client with us we will be coming through soon with your calcium application.

october-rainfall_1478020770633_6689496_ver1-0Without question, moss in lawns is the #1 problem facing homeowners early in the spring. The grass has just barely started to grow but the moss seems like it has been there since the beginning of time. This year the problem seems to be worse than I can ever remember it.

What to do?Moss in lawn Common treatments call for killing the moss typically with iron-based products. On some level this seems like a panacea because the moss dies and the grass gets a super dark green. Oops… Well the grass is green but now the moss is black. Not the best look but what the heck, as long as the moss is going bye-bye we can all put up with a little black in our lawn for a few weeks…

Problem solved, right? Well, not really… The moss is dying and the grass is dark green but this is just a temporary “fix” until next time either later in the spring  or certainly by this time next year when we need to start the killing process all over again. But hey, it’s only iron and that is a natural Earth element. What could be the harm in that? Right?

Well iron is a heavy metal and accumulates in the soil over the years. But the real problem lies in its very acidic nature — Iron has a pH of 2. All plants grow best in their particular pH range. (7.0 is neutral. The lower the number the more acidic the soils are.) Grass grows best between 5.8 and 7.0. But when you throw a 2.0 (Iron) on your grass to kill the moss you are driving down the pH hence creating the conditions more habitable to moss than grass. If you want to use iron, we recommend a spray product just for the moss areas and this will reduce the amount of iron you are applying and be more effective in killing the moss.

Isn’t there some better way to solve this problem and be able to grow healthy stands of grass where moss doesn’t get a foothold? YES! But it takes a little work…

The key is to change the cultural conditions to encourage the growth of healthy grass. You see, if you are growing moss it is because you are not growing healthy stands of grass. In the plant world, it would be hard to find 2 plants — moss and grass — that grow in completely opposite conditions. Moss has no roots to speak of and only grows where your grass is not thriving. Check out this chart for the conditions conducive to lawn grasses and moss…

Lawn vs Moss

If you want to grow grass you must first start with a pH above a minimum of 5.8. Test your soils. Then break the surface tension of the soil-to-grass interface by thatching. Follow that with core aeration to pull out plugs and let the soil breathe, letting in air and water and encouraging root growth. Next, add your nutrient package based on what is missing in your soil test. Then over-seed. Followed by top dressing with compost. And finally, inoculate your soils with compost tea to jump start the microbial life.

But it doesn’t stop there. Grasses are heavy feeders and need regular fertilizing. Start by mulching the grass clippings back into the soil. This can reduce your nitrogen needs by 30%. Use organic fertilizers and compost to keep your nitrogen values up. Add minerals and micro-nutrients as needed. All these follow-up programs will help keep the conditions more conducive to grass than moss.

And then you can reduce your work and sit back and enjoy your naturally beautiful lawn!

Family on lawn 2


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