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Discourage moss growth by changing lawn conditions

Q: Even with this dry weather, I’m fighting moss in my lawn. Is there a way to get rid of this completely? What can I do?

— Carson from Boardman

A: Like you, I have always tried to have some control over what grows around my home. You may have heard of native plants or invasive varieties taking control of spaces. For example, I am always on the lookout for new poison ivy plants and maybe some mint that is trying to escape from my containers. I recently noticed that my lawn was starting to change on the north side of my home — just like yours! Moss has taken a real interest and started hanging around in the landscape on that side. So, I’m with you. I get you. I will control this moss situation.

Moss does not kill grass; it just moves in where grass is thin or weak. At my house, it is on the side of my home. So, what should I consider to control moss growth? Think about what encourages moss to grow — shade, acidic soil, poor drainage or overwatering, poor air circulation, and compacted and infertile soil.

My home is shaded on the north side. Once I got looking, I realized there is a shadow line where the moss has grown where the lawn is thin. There are no shade trees in the area to prune back. A soil test is needed to tell me about the condition of my soil. I will add lime or fertilizer when I receive the recommendations from the soil test. Maybe, just maybe, I need organic matter as well to help the grass thrive. We will see.

I do have a slope draining water away from my foundation. But sometimes my gutters overflow during heavy rains, leaving the area wet until it finally dries out. This is one reason the grass is thin and the moss takes over.

Why can’t I just spray this problem away? Well, in the fact sheet link below from the University of Maryland Extension, it states, “Chemical products are available on the market to kill moss and can be purchased at hardware stores, farm supply stores and garden centers. Typically the active ingredients in products for controlling moss on turf are iron sulphate or potassium salts of fatty acids.” Well, these products work, but do not solve the problem. These chemicals generally leave the area black or brown in color. If you use this, be sure to apply as directed on the product label. The moss will return before you know it — unless the growing conditions change. So, start by raking up the moss after it turns color. Then, solve the problem. This could include soil improvements, planting the right grass seed, improving drainage, till / add compost and more.

For my grass area, I plan to apply a chemical product containing iron as directed for a temporary solution. Next, I will apply a light application of fertilizer to strengthen the existing grass per the fact sheet link below. In the fall, I will remove moss by raking and fertilize this area per my soil test. I can then replant a shade type grass in the affected area.

For details on how to change the conditions in your lawn to discourage moss, visit: http://go.osu.edu/moss.

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