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How do I deal with moss?

Q: I have moss in lawn and in my flowerbeds. What can I do about this?

— Lyndsey from Canfield

A: Moss is a sign of shade and high moisture. Thus, improving air circulation in the affected area or increasing sunlight exposure may lead the way to reduce the amount of moss. Most of us notice high levels of moss in the spring because this is their peak time of year in our climate.

In lawn and landscape areas, moss is most likely a sign of lack of management. If lawns are properly managed, moss will not be able to compete with healthy turf.

Moss control is not easy. Cultural practices will start to reduce the problem but may not address it completely.

To improve your lawn, do a soil test to check the pH and fertility levels. A low pH is a possibility, but lime should not be added without doing a soil test to be sure the pH is lower than the recommended 6.0 to 6.8 level. If the pH is in the correct range, drainage should be checked. The day after a rain, check for puddles which will be a sign on poor drainage.

If grass is thin in shady areas, you most likely have the wrong kind of grass in the area. Rake the area and seed with a grass species that grows well in the shade. The fine fescues are usually recommended, but a detailed factsheet link is available below. If pets thin out areas of your grass, consider changes to that area.

Check mowing height, keeping the lawn around 3 inches high. If the lawn looks scalped, increase mowing height. Raking moss out of lawns will help reduce competition but is not completely effective — but can help prep the area for the planting of the correct grass species.

Moss in flowerbeds is usually a sign of both lack of drainage and lack of mulch on the bare soil. Mulch may have completely broken down and needs replenished.

Baking soda is commonly found on many internet sites as an option to control moss. One turf study from Kansas shows moss suppression if done early in the season. Read about this study at http://go.osu.edu/sodaonmoss.

In general, the moss problem needs addressed from a change in conditions before other avenues are investigated. Start by (1) improving the drainage, (2) ensuring the pH is in the correct range, and (3) raking existing moss away to allow for seeding with correct turf species. These steps will help get you on the right path to a better turf and significantly reduce the presence of moss.

Commercial moss control products are available for the roof, house and lawn. If the products contain iron, beware they will stain siding, sidewalks and other surfaces. Products containing copper and zinc will work on roof surfaces and other parts of the home, but they can also affect desired plants and turf. Be sure to read and follow all label directions before purchasing / using products.

For more information check out “Moss in Lawns” at http://go.osu.edu/lawnmoss and “Grass Species for Shaded Areas” at http://go.osu.edu/shadedturf.

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