Mosses have been with us for the last couple of hundred million years and they do not seem to leave any time soon. They are among the best vegetation to look at and walk on, not just in our forests but also in our backyard where they are wanted. They provide an aesthetic green ground cover that feels velvety on the feet.
However great they may look and feel, mosses are unwelcome on our lawns for various reasons. They compete with lawn grass for the nutrients available in the soil. Consequently, they overgrow the grass thus making the lawn look patchy.
Due to the unhealthy competition for nutrients, the grass eventually dries off and you are left with a lawn full of mosses. And because moss thrives best in clogged soil conditions, the sight of them indicates a serious underlying problem that calls for more attention.
Fortunately, moss can be killed with easy hacks, and with the use of commercial and homemade moss killers. A natural way to avoid lawn moss is by applying proper lawn care practices to encourage healthy grass growth.
What causes moss on lawns?
It does not have to be a colony; the sight of a single bunch of moss on the lawn should send the systems to blink red. This is because moss thrives in conditions that are not favorable to the growth of lawn grass and this means something somewhere is not right.
The secret to dealing with moss growth on lawns lies in understanding the cause of these parasitic plants, and what you are going to do to keep them from coming back. The causes of lawn moss include;
1. Too little or too much water
Having too little moisture on your lawn leaves your grass vulnerable to the elements and any moss trying to thrive will overgrow it. This explains why you should water your lawn more often, especially during the summertime heat.
Too much water, on the other hand, works the same way as too little of it. Overwatering clogs the soil and the grass-root system cannot breathe. This leads to the death of the grass and the moss overtakes.
2. Infertile or acidic soils
Acidity in the soil is caused by chemical fertilizers, a situation in which grass will not thrive so well. Bearing in mind that mosses do not mind very acidic soils, it is always advisable to take some samples of your soil for testing before planting your lawn.
Doing this works both ways; to determine the type of grass right for your lawn soil and what you need to add or reduce in your soil. Instead of chemical fertilizers, always use organic fertilizers for whatever grass type you choose for your lawn.
3. Poor soil conditions
Poor soil conditions such as thatch and compaction can also lead to the growth of moss on your lawn. Thatch is the hard layer of dead organic matter that forms at the base of the grass and inhibits the grassroots from absorbing water and nutrients on topsoil. Removal of thatch is done by dethatching.
Soil compaction, on the other hand, prevents the root system from spreading deep and wide, thereby leaving the grass weak and susceptible to elements. It is through this loophole that moss overgrows the grass and overtakes the lawn.
Soil compaction is reduced by the use of an aerator that harmonizes the top and foundation soil thus encouraging the root system to go deep and wide.
4. Too much shade
Trees, flowers, and other plants that overhang the lawn provide excessive shade that blocks the grass from accessing sunlight. With a lack of sunlight, the grass starts turning yellow and when this goes on for so long, the grass turns brown and dries.
The mosses, being opportunists, thrive in this unhealthy condition, and start spreading far and wide.
5. Improper lawn care practices
Some unhealthy lawn grass practices can also contribute to the growth of moss on the lawn. Such practices include letting the grass grow too tall; doing so encourages the overgrowth of mosses since the grass cannot acquire enough sunlight for its proper growth.
To rectify this problem, mow the grass only when necessary and always do it within the one-third thumb rule.
6. The wrong type of lawn grass
If you find moss growing on your lawn even after applying all the necessary healthy lawn practices and care, then the underlying problem could be in the type of grass.
Different grass types do well in different soil types. Unhealthy grass will be overgrown by moss since moss thrives even in conditions that do not support the growth of grass. Before planting a new lawn, soil testing is essential in determining the type of grass to grow.
How to Get Rid of Moss in your Lawn
Fortunately, moss can be killed using moss killers that are readily available from the local lawn supplies store. They come with easy-to-read usage instructions that when followed, moss should be killed within a few days of application.
Alternatively, you can use homemade solutions such as dish soap to get rid of moss on your lawn. Whatever killer you choose, it should be applied close enough to the moss to avoid killing the grass surrounding the moss.
The moss colonies should be dead within a few days after application, after which it is now time to scarify it. Scarifying is the process of removing moss pants from the lawn. This prevents the transfer of moss from the lawn to other parts of your backyard. For this reason, ensure to remove the moss plant from the roots to prevent it from regrowth later.
The best time to apply moss killer to the lawn
The best time to apply moss killer is in the late afternoon when the weather is dry and calm; at this time of the day, the sun is almost setting. This way, you can be sure that the moss killer will not be swept away by strong winds or evaporated by the heat of the scorching sun.
At the same time, nighttime is the best for moss to absorb the moss killer all night. But even as you do this, you cannot entirely know whether it will rain at night and wash away the moss killer. But you can increase your chances of doing it at the right time by following the seasons.
Any time of the fall season is the best time to do this since there is hardly any sun to evaporate the moss killer. Also, there is hardly any rain so you can be almost sure that the rains that would otherwise wash away the moss killer will not be coming anytime soon.
Can you apply a moss killer in the rain?
Applying the moss killer in the rain is wrong; the rain will wash away the killer even before it does its job. When washed away by the rain, the moss killer may find its way downstream and contribute to environmental pollution.
However, at the same time, some moss killers require you to first water the grass so that the soil can be moist enough to absorb the moss killer. And because it is not all moss killers that have this requirement, it is always good to read the instructions when using moss killers.
Should I kill moss before scarifying?
Yes, moss should be killed before it is scarified. When you apply a moss killer on your lawn, the moss dies from the flowers, stem, and roots. This is the best method since it kills the moss in its entirety.
Scarifying moss before killing it could result in the transfer of spores and once they find another medium on which to grow, they will multiply and carry on the legacy.
Reseeding lawn after moss removal will help to restore your grass to normal in a short period of time. If you leave empty the spots where moss has been removed, other weeds can take charge and you will find yourself in a cycle of dealing with lawn problems.
University of Illinois Extension: Solving Moss Problems in lawns