Learning to Live with Moss

Moss is a fact of life if you have certain growing conditions in your lawn or garden. Moss usually thrives in poor, highly acidic soil. You can love moss or hate it, but it's easiest for you and your lawn and garden if you learn to live with it.

My Moss Experience

After years and years of telling people to test their soil and then respond appropriately, I finally did this myself. I was curious as to why I had so much moss in the yard. I didn't do anything to encourage it, and I didn't have a particularly damp back yard. However, there it was, taking over the lawn, inch by inch.

It turns out, if you do a soil test, you can actually learn a lot about what you're working with! My soil test returned a pH level of around 5.0. That is HIGHLY acidic. Grass doesn't like growing in acidic conditions. Bingo! I found my problem.

I did a bit more research, and found that moss grows most happily not only in damp, shady, or humid places, but also in poor, infertile, compacted, sandy, acidic soils. That pretty much sums up the characteristics in my soil. If you have moss in your lawn, moss isn't your only problem.

If You Really Want Grass

If you have moss in the yard, you can get past it and get your lawn back. First you need to test the soil pH. If the pH is lower than 6.5, you'll need to add lime to the soil. Check with your cooperative extension agent for liming recommendations. Often, bags of lime will also have information on amounts to spread to raise the pH in increments of .5.

It can take up to a year for the pH of the soil to increase enough to take the next step, which is to plant new grass. In cooler areas, the best time to plant a new lawn area is the fall. In warmer areas, plant in the spring. Continue to monitor the pH and add lime yearly if the pH keeps dropping. Keeping the pH regulated will go a long way toward keeping grass and not moss in the yard.

Love the Moss

Moss is big business these days. You can buy "moss milkshake" which is a concoction of ground up moss that you mix with water or buttermilk and spread over the yard, or dead stumps, or anything you'd like to cover in moss. You can buy moss in terrariums, and moss from mail order catalogs. There are people who love moss.

I am one of those people. After testing my soil and finding out the reason I have so much moss, I decided to embrace it. We've had great results bringing our lawn grass back from the brink in most of the yard. A bit of moss in the corners wasn't going to hurt anything. I used the opportunity to add other shade-loving, acid-loving plants and create more interesting shade gardens.

Moss isn't an immediate cause for concern. Before going to great lengths to remove it, decide if you can live with it. It is, after all, green!

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