Gardening Tips ...

Moss in the Landscape : How To Kill It

Master Gardeners find a frequently asked question is how to get rid of moss growing in the landscape. Here on the Plateau there seems to be an overabundance of this invasive albeit pretty pest. Before you begin the moss battle, be sure you are willing to work long and hard to remove the unwanted plant. How to remove it isnít an easy question with a simple answer. Some folks will tell you spreading lime on moss will kill it. Others suggest shade is essential for growth. Get rid of the shade and the moss will die. Those who try either method expecting instant results are sure to find that our local hardy breed of moss will live in the sun and can thrive on the outskirts of lime piles. One other thing that newcomers to this game may try is Roundup or something equally ineffective. Save yourself the embarrassment of using any weed killer. Moss clearly doesnít consider itself a weed. Many make one unsuccessful attempt at fighting moss then just give up. Those unwilling to fight an extended battle may find it is easier to turn their grassy areas into rock landscaping and let the moss have at it. Success requires knowing a bit about the enemy and following a series of suggestions to retard its growth. If you do enough of the ďretardingĒ, you can eventually win out over moss.

The first thing is to know that in the spring, cute little hairs pop up all over the pretty emerald green surface These develop into the spawn that will spread downhill and move with the gentle breezes to populate new areas. Get started early if youíre a serious adversary of moss. Raking it away is good. Start with that. Then spray with a 50 percent bleach solution. Use a garden sprayer holding a gallon of household bleach mixed with a gallon of water. Apply this to moss growing on trees, rocks, roots, driveways, etc. Spraying it on grass areas that are over populated with moss may kill off the grass top growth. Established grasses will regenerate from the roots. (However, the bleach treatment can kill new grass.) The overspray from the solution will turn leggings and shoes a dandy pale shade of their former selves. If this bothers you, substitute ammonia or sudsy ammonia for the household bleach in the spray.

Moss especially enjoys living on rocks or roots just below the surface of the lawn. It also relishes poor soil. Removing rocks is good. You get points for that. Improve poor soil with fertilizer and lime. Be extra generous in the moss patches. Of course the lime thing isnít just an old folksí tale, adding lime is helpful if the pH level is too acidic for good grass growth. If you havenít done a soil test yet, the local extension office can help you out there. Composted manure or composted sawdust are good organic soil additives. A generous spread of raw sawdust goes a long way toward killing moss. But it is hard on grass. Wood ash is also a good deterrent.

Aeration also favors grass over moss. You could rent an aerator to pull behind a garden tractor. The kind that actually removes plugs is really good If you have rocky soil an aerator that has little rotating stars, causing a disturbance of the top inch or so of soil may work better Or build a fire on top of the moss. This actually works extremely well. Try this when you have a lot of leaves to burn. Most gardeners really donít like burning leaves. There are so many better things to do with them. But in the case of desperation, it probably would be okay. Setting fire to a fairly heavy mat of leaves will kill all the moss thatís underneath.

One other hint that can be added since you probably canít do the entire project in one session, start at the highest part of your problem area. Moss has a tendency to spread downhill.

Good luck. And if all else fails, just build a nice cool steam with lots of rocks and roots around it and enjoy the moss thatís sure to come.

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