Mosses in the Lawn

Mosses are common in many lawns this year. Mosses are small, thread-like plants that form green mats on the soil surface. Mosses are adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. Mosses can be found in moist and dry sites, sun or shade, and in acidic or alkaline soils.

The appearance of mosses in a lawn is usually a sign of poor growing conditions. Conditions that encourage moss growth include excessive shade, low fertility, poor drainage, compacted soil, or any combination of the above.

Mosses can be temporarily removed by hand raking. (Mosses don't have true roots and rake up easily.) However, the underlying conditions responsible for the moss development must be corrected to achieve a permanent solution.


Prune low-hanging branches of trees and shrubs to allow more light into the area. Plant shade tolerant grasses in shady areas. The fine-textured fescues (creeping red fescue, hard fescue, and chewings fescue) tolerate considerable shade. Shade tolerant groundcovers may be the answer if grasses don't survive.


Conduct a soil test to determine fertilizer requirements. Lawns should be fertilized at least once or twice a year to maintain a healthy, vigorous lawn. Add lime only when recommended by a soil test.


Areas that are constantly wet because of poor drainage may need to be regraded so that water will drain away properly. In some situations, tile drainage may be necessary to correct the problem.

Compacted Soil

Compacted soils can be improved by aerating the lawn with a core aerifier in the spring or fall. Core aerification should improve water infiltration and promote drying of wet soils.

The abundant rainfall last year provided ideal growing conditions for many mosses. Gardeners will need to correct problems in their lawn to effectively control it.

This article originally appeared in the March 30, 1994 issue, p. 36.


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