Cornell Cooperative Extension

March 18, 2013

Moss adds to spring lawn chores

As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter, son-in-law and grandson live in Portland, Ore. Thanks to Skype, we are able to see and speak with them several times a week. 

My son-in-law has been keeping me up-to-date on the progress of the bulbs he planted last fall. I think he was gloating when he told me last week that his daffodils are blooming and his tulips are up and beginning to set buds.

I, on the other hand, can report that I have only three crocuses that are just peeking out of the soil. I have been inspecting the yard and flower beds frequently, as the snow has melted. Although the lawn may be exhibiting a hint of green if I squint my eyes, and there are some very green patches that look suspiciously like weeds, the only other green in my lawn right now is moss.

Moss is a small green plant that produces spores spread by the wind. It starts growing in the fall when the soil is wet and usually reaches a peak in the early spring. Because grass doesn’t grow during the winter, moss is able to get a foothold in lawns that have bare spots. It lacks true roots but forms a thick green mat on the soil’s surface in bare areas. Moss is likely to grow where grass won’t if the conditions are more favorable for moss than grass. It does not kill grass, but grass does not grow where patches of moss are.

If the amount of moss you have in early spring is minimal, you may be able to remedy the situation by de-thatching it while it is healthy and vigorous. If you decide to reseed bare areas, remember that if you have a low spot or poor drainage, you will want to correct that. Feeding your lawn in early spring is not recommended. It will result in lush growth of grass at the expense of the roots and will not help to crowd out the moss.

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