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How to plant grass where moss is dominant?

Posted by
teagirlgarden NY
( on
Sun, Mar 26, 06 at 11:44

I just bought a house with a yard that has been neglected for a very long time. Before I even start thinking about planting a garden, the basics need to be taken care of (like drainage, leveling, grass planted, etc). My question is, how do I create a nice lawn, when the only green stuff that is present is moss? Can I put top soil directly over this compacted down moss? Or must I first till the entire lawn, level it with top soil, and then plant grass seed? It's a pretty big yard and I am trying to avoid having to pay for an expensive tiller. I need your advice!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How to plant grass where moss is dominant?

Moss is typically present when the lawn is shaded or the soil is acidic - neither condition is well suited to the growing of a lush, healthy lawn. If you have heavy shade, you may want to look into a lawn alternative, perhaps some sort of groundcover. While certain types of turf seeds are more shade tolerant than others, none do well in heavy or mostly shade.

And most turf grasses prefer neutral soil conditions. If your soil is acidic (a pH test will determine), a common method of altering pH is to apply lime - this will also serve to kill off the moss as well. There are other methods of removing moss also - iron is a common application (Lilly Miller Moss Out) or a few soap-based products (Safer's or LM Worry-Free Moss Control).

Once the moss has been killed the lawn should be thoroughly raked or dethatched to remove the dead material. You can overseed at this point. No tilling is necesary but you may wish to bring in some screened compost or quality soil to fill any low spots and even out the surface. This also provides a decent seed bed as well. Whatever remains of the existing lawn will grow through the soil - about 1/2 -3/4 of an inch is all that is necessary.

RE: How to plant grass where moss is dominant?

I've planted lawns from scratch after amending soil in the hot S.California climate. Now after years of lawn neglect in the Pacific NW, I own the lawn that the above poster described. It's a large lawn -- nearly an acre -- and has no sprinklers. This stressed the grass during the 2 hot months (Aug./Sept). Yes, I did lots of hand watering & moved a sprinkler around. Contrary to urban legend, you DO need sprinklers (and air conditioning) in Western WA, even if only occasionally. The person who landscaped this yard before we bought the house 15 years ago must have been a bit crazy to plant so much grass and not include sprinklers.

No one seems able to answer the question of WHY the moss needs to be raked out after it's killed (w/lime or iron - I like to stick with organics). We all know that raking removes most of the moss, but not all. Why not just leave the dead moss to decompose under a covering of compost and plant the new seed directly into that? If you say the moss needs to go because it will regrow, I don't think that's a good answer because (as I said) some of the moss will be left behind no matter how diligently you rake it out.

Please explain why the dead moss needs to be removed and also why the dead moss can't serve as good nutrients once it's decomposed.


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