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Darrell Blackwelder column: Moss is a problem in cool-season lawns

Moss is a serious problem in our cool-season lawns. The overabundance of cool, wet weather along with poor growing conditions such as poor drainage, low light, infertility and improper soil pH levels exacerbate the problem. Any one or a combination of all of these conditions promotes moss development.

Low light is a major culprit of poor turf establishment and excessive moss growth. Poor quality and thinning fescue turf occur in areas with more than 50% dense summer shade.

Judiciously prune shading lower tree limbs to increase light for maximum turf growth.

Replace thinned or bare areas under trees with mass plantings of ground covers if light cannot be increased. Mulch applications creates a natural area which is another design option.

Proper fertility and correct soil pH discourage moss growth and development. Periodic soil tests eliminate the guess work when applying fertilizer and lime. Soil testing kits with instructions are available from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service located on Old Concord Road. Homeowners are responsible for sending the samples to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. Correct fertilization promotes a vigorous healthy lawn which is the best way to prevent the growth of unwanted weeds, including moss.

Some homeowners have adapted moss as part of their landscape design and enjoy its carpet-like appearance. However, a moss-laden landscape also has its share of problems.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu .

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