Does moss growth need to be controlled on lawns?

"By choosing aesthetically pleasing but environmentally sound alternatives to the classic American lawn, we can unite our environmental concerns with direct personal action. Indeed, we can draw the line on environmental degradation in our own yard. Understanding where the lawn's popularity comes from, how the lawn fits into the global environment, and finally, what changes we can make to alter its effects gives each of us the power to improve our piece of nature. We need not cease to love the lawn. By understanding how it does and does not work, we can adapt it to our time." (from Bormann and others, 1993, Redesigning the American Lawn).

The climate of the Pacific Northwest is favorable for the growth of mosses in lawns. During the mild wet winters, when most grasses grow poorly, mosses are able to establish (Cook and Whisler, 1994).

Homeowners are generally concerned that mosses will take over their lawns, out-competing the grass. In fact, moss is not able to displace established grass, but will take advantage of bare spots (Pennsylvania State University, Agriculture Information Services). There is also a perception that mosses do not belong in lawns for aesthetic reasons.

Mosses grow well under conditions that do not favor grass, such as high acidity, soil compaction, poor drainage, and shade. Therefore, controlling moss often consists of improving the conditions for growing grass (Cook and Whisler, 1994). Refer to Methods of Control for additional information on  how to control mosses in lawns. Also, when planning lawns for shady areas, it may be beneficial to choose a shade-tolerant type of grass. Consult your landscaper or local nursery for appropriate varieties.

An alternative to trying to grow a lawn in a shady, damp area is to take advantage of the existing conditions to cultivate a moss garden. Moss can create the effect of a soft, green carpet, and doesn't need to be mowed like grass. See Encouraging Mosses for more information on cultivation.

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