Preventing/Dealing with Algae and Moss in Residential Lawns
Moss and algae are primitive plants. They don't kill lawns directly, rather, they take advantage of ideal growth conditions and then take over an area. This might be related to our cultural lawn practices such cutting the grass quite short and/or low nitrogen fertilization. Other factors include too much shade, soil compaction, wet conditions due to poor drainage, poor air circulation and improper pH levels.
Moss and algae are objectionable because they interfere with the carpet-like appearance and texture of your lawn. Moss produces a fibrous, matted type of growth on the soil surface and produce reproductive spores, which are spread by wind, rain and traffic. Algae interferes more with the growing conditions of the lawn than by the appearance by forming a bright, green, slimy layer over the soil.
When this cell layer dries out it becomes a black impervious crust that impairs the development of young grass shoots and the movement of moisture, fertilizers and pesticides through the soil. Reproductive spores are spread in surface water or by the wind. Moss and algae don't appear in healthy, vigorously growing lawns. Their presence invariably highlights an environmental problem needing attention.
Moss invades when
- The soil is poorly aerated (i.e. compacted)
- There's excessive moisture
- The soil is too acidic and fertility is low
- There's shade.
Algae will develop when
- There's a wet, saturated soil surface (standing water)
- Fertility is high and mowing heights are low
- There's full sunlight
Moss and algae problems can't be satisfactorily managed unless the growing conditions for desirable turf grass are improved. Consider doing the following
- Maintaining good soil fertility to help improve the health of your turf grass and its competitive ability
- Maintaining good nitrogen and potassium in your program
- Improving drainage
- Provide selective pruning and/or remove dense shade to improve light. This may require removing some less desirable trees
- Planting shade tolerant turf grass varieties, if shade is a factor
- Reducing soil compaction with annual core aeration
- Improving air circulation by removing low-growing tree branches
- Correcting soil pH. Moss is tolerant of a wider pH range than turf grass and can grow in either acidic or alkaline soils.
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