Our Northwest

How to revive your mossy, splotchy lawn

Thursday, March 23, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

moss infested chunk of grass sodPopular Seattle Times gardening writer Ciscoe Morris can be annoyingly exuberant on TV, but his new column on moss-infested lawns speaks directly to me.

Morris notes that many here in the Northwest don't water our lawns in the summer, allowing them to go dormant, which is okay because they typically bounce back in the fall.

Yep, that's me. No sense paying high water bills if you don't mind some brownish spots June through August, and if you know your grass will turn green come September.

Truth be told, I also enjoy mowing less often. When your lawn goes semi-dormant, there isn't much to mow.

I've also been able to cheat because long ago we bought a high quality Toro mower that mulches the grass, leaving behind finely chopped clippings that nourish my lawn while reducing ground evaporation.

However, that practice has caught up with me. Morris notes that not watering makes a lawn thin out over time, allowing moss and weeds to take over.

rake and moss in wheelbarrowSure enough, for the past three springs, moss has covered my lawn like brown on a Frango.

Right now is the time to revive lawns, and it starts with a step that's counter-intuitive. I would have thought step No. 1 is "kill the moss."

Nope. Morris says to wait until the lawn dries beyond its soggy state, then kill the broad-leaf weeds. The systemic weed killer I use works best later, when it's warmer, but Morris suggests using white vinegar.

Step 2 also is not intuitive. He says to thatch the moss out of your lawn before Step 3 – apply moss killer.

Next comes the part I always skip: aerate your turf. Rent a machine that pokes holes and leaves turf plugs, which soon break down.

Last, spread grass seed over your existing lawn and try to rake as much seed as you can into the aeration holes.

I overseeded my thin spots last spring, then covered them with peat moss. That flopped. I watered those areas each morning, but I later learned that wasn't enough. They became parched. Grass seed needs to stay moist constantly until it sprouts. Morris also notes, grass seed that germinates on top of sod rarely survives.

Keanu Reeves, from Wikimedia.jpgIf you're like me, your splotchy lawn looks kind of like Keanu Reeves' beard because you've cut corners. Now is probably a good time to give Ciscoe's method a try.

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