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Tips to master your lawn’s moss monster this spring | The Compleat Home Gardener

The third week of March means moss is moving in to take over lawns, lichens are crawling up the trunks of trees and fungus are among us in many shapes and forms. Dampness is here with the longer days of spring.

Enjoy the early-blooming color from daffodils, Daphne and hellebores and visit a nursery if you don’t have these spring bloomers in your own garden. One of the nicest changes in the nursery industry is that you no longer have to go without if you never got around to planting daffodil bulbs in the fall. Small pots of dwarf daffodils are easy to find at area garden centers and these bulbs will bloom for weeks indoors or out. Once the flowers have finished you can remove the pot, divide the clump of bulbs and transplant theM – green leaves and all – into the ground. In last week’s column I wrote about the five secrets of natural lawn care and this week we continue with five more secrets to a better lawn:

1. Learn to master the moss monster.

Moss grows in acid soil that is damp, dark and of poor fertility. You must aerate more, add lime to make the soil less acid, fertilize at least twice a year and consider limbing up or removing trees to let in more sunlight. If you’ve tried all this and the hairy green moss still invades the lawn, consider throwing in the trowel and enjoying a moss lawn. No kidding. Moss is hip and sells for big bucks all over the world at specialty moss nurseries. Plus, a moss lawn does not need mowing or feeding.

2. Outline your lawn for the illusion of perfection.

Adding a strong border to frame your lawn will make it appear tidy, neat and under control. There are plenty of choices for borders from classic brick to rustic landscape timbers but purists will enjoy the sharp crisp edge achieved from using a half moon spade or edge cutting tool. All it takes is a recut every few weeks to keep the edges of the lawn from growing into the dark soil of the beds. Wasn’t getting more exercise on your New Year’s resolution list?

3. Sharpen the mower for a clean cut.

When was the last time you sharpened the mower? Nobody likes the look of a ragged cut and when a dull mower meets your grass it will tear rather than cut the grass blades. This leaves a dull, yellow cast to the tips of the green. Learn how to sharpen your mower blades with a file or, better yet, bring your machine into a professional now for a tune up and fresh blades.

Ever try to shave your own skin with an old, worn blade? Mercy.

4. Don’t grow grass where it has no business growing.

That means under the shade of trees, on slopes, in low spots that stay wet or high spots that never get water. It is not to good to fight Mother Nature. Grow groundcovers like vinca and pachysandra in the shade, use boulders and alpine plants on slopes, and level out your bumps and dips if you want a nice looking lawn.

5. Crowd out the weeds with fresh grass seed.

Dumping weed-killing chemicals on your lawn year after year is not good for our groundwater or your health. You will use a lot less herbicide if you spot-spray the weeds instead of covering the entire lawn with weed and feed. A few weeds in a lawn can be pulled by hand - a screwdriver makes for a great dandelion digger and there are even standup weeding tools that allow you to pull weeds with a lever at the end of a long pole.

Another chemical-free method of weed control is to have a lawn so healthy and thick that the weeds can’t get a roothold. In our climate the month of March is a good time to overseed old lawns. Aerate or poke holes into the lawn first, add an inch of topsoil then sprinkle fresh lawn seed onto your old lawn. In a few weeks the new grass seeds will help crowd out any young weeds before they can attempt a hostile take over.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her website, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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