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How to Test Soil Acidity/Alkalinity for Moss Control

Post Date: May 30th, 2012


soil and grass


If you see moss in your lawn, this means that there are conditions that are inhibiting proper growth of your turf. In our previous post, we discussed how to get rid of moss by investigating and determining possible causes of moss invasion. We mentioned that moss growth is commonly associated with heavy shade, shallow soils, poor soil fertility, excessive moisture and acidic soils.


Soil acidity is measured by Ph level (acidity or alkalinity). Ph level is determined on a scale of 0 to 14, with 0 being very acidic and 14 being very alkaline. Generally, plants grow best in soil with fairly neutral Ph of between 6 and 7. When the Ph level of your lawn soil is lower than 5 (acidic), you are essentially welcoming moss to grow in your lawn. Therefore, it’s important to know the Ph level of your soil before you can go about improving the growing conditions for your grass.


To test the Ph level of your lawn soil, you can either buy Ph test kits from a neighboring garden center, or conduct a do-it-yourself soil test using the following household items:


- soil sample

- 2 sample containers

- vinegar

- baking soda

- water


Follow these steps to determine the Ph level of your soil:


1. Put your soil samples into the 2 containers.

2. In the first container, add one-half cup of vinegar. The soil is alkaline if the soil bubbles or fizzes.

alkalinity soil test

3. If there is no reaction, add one-half cup of water in the second soil sample then mix it. Then, add one-half cup of baking soda. The soil is acidic if it bubbles or fizzes.acidity soil test

Once you’ve determined if your soil is acidic or alkaline, you can make the necessary actions to adjust the soil Ph level. Wood ash or lime can cure acidity while sulfur or pine needles can remedy alkalinity. Remember that soil takes time to change so be patient and gradual when you make your adjustments.


We specialize in landscape maintenance and things like moss removal. If you’re in the Vancouver area and the moss in your lawn has gotten a bit out of control, we can help! Contact Deerwood Landscaping and we’ll send a lawn doctor over to your property ASAP!


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How to remove moss in your lawn

Post Date: May 29th, 2012


lawn moss

Photo credit: iJammin


Thriving moss in your lawn is usually a symptom of a bigger underlying problem that needs your attention. Removing the moss is often only a temporary solution because the root causes still exist and continue to make it easy for moss to return time and time again. The battle against moss requires patience and a thorough understanding of the conditions on your property that are leading to moss growth.


Determine the Cause of Moss Growth

To solve your moss problem, it is important to determine the reasons why moss is growing in your lawn. First, investigate the moss-affected area to gauge the extent of the problem. Create a checklist on which of the following conditions are present in your lawn.

1. Is the moss-affected area under a shade?

Lack of sunlight will cause grass to weaken and be overpowered by moss.

2. Is your lawn always damp?

Lawns with too much water or those in constantly damp conditions are always the most fertile environments for moss to flourish in.

3. Is your lawn thin and shallow?

Anything less than four to five inches in soil depth is not considered deep enough to grow and maintain healthy grass.

4. Is your lawn soil acidic?

Moss grows well in acidic soil. To know if your lawn soil is acidic, a soil test is necessary. Click on this simple do-it-yourself soil test to find out what your soil acidity/alkalinity is without having to buy a test kit.

5. Is your lawn cut too short?

Like shade, cutting grass too short can weaken it, especially when the plant is also under stress from other environmental conditions. Short grass in combination with shade can provide the conditions that make it easier for moss to take over.


Remove the Moss

thatching rakemoss removal through dethatching


After you have identified the probable causes of the moss in your lawn, it’s time to physically remove the moss. For smaller lawn, a tool called a thatching rake is enough to extracted the moss. For large lawns, a powered scarifier/raker will save you a lot of difficult manual labour. If the moss is severe, chemicals can be used but there are also organic alternatives available. If in doubt, it’s always best to consult a gardening expert to determine what will work best for your lawn.

After the moss has been removed, you’ll likely notice bare patches. This is okay, especially if the majority of your lawn was covered with moss.


Change the Conditions of Your Lawn

After removing the moss, it is time improve your lawn’s condition by addressing the factors that led to its deterioration in the first place. Assuming that you’ve already identified the causes of moss in your lawn, here are the solutions you can implement depending on your own situation:


1. Loosen your lawn soil.


manual core aeration


Aerate your soil so your lawn can breath. In reducing soil compaction, air can reach the roots of the grass and drainage is also improved. The stronger and healthier your grass is, the greater the chance that it will defend against moss outbreaks.


2. Reduce shade especially on moss-affected areas.


tree trimming


Reduce the amount of shade by trimming hedges and trees that are covering the area of your grass affected by the moss. The sunlight will keep the soil from staying damp and create conditions that are better for your grass to fight off moss.


3. Practice better mowing habits.


mower on lawn


As mentioned before, cutting your grass too short can stress it. Whenever you are about to mow your lawn, check the height setting and adjust it accordingly. When mowing, follow the one-third rule as it will aid root growth. Removing more than one-third of the grass blades may stress the lawn and hinder root growth, which in-turn paves the way for moss to return.


Determining the proper mowing frequency depends on how quickly the grass grows. Certain grass types require frequent mowing to remain healthy. Allowing your grass to grow too high prior to mowing may result in thatch to build up. During warm months, it is best to mow more frequently. In the colder months, increase your cutting heights to help photosynthesis.


4. Feed the lawn.

Like other living things, nutrition is important to your lawn. Regular and sufficient feeding in spring or early summer will boost grass growth. Consult with a gardening expert about suitable weed and feed products for your lawn.


You may also consider mulch mowing as it can reduce the amount of fertilizer you need to apply to your lawn. Mulch mowing is the process of mowing to create finer yard clippings that are redistributed onto the lawn. If you do decide to go this route, it is still recommended that you bag your clippings occasionally as one of side effects of mulch mowing is thatch development. Mulching is ideally done during dry seasons and after fertilization and lawn development.


5. Consider applying top dressing to the lawn.


top dressing a lawn


Top dressing your lawn will help stimulate new grass shoots and eventually aid in leveling out and removing dips on the lawn. Top dressing is a method of adding compost or other materials to improve existing soil composition. If you are not sure about your lawn’s soil condition, have a landscaping expert check out your lawn to determine what top dressing will be most appropriate for your conditions and season.


If you are you in the Vancouver area and would like a free consultation on how to take care of your moss problem, give us a call and schedule a site visit.


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Common Lawn Care Terms

Post Date: May 9th, 2012


A well taken care of lawn shows pride in homeownership and it also increases the value of your investment. A little bit of forethought in the landscape can go a long way for all types of budgets.


Whether you are considering seeking professional help or are interested in doing your own lawn care personally, it really helps to know the basics. Below are some of the most common lawn care terms you need to know.


1. Core Aeration


manual core aeration


Core aeration (cultivation) is the process of mechanically removing plugs or cores of soil and thatch from your lawn. This process loosens the compacted soil which then creates channels for oxygen, water and nutrients to better penetrate the soil, especially if your lawn takes a lot of punishment from either kids, pets or outdoor parties. Core aeration is usually accomplished using a lawn aerator with hollow tines. For narrow areas, hand lawn aerators may do the job.


Generally, compacted soil results from lawns that are exposed to heavy foot traffic. One of the tell-tale signs that your lawn is suffering from compacted soil is the growth of moss plants. Most people make the mistake of applying herbicides to kill the moss, but this doesn’t actually solve the problem in the long term. Core aeration may be the answer to this problem.


It is best to to aerate during early fall because the grass is transitioning from blade growth to root growth. Core aerating at this time really stimulates strong root development. Do not aerate in the summer because during this period, grasses are at peak growth, possibly coping with heat and reduced moisture as well, so aeration will add unnecessary stress.


Core aeration is usually tied to topdressing/mulching the lawn with some kind of organic material such as finely chopped leaves or peat moss. Faithfully topdressing the lawn each fall will be required in the first year or two. After that, aeration can be done every few years.


2. Dethatching and Power Raking


dethatching and power raking


Dethatching and power raking are processes used to remove a thick layer of organic matter made up of decaying grass leaves, stems and roots (thatch) that build up in between the lawn and soil surface. Dethatching and power raking are performed with the same machine. The difference between the two is the type of cutting knives used and how deep the cutting knives are set.


Dethatching is only recommended for lawns that suffer from an extremely thick thatch layer (more than three inches thick). When it becomes this thick, dethatching can be very labor intensive and can cause extensive damage to a lawn. On the other hand, power raking is a more gentle way to remove a small amount of thatch from the lawn without causing the same amount damage that dethatching can create.


The best time to dethatch your lawn is in late summer or early fall to give the lawn time to recover before winter. It is also during this period that there is less competition with a variety of weeds that germinate in Spring. Power raking is best done in the spring or fall.


3. Overseeding


overseeding a lawn


Overseeding is one of the most important yet overlooked lawn care tasks. In combination with power raking and core aeration, overseeding ensures that the lawn remains dense and thick. If you have a lawn that has thinned out or has developed ‘bald spots’, overseeding will revive your lawn back to a healthy state again.


The overseeding process compensates for the natural decline in grass reproduction and it will also help your lawn resist the growth of weeds. New seeds sown will have better disease resistance than those varieties already planted in the lawn.


It is advised that core aeration be done prior to overseeding. Usually, overseeding is done in early September or in Spring. Besides a generous amount of seeds sown, the secret to successfully overseeding a lawn is to keep the sown area moist. The overseeded lawn should never be allowed to dry until full germination of the seeds is reached.


If you have a property anywhere on Vancouver’s North Shore and are interested in professional landscaping services, call us at (604) 987- 1221 to discuss the lawn care package we offer. Karen can answer any questions you have.


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