The Q&A Archives: Eradicating Moss on Lawn, Poison Ivy in Shrubs

Question: My lawn is covered 80% with moss. I have alot of shade trees and will not cut any of them. How can I get rid of the moss? Is there any spray product that will rid the moss? I also have alot of poison ivy mixed in with ground cover and shrubs. Will a spray killing the poison ivy kill everything else? I have an elm tree with its roots partly sticking up from the ground on the lawn. Can I cut these roots without killing the tree? If not, they will be run over continueous by the lawn mowerand fear they will be chopped up. Any solutions will be helpful. Thank you. Chris Pichon Hackettstown, NJ

Answer: Sounds like you have a challenging lawn situation! The presence of moss sounds good to me, actually - you don't have to mow it! But seriously, it's a sign that the soil is probably too acidic, compacted, poorly drained, lacking nutrients, etc., and even if you did eliminate the moss with poison and cut the trees, grass probably wouldn't want to grow there. I suggest that you have the soil tested and follow the recommendations for pH correction and nutrient balance. Your extension service can provide you with the information and test kit - give them a call at 908-475-6505. Also, Gardener's Supply Co. ( has a free lawn care bulletin that gives basic information for getting your lawn back in shape and maintaining its health. I can't say for sure what effect cutting the elm's roots will have on the tree. It depends on how healthy the tree is, and how big these roots are. Can you use a string trimmer on that area? If you can't avoid running over them with the lawn mower, and they will suffer injury anyway, and they are relatively small roots, cutting them completely may not be much worse. Yes, any herbicide you might use to kill poison ivy will also kill your other broad-leaved groundcovers. Poison ivy is hard to get rid of unless you are persistent about pulling out all traces of it whenever you see it pop up. One option is to clear the whole area and start over by putting down commercial grade landscape cloth, followed by new plantings and a generous layer of bark mulch. Hope this helps!

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