Almost every lawn will include areas of moss. The aspect of your garden, how much shade you have from plants and buildings and the soil type will all have an impact on the amount of moss that grows on your lawn.
Moss needs moisture to grow, so any areas that are damp and shady are prime hotspots for the green stuff.
To effectively remove moss from your lawn, scarify the area first. Scarifying helps to open the thatch layer of the grass, where the moss grows, and enables the moss killer to penetrate effectively. Apply an appropriate moss killer, wait for the moss to blacken and then rake any remaining moss out.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the steps you need to take to remove moss from your lawn and how to keep it at bay.
Why is there moss on my lawn?
With over 1,000 different species of moss found in the UK alone, it’s highly likely that you’ve got some growing on your lawn. Moss favours damp conditions, and you’re particularly likely to encounter it if you’ve got compacted soil, excess thatch (the layer of dead grass that’s caught under the lusher blades) and lots of shady spots.
On top of this, poor lawn care and mowing the grass too short can give moss the edge it needs to thrive.
If you’ve got a lush, healthy lawn, the chances are that moss won’t prove to be too much of a problem. When grass is weaker, caused by under or over mowing, a shady location or poor soil, then moss can take hold.
The main reasons for moss growth are:
- Areas of shade
- Poor, acidic or compacted soil
- Thin, patchy grass cover or areas of worn grass
- Damp conditions
- Mowing the lawn too short or infrequent mowing that cuts too much off the grass causing the grass to become stressed
- Poor lawn care
Is moss bad for grass?
Moss isn’t a parasitic plant and it won’t harm grass, but it’s an opportunist and if the grass isn’t thriving, moss most certainly will. If you want a lush, green lawn, it’s best to remove moss from the lawn and encourage healthy grass growth so that moss doesn’t get a foothold.
When it comes to moss and grass, it’s a survival of the fittest situation. Moss has the growth advantage as it’s adapted to grow in poor soil conditions. It doesn’t need fertilising or mowing and it will happily take advantage of thinning grass.
A healthy carpet of grass will make it very difficult for moss to become established as there’s physically less space for the moss to take hold.
When is the best time for moss removal?
Although you can rake moss from a lawn at any time of the year, it’s advisable to remove it before it spores as raking out will spread the spores far and wide.
Moss spores in the autumn and again in spring, so for best results, you’ll need to remove the moss before it gets a chance to spread.
When to apply moss killer to lawns in the UK
Before you can kill moss, it needs to be actively growing. This is usually in late spring to early summer and again in late summer to early autumn.
For best results, and depending on how bad your moss problem is, you can apply moss killer twice a year. Once in early autumn and again in late spring to early summer.
How to get rid of moss in your lawn
When it comes to effectively removing moss from your lawn, there’s more than one way to do it.
It’s often recommended that you apply moss killer and then rake (or scarify) the lawn to remove all the moss. If the moss isn’t too thick, this may work but generally, the lawn moss treatment won’t be able to penetrate below the surface layer of the moss.
Most moss grows in the thatch layer of the grass so scarifying before applying lawn moss killer will open the thatch layer, giving the product a better chance to penetrate the moss. Read on to find out how to remove moss from your lawn and how to keep it under control.
Moss killers usually contain iron sulphate which has the added benefit of fertilising the grass. Moss killer will need to be applied to the entire lawn to ensure that nothing is missed. The iron will encourage strong grass growth, helping to prevent the resurgence of moss.
What You’ll Need
To effectively remove moss from your grass you’ll need the following:
- A sturdy rake or hand lawn scarifier will be suitable for smaller lawns, and an electric lawn raker or scarifier will make treating large areas much easier.
- An appropriate moss killer and either a sprayer or a spreader for even application.
There are 3 main types of moss killer for lawns:
- Liquid iron sulphate – Also known as ferrous sulphate and sulphate of iron, this is a high-strength product and is usually applied by lawn care specialists. It’s extremely effective and will get to work immediately. As well as killing moss, iron sulphate acts as a lawn feed, boosting photosynthesis. Liquid iron sulphate is mixed with water and applied with a sprayer, making it ideal for large lawns. Users beware! Liquid iron stains patios and the stains are extremely hard to remove. When diluted and applied with a sprayer, iron sulphate is considered pet friendly but it’s recommended to keep any pets away from the area during and just after application.
- Granular iron sulphate – This treatment contains a lower concentration of iron than liquid products. It’s better for domestic lawns and, like the liquid treatment, can be mixed with water and applied with a sprayer.
- Lawn sand – contains sand, iron and a small amount of nitrogen. The sand in the mix acts as a carrier and helps to spread the iron effectively. You can apply lawn sand using a rotary spreader.
Although iron sulphate is an organic product and not harmful to the environment, you can also make an effective natural moss treatment using equal parts vinegar and water and apply this mixture to the lawn with a sprayer. You can also apply baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) directly to the lawn as a powder, liquid or paste but take care with both vinegar and baking soda as they can harm the grass too.
When you’ve chosen your preferred moss treatment, you’re ready to go! Here’s how to do it:
- Pick a dry day to rake or scarify your lawn. Make sure you carefully remove the loosened moss and thatch afterwards.
- Apply your chosen moss killer using either a sprayer or lawn spreader. You’ll need to treat the entire lawn to prevent discolouration of the grass and it’ll also help to reach any spores or moss that has travelled around during the scarification process.
- Moss treatments work fast, you’ll probably notice the moss blackening on the same day that you apply the treatment.
- When the moss has died back, usually after a week, it’s time to scarify again.
- If you need to reseed, now is the time to do so.
How to control moss and keep your lawn healthy
Once you’ve effectively removed the moss from your lawn, you should notice your grass greening up beautifully. Applying iron sulphate to your lawn throughout the year will help to keep moss under control, as well as helping the grass to thrive. Too much iron sulphate will blacken grass, so take care to use it sparingly. Applying it in the cooler months of the year when the ground holds more moisture is beneficial.
Keeping a lawn healthy requires dedication. A weekly mow during the growing season should be enough to keep a well-established lawn in check, leave any longer between cuts and you risk damaging the grass.
Taking good care of your lawn after moss treatment will really pay off, moss will struggle to get a foothold in a lush, thick lawn.
Alternatives if nothing works
If despite your best efforts, you just can’t remove all the moss from your lawn, there are some alternatives. Moss lawns are growing in popularity and it’s easy to see why. They don’t need mowing, they’re incredibly low maintenance and they’re gorgeously green. Mosses also provide an important part of a biodiverse habitat and are home to the weird and wonderful tardigrades.
Although a moss lawn is definitely an easier option than a grass one, it won’t be a suitable surface for lots of footfall. Moss is easily removed as it doesn’t have roots, so it’s not practical for a busy garden.
If your garden is particularly shady, or you’ve got extremely poor or compacted soil, you could try reducing the size of your lawn, making it easier to maintain. Perhaps dedicate a section of your garden as a mossy area and grow some shade-loving plants like ferns and hostas there too. There are some truly beautiful species of moss which will add different colours and textures to your garden.
Grassless gardens can be just as beautiful and functional as those with lush lawns and we’ve put together a list of grass-free garden ideas to inspire you.
Can you grow grass on top of moss?
No. Moss will prevent the grass roots from taking hold. You’ll need to remove the moss from your lawn, following the steps above before sowing grass seed.
What kills moss permanently?
Iron sulphate will kill moss incredibly quickly. Moss is a tough plant though, and you’ll need to ensure that you keep your lawn strong and healthy to prevent moss from making a comeback.
Will grass grow back after moss?
Absolutely! Grass will grow in areas where moss has been removed. Take care to choose the right type of grass seed though, if it’s a shady or damp area, pick grass blends that have been specifically chosen for those locations.
Does cutting grass too short cause moss to grow?
Cutting the grass too short causes damage to the blades of the grass, stopping it from photosynthesising effectively and considerably slowing its growth. It also provides more space for opportunistic moss to take place. For best results, mow your grass weekly during the growing season, taking care that the blades are set to a higher height during the summer months.
Removing moss from your lawn is worth the effort
If you’re faced with a mossy lawn – fear not! With the right tools and treatments, it’s possible to get a gorgeously green, grass-filled garden that you can enjoy all year round. Just remember to keep the grass well-fed and cared for to prevent moss from coming back. Removing moss from your lawn will require some effort, but if a luscious lawn is your goal, the results are well worth it.