Like all lawn diseases and fungi, moss can be a real challenge to with. It gives your garden an untidy and messy look, it makes the lawn uneven and spongy to walk on and if you’ve had it once then chances are you’ll have it again. It’s definitely not something I would look forward to dealing with, but considering what it does to your lawn, I still think it’s worthwhile learning how to prevent it and manage it.
Below I’ve laid out everything you need to know about removing moss from your lawn to help you combat it now and in the future.
There are loads of different factors that can cause moss growth, which is why it is so common and difficult to deal with. But it is usually a good indicator of bigger issues with your soil such as infrequent mowing, acidic soil conditions, lack of feeding, insufficient aeration, too close mowing and over-use to name a few.
To help you better identity exactly why moss has appeared in your garden, I have listed below all the possible causes, factors and conditions.
- Poor grass coverage (patchy lawns)
- Worn away areas, especially in areas of excessive use
- Compacted soil
- Drought stressed lawns
- Infertile soil
Incorrect Lawn Care Practices
- Cutting too much off the lawn because of the wrong mower setting
- Cutting too much off the lawn because of uneven ground
- Mowing infrequently
- Not aerating and scarifying when required
- Improper use of fertilisers, or not using fertilisers at all
- Not repairing damaged areas
- Leaving leaves to sit on the lawn (Guide to Best Electric Leaf Blowers and Vacuums)
- Not de-thatching/raking when required
- Over-watering your lawn
- Shaded lawn, beneath tress
- Soil with poor drainage
- Poor air circulation
- North facing lawns
- Acidic soil
Ideal climate for moss growth – wet climate, excess rainfall, cloudy and cool summers.
Poor lawn conditions – long neglected lawn (lawn without regular maintenance schedule), hot and dry summers, and cool, dry spring.
Even though this list is quite substantial, maintaining your lawn properly, i.e. consistently watering, mowing, raking, scarifying and fertilising, is still the best practice for preventing the presence of moss.
Getting Rid of Moss
There are three main ways you can deal with moss on your lawn: scarify/rake the affected area, applying a moss killer before OR after scarifying/raking, or applying a moss killer both before AND after scarifying/raking.
It really depends on your situation what method you choose, some are more invasive than others, which for heavily moss affected lawn can be very beneficial, but for less affected areas, it may not be required.
1. Scarifying/Raking – Least Invasive
For smaller areas of affected lawn you can do this by hand with a spring-tined rake to rake out all the moss. For bigger lawns a powered scarifier is probably best (much easier and will provide better results), they can be purchased or hired.
Make sure you wait until April before you rake as this gives the weather time to warm up a bit. For the lawn to repair and recover quickly you want to provide it with as much warmth, fertiliser and moisture as you can. Which make spring the best time to do this, providing you also fertilise (it can also be done in August or September at the end of the season).
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2. Using Moss Killer
Make sure you apply a ferrous sulphate based moss killer and do so a couple of weeks, about 7 to 14 days, before you intend to rake the affected area. If the moss is still alive when you rake it, then you could spread it to unaffected areas, which would just cause more problems.
Also try to apply it on a damp day as this improves penetration and make sure you apply it uniformly across the entire lawn, otherwise you will create soil variations which can affect soil growth and can actually increase the amount of moss. I recommend using a hand held or push along spreader to ensure an even spread.
This time you would apply an iron sulphate based moss killer, instead of ferrous sulphate, to the remaining moss on your lawn after raking. This way is probably more effective as the moss will be much thinner now which makes for better penetration into the soil for the moss killer, killing about 90% of what’s left.
Make sure that you apply the moss killer straight after raking and clear the ground of any extra debris, which is easily done using a rotary mower.
For both of the methods above make sure you rake on a dry day, either in April or early May as the grass will be noticeably growing, or in late August or early September if you want to do it at the end of the season. Also, give your lawn a mow before raking as well to better expose the moss and to reduce resistance for the rake.
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3. Before & After Moss Killer
This should only be used in very bad situations as you’re putting your lawn under twice as much stress compared to the other methods, which will be really damaging if it isn’t really needed. The application before would reduce the moss bulk and the application after kills the majority of what’s left, so in the right situation this would be very effective and beneficial.
Make sure you wait a good few weeks in between applications, spray about 2 weeks before raking and 1 week after, and aim to apply them during cool and wet weather, otherwise you could start blackening your grass. Also avoid any moss killers with added nitrogen as the double application could cause a big jump in growth and disease problems.
Repairing Any Damage
It’s likely that there will be a few bare patches on your lawn after treatment, so you’ll probably have to do a couple more things.
First I would apply a fertiliser to the entire lawn, this helps the grass fight off the stress of raking and helps it against disease, and will also promote grass growth over weed growth on the bare areas.
No more than a light sprinkle of grass seed across the lawn will be needed to grow the grass back. If you’ve done a heavy de-mossing and de-thatching then it’s very unlikely that this will grow back evenly so like the fertiliser, I would apply this across the entire lawn.
If you’ve used an iron sulphate fertiliser then wait a couple of days after to apply the seed, but if you’ve used any other type then feel free to apply it at any time (preferably just before or during seeding).
Also to help with grass growth, if you haven’t had any rain in a couple of days then you’ll want to get the sprinkler out. For the seed to grow it will have to be watered properly until the roots are well established.
As I said before the best way to tackle and prevent moss is to keep your lawn in the best condition possible. The main things you want to focus on are mowing frequently, watering whenever the lawn needs it, raking, scarifying, aerating and feeding it properly, this encourages proper grass growth and helps it fight against not only moss but other diseases too.
In saying that there are a few other things you can do too:
- Thin out any overhanging trees to prevent shade on the lawn.
- When seeding or laying new turf in a shaded area, make sure the grass seed mix is specified for shaded lawns.
- On heavy compacted soil use either a manual or powered aerator as and when required. They remove plugs of soil which promote better air circulation and allow for fertiliser and nutrients to penetrate to the root system.
- Avoid mowing too short.
- If you have a very acidic soil then try applying garden lime to slightly reduce acidity and discourage moss. If you want to learn more about the Best Home Soil Test available and the benefits of testing click on my article – Lawn Soil Testing Advice.
Mulching your lawn is highly beneficial in keeping it healthy and lush, therefore limiting the ability of moss to take hold. There are many mulching lawn mowers on the market, to help you out below I have included a link to the best mulching mowers I have tested. On each review you will be able to see the pros and cons, who they are suitable for to ensure you choose the right mower for your lawn and circumstances.