Eliminating Moss in Garden Soil: A Guide to Reclaiming Your Beds

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to write about moss, which is one of the greenest plants in the garden. A lot of people call those two radio shows to say that these plants are taking over their lawns and gardens. “What can I do to get rid of all this moss?” they ask.

Here is what I always answer: Moss grows on compact soil, in shade, and where it’s moist. Any of those conditions will promote the growth of moss. Ignore the myth that moss means you need to lime the lawn. I talk about this in my book, Coffee for Roses, and it’s not true at all. Moss is happy to grow on alkaline and acidic soils.

The people who call me want an easy answer, but they don’t realize that they’ve invited moss to their garden party. They way lawns and gardens are treated will either discourage moss growth or welcome it in.

The traditional name for this group of plants is bryophytes. The growth of these plants often shows that a garden and lawn have not been cared for. If you regularly aerate, top-dress with compost, mow your lawn high, and fertilize it properly, moss won’t be able to grow on it unless it’s too wet and shady for grass to grow.

And speaking of damp lawns, most automatic sprinkler systems are set up in ways that encourage moss growth. If you water your plants more than once a week and don’t let the soil dry out, you’re inviting moss to move in.

Also, a lot of people haven’t noticed that as the trees and shrubs around their yard have grown, it has become shadier over time. This makes it so that the moss does well and the grass does poorly. Guess which plant leaves the party early? That’s right, your turf.

You can buy moss killer at a garden center. If you want an organic solution, you can rake the moss off the soil or make a baking soda recipe that you can find online. But if you don’t change the things that help it grow, like shade, water, and packed-down soil, it will come back quickly.

Do you really want to fight this pretty plant? If your yard is shady, moss might be the best plant for that spot, and you shouldn’t even try to grow grass there. Moss is green 12 months a year and you don’t have to mow or fertilize it. In fact, I think the lawn care industry has made people think that moss is bad because there are more products that can be sold to keep lawns healthy and free of weeds than ones that can be sold to let moss grow naturally.

Moss is a fascinating plant. Bryophyta is made up of about 12,000 species that do well in a wide range of conditions and environments. Although mosses photosynthesize like other plants, they lack roots, stems and flowers. And you have to admire a plant that obtains nutrients solely from sunlight and rainwater.

I think moss is a stylishly dressed guest who converses beautifully with the other invitees in Nature’s celebration. I don’t think of moss as an unwanted guest at outdoor events; I see it as an important guest. You want to get rid of moss? WHY???.

As a gardener, I know how frustrating it can be to see a blanket of moss creeping over the soil in your flower and vegetable beds. While mosses make great groundcovers in some situations, more often than not they are an unwelcome sight, stealing water and nutrients from your precious plants.

If moss has taken up residence in your garden beds, don’t despair. With some perseverance and a few simple techniques, you can banish moss and restore your soil’s health. Here are my top tips for getting rid of moss in garden soil.

Remove Surface Growth

The first step is manually removing established moss growth. In most cases, moss only grows on the soil surface and has no true root system. This makes it fairly easy to eliminate.

Use a hoe, stiff broom, or garden rake to gently scrape and lift the moss away. Take care not to dig too deep and disturb plant roots. Target only the top 1-2 inches where the moss is present.

Dispose of the moss debris in the trash or compost – don’t leave it sitting on the soil surface where it can re-establish. Repeat scraping every few weeks until moss regrowth is under control.

Improve Drainage

Excess moisture is one of the main triggers for moss growth in garden beds. Improving drainage makes the soil environment less hospitable.

  • Incorporate organic matter like compost to improve soil structure. This creates more air pockets for better drainage.

  • Consider adding a thin layer of coarse sand or small gravel. These larger particles improve drainage between soil particles.

  • Check that beds slope slightly to shed excess water. Level or depressions can lead to puddling.

  • Make sure beds aren’t crowded. Space plants appropriately to allow air circulation.

  • Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation to precisely deliver water to plant roots without oversaturating the entire bed.

  • Let beds dry out between waterings. Established plants can tolerate some drought stress.

Raise Soil pH

Moss thrives in acidic conditions below pH 6. Most vegetables, annuals, and perennials prefer a slightly acidic to neutral pH around 6.5-7.0.

Test your soil pH and adjust as needed by working in dolomitic lime. Lime raises pH gradually as it dissolves into the soil over months. Re-test pH every few seasons to maintain the ideal range.

Wood ash can also be used to raise pH but is less predictable. Use no more than 1-2 cups per 100 square feet and retest pH before adding more.

Remove Shade and Increase Light

Moss flourishes in dark, heavily shaded areas under trees or shrubs. Prune back overhanging branches to allow more sunlight to reach the soil.

For small trees and shrubs, trim branches up from the base to raise the canopy. For larger trees, selectively thin inner branches to let light filter through.

If tree removal is an option, eliminating pines and other dense evergreens can make a dramatic difference in moss growth by increasing sun exposure.

Apply Moss Control Products

For severe moss problems, specialty moss control products can help kill and prevent regrowth. Look for products containing ferrous sulfate, ferric sulfate, or potassium salts of fatty acids. Always follow label directions carefully.

Sprinkle granular products over the soil surface. Reapply every 2-3 months initially. Liquid moss killers can be sprayed but must contact moss directly to be effective. Avoid plant leaves and roots when applying.

These products work by drying out moss tissues. Watering immediately after application will reduce effectiveness.

Out-Compete with Ground Covers

Once moss is under control, plant spreading groundcovers to occupy the soil surface and prevent moss regrowth. Choose low-growing perennials that can tolerate similar conditions.

Good options include ajuga, sedum, thyme, vinca minor, liriope, and creeping phlox. Maintain dense coverage by dividing overgrown clumps every 2-3 years.

Annuals can provide a colorful temporary solution. Sweet alyssum, dianthus, portulaca, and verbena grow quickly to choke out light-blocking moss.

Stay Vigilant

Be prepared to spot-treat any moss resurgence quickly to prevent it recolonizing your garden beds. Don’t allow moss mats to re-establish or removing it becomes much more difficult.

Check areas near water sources regularly where splashback can spread moss spores. Hot spots under trees or beside foundations may need extra attention.

With some persistence and care, you can reclaim your soil and grow a thriving moss-free garden. Don’t become discouraged if some moss remnants persist – just stay on top of removal and keep making your beds as inhospitable to moss as possible.

Common Moss Control Mistakes

When battling moss, beware of these common pitfalls:

  • Pulling moss out by hand. This often fails to remove the entire plant and leaves behind stems and growth buds which quickly resprout. Scraping is more effective.

  • Adding nitrogen fertilizer. While plants need adequate nitrogen, too much can encourage moss growth by causing excessive lush foliage growth and shading the soil.

  • Using weed killers containing dicamba or 2,4-D. These broadleaf herbicides can kill moss but typically injure ornamentals, vegetables, and turf grass too. Stick to moss-specific products.

  • Allowing moss debris to remain on site. Always dispose of scraped moss – leaving it on soil, paths or under plants provides spores access to recolonize the area.

  • Compacting soil. This inhibits drainage and creates prime moss habitat. Loosen soil regularly with a fork and avoid walking on beds when wet.

  • Overwatering. Let soil dry out between waterings whenever possible to deprive moss of the constantly damp conditions it depends on.

With persistence and care in adjusting your garden conditions, you can reclaim your beds from a moss invasion. Pay close attention to moisture, light, and soil pH for the healthiest habitat for your plants. Stop moss in its tracks before it takes over your beautiful garden. Your efforts will soon be rewarded with lush, moss-free beds for your flowers and vegetables to thrive in.

How To Get Rid of Moss In a Lawn Naturally & Fast – HOME REMEDIES


What can I add to my soil to get rid of moss?

Using a bag of lime is okay but powdered lime can take months to adjust the ph so we suggest trying Solu-Cal or Liquid lime which works much quicker and aids in getting the ph adjusted faster so the moss doesn’t have a chance to get back in the area.

What will kill moss but not plants?

You can mix either gentle dish soap or baking soda with lukewarm water to create an effective DIY herbicide that will kill moss. If you are using soap, mix 2-4 ounces with two gallons of water. For the baking soda method, mix 2 gallons of water with a small box of baking soda, the sort they sell for fridge deodorizing.

Why is moss growing in my garden beds?

Acidic soil, compacted soil, overly wet soil, and soil low in organic matter all help moss flourish, and all inhibit the best growth of your other common garden plants.

Should you remove moss from soil?

Generally, the reason for excessive moss growth in lawns is that the grass is struggling, normally this is due to poor environmental conditions that favour moss for example low light, excessive moisture or soil compaction. To keep your lawn healthy and growing it’s important to remove moss from your lawn.

How do you remove moss from a garden?

Moss uses rhizoids to anchor onto surfaces. The rhizoids are so thin that they do not even need the soil. They can anchor into mulch, stones, bricks, concrete pavers, and even the wood of raised garden beds. To remove the moss, use a hand rake (or fork) to scrape it from underneath. It lifts off in a clump or sheet, depending on the type of moss.

How can I prevent moss growth in my lawn?

You can also prevent moss growth through proper lawn care and creating a healthier environment for your lawn, such as raising the pH level of the soil and lawn aeration. Moss grows best in soils that are low in iron. Eliminate moss growing in yard by adding sulfate of iron or ferrous sulfate. Doing this can also be beneficial to your lawn’s health.

Why is Moss destroying my garden?

Moss, although visually appealing to some, can pose a problem when it starts overtaking your garden soil. It thrives in damp and shady areas, causing potential harm to your plants by competing for nutrients and moisture. Furthermore, excessive moss growth may indicate poor drainage or compacted soil.

How do you get rid of moss in a shady area?

Ensure proper water flow by incorporating organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure into the soil composition; this helps improve drainage while increasing nutrient availability for desired plants. 3. Increase Sunlight Exposure Moss thrives in shady areas due to reduced competition from other plants.

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