A rolling stone gathers no moss; however, your garden, which stays in the same place all year, may be prone to some. Our first instinct as gardeners is to remove anything that doesn’t look like it’s supposed to be on our plants, but is this necessary for moss?
Here are 6 facts you should know before removing moss from your garden:
- Moss is not harmful to your plants.
- Moss grows in over-moist soil.
- Moss grows slowly.
- Moss loves shady areas.
- Some people make moss gardens.
- Most people remove moss from their lawn.
In the following sections, I’ll discuss these six facts in more detail so you can decide whether or not you should be trying to remove the moss from your garden. Afterward, I’ll further explain how moss comes to be in your garden in the first place, and ways to get rid of it should you decide you’d like to remove it.
1. Moss Is Not Harmful to Your Plants
Let’s get the most important fact out of the way first.
Moss is not necessarily harmful to your plants, soil, garden, or lawn. If anything, moss may be a helpful red flag warning you something is amiss with your gardening soil, whether sunlight, water, or pH. Moss in your garden doesn’t suffocate other plants or steal nutrients, and because of its rootless structure, it can’t take much out of your soil.
Before removing moss from your garden, you can rest assured you have enough time to figure out the best course of action because, and I repeat, moss isn’t harmful to your plants. Washington State University’s Benton county extension office labels moss as “opportunistic, not aggressive.”
This means that the reason why moss grows in your garden is simply because the right conditions were created for it to do so, not because it’s an invasive species looking to suffocate or steal nutrients from your plants.
2. Moss Grows in Over-Moist Soil
As I mentioned above, moss can indicate something amiss in your soil. Moss may be telling you that your soil is over-moist, and it’s time to switch up your watering routines.
Soil with too much moisture attracts moss, but it can also be detrimental to your plants. In garden pots, it may flush out all the nutrients out of the soil and make it impossible for the plants to feed on what they need.
In gardens, it may cause waterlogging, which can eventually create flooding or even attract molds. This can lead to flooded out seeds or destroyed crops.
To support a garden with excessive moisture, there are a few approaches you can try. You can:
- Apply a layer of mulch.
- Create an irrigation system.
- Review your watering routines.
- Check your soil with a moisture meter.
Picking one or multiple of these strategies will help you maintain a balanced moisture level.
Applying a layer of mulch will help soak up excess moisture in your soil. This can be particularly helpful if you live in a climate with lots of rain or humidity. Re-evaluating your watering routines can also be helpful. You can use a moisture meter to see what the lower layers of your soil are getting from the top layer and adjust accordingly. You may just be watering too often.
The above are quick fixes, but you can invest in a drainage system for your garden for the best long-term results. An irrigation system may sound like it’s out of the question due to the amount of funds and effort it requires; however, it can work for both indoor and outdoor gardens, and you can make them yourself.
This YouTube video takes you through a quick and easy approach to make an irrigation system for your garden:
You can also buy an irrigation system online or in a gardening store, and if you’re willing to put them together, they will help eradicate overwatering or underwatering. If the DIY route isn’t for you, professional companies can install one, too.
Irrigation systems ensure you’re not giving your plants too much or too little water. As a result, your garden or lawn will be a less attractive landing spot for moss spores.
3. Moss Grows Slowly
Although it may seem like it has popped up out of nowhere, moss takes time to grow. This timelapse video shows moss growing over a period of fifty days:
As you can see, it doesn’t just appear overnight. If you’re starting to notice larger patches now, you’ve probably had a moss problem for a while. As mentioned above, moss is opportunistic and likes to grow where other species haven’t.
You don’t have to worry about moss growing to the point where it takes over the whole ground. However, any space (or plant) that hasn’t been affected yet may eventually grow moss on it.
4. Moss Loves Shady Areas
Moss can grow just about anywhere, but it especially loves dark areas. You may have noticed that the particular patches in your garden that get mossy lack a lot of direct sunlight or are even under the shade of some nearby trees.
Shade and sunlight can be challenging factors to work with because we have little control over what grows where. However, what you can take away from this fact is that doubling down on moisture-wicking approaches in shaded areas might be essential.
5. Some People Make Moss Gardens
You might be looking up how to get rid of moss in your garden…but did you know some people create entire gardens out of moss?
This YouTube video takes you through the process of one gardener making their moss garden:
Moss is a trendy plant, with some using it as a centerpiece or shower mat. Therefore, before you get rid of yours, you might want to consider saving a little bit for another project.
Here are two YouTube videos on how to grow an indoor live moss garden and how to create a living moss bath mat:
Still intrigued by the moss garden mentioned above?
Moss is a low-maintenance addition to any landscape. It’s not harmful to plants or vegetation; rather, it takes over a spot where nothing else is growing. For this reason, you might consider adding it to those empty spaces or simply letting it be as a welcome addition to your garden.
If you like what you saw in the moss garden video, you can convert the section of your garden that has moss into a garden of its own. This would be an especially innovative way to deal with your moss if the section in question seems to have low light, low pH, and high moisture no matter what you do.
6. Most People Remove Moss From Their Lawn
Moss in the garden is one thing, but moss on a lawn may be another.
Most people end up removing moss from their lawn, not necessarily because it’s harmful, but because it can be an eyesore. When someone is looking for a full, lush backyard lawn, they may not be interested in adding or keeping any moss. Moss can make a lawn look patchy or discolored, though the beautiful moss gardens I showed above may beg to differ on that front.
Additionally, as I’ve mentioned above, moss can indicate that something is amiss with the soil. In a lawn, getting all of the components as precise as possible is vital. You need adequate sunlight, pH, and watering; otherwise, the entire lawn may go yellow or die out.
Moss will sound the alarm that one of these factors isn’t ideal, and the gardener needs to figure out which one quickly. After the presenting issue has been fixed, the moss will probably go away on its own.
Why Is Moss Growing in My Garden?
So is moss good, or is it bad? Unfortunately, that’s one of the things you need to decide for yourself. One thing is for sure, though, and it’s that moss can tell you a lot about your soil.
Moss may be growing in your garden because of shade, unideal watering routines, or a low pH. Moss likes to grow where other species don’t, where there’s lots of shade and moisture. Additionally, acidic soil can sometimes create moss.
To reiterate, though moss itself isn’t bad, the conditions it grows in may indicate that something is off about your gardening conditions. Moss thrives in areas with low pH, shade, and drainage issues. Additionally, compact soils make the perfect environment for moss. Below, I’ll talk about figuring out whether this is an issue you might need to address and what to do next.
Moss Likes Low pH Soil
Soil pH is the measure of how acidic or how alkaline your soil is. The pH scale is 0-14, with “7” being neutral soil. Having an “acidic” soil doesn’t mean your plants are sitting in acid, and soil that’s “alkaline” doesn’t mean your plants are in the clear.
Most plants like slightly acidic soil, at around 6.8 on the pH scale. The pH of the soil is essential, as it determines how many nutrients your plants will be able to absorb.
Moss may be an indicator that your soil has a low pH, more around the low 6’s or 5’s, or possibly even worse. Soil that is too acidic grows moss easily and can be harmful to your other vegetation.
Soil that’s too acidic may become infertile. In this case, though you may associate seeing moss with your struggling plants, it’s still not the moss harming your garden. Instead, it’s moss giving you a hint that pH may be an issue.
You can measure soil acidity in a few ways. For one, you can gather a soil sample and send it off to a lab. This is one of the best options, as it’ll tell you about way more than just pH in your soil, and in the case that pH isn’t your issue, you’ll get some insight into what the problem actually is.
Another straightforward option is a soil pH test kit that you can get from your garden store or online. All you’ll have to do is mix soil with some water and then dip a strip in the mixture to get your results.
Moss Grows in Shade
Shade is another factor on moss’s checklist for the perfect habitat, and you can observe this one without any fancy tests. If you’ve noticed that the moss is growing right where a tree is or where your house throws shade over the garden, this may be the issue.
Additionally, some moisture meters have a “sunlight” setting, which can show you how much sunlight that section of your garden is getting.
Unfortunately, shade is a really difficult thing to manage. You can’t control how much sun your garden is getting, but you can control where you place your garden in the first place. If you’re getting lots of moss, and it’s not because of pH, compaction, or watering, then you might consider moving your garden to a different, less shady spot next season.
Moss Likes Moisture
Most often, moss grows because an area of your garden is overwatered. Whether this is because you have been watering too much, it’s a rainy season, or your soil is having a hard time absorbing water, you’ll need to take some steps to ensure your plants aren’t getting flooded.
Adding a layer of mulch or an irrigation system, as I mentioned above, is an excellent long-term option for helping your plants get the right amount of water. However, if this isn’t in the budget, you can just adjust your watering schedules accordingly.
Moss Grows Best on Compact Soil
Compact soil is hard to dig through, which is why plants have a hard time absorbing nutrients from it. However, if you didn’t notice it before, moss can indicate that your soil has become compacted, meaning you’ll need to take some steps to fix it.
Compacted soil has many adverse effects on the garden. It makes it difficult for water to get through to your plants, roots have difficulty growing, and beneficial microorganisms don’t like to live in compacted soil. These factors can make for an attractive space for moss, while killing your plants and vegetation.
Overwatering, foot traffic, and hydrophobic soil (*insert link here*) can become compacted over time. To fix compacted soil, you need to add more organic matter like mulch or compost to help loosen the soil up. If your soil has become hydrophobic, adding some nutrients can help. Additionally, ensuring you’re always using diverse soil mixtures means you’re less likely to have soil turn into clay.
How Can I Prevent Moss From Growing in My Garden?
If the moss gardens, moss bath mats, and moss centerpieces aren’t your thing, you’re probably ready for some tips on getting rid of the moss in your garden. Luckily, because moss isn’t an aggressive invasive species, it’s pretty easy to get rid of and manageable to prevent.
You can prevent moss from growing in your garden by ensuring your lawn gets lots of sunlight, proper watering, and is covered by a full layer of grass. If you have moss in your garden, you can remove it by simply raking through it or applying anti-moss remedies.
Preventing moss is “as simple” (I say this jokingly) as making sure your garden has the proper pH, correct nutrients, proper sunlight, and correct watering routines. This can be difficult to manage, and we’ll all make a mistake one time or another. If you have moss in your garden, you can count it as a blessing. It won’t harm your plants, and it’s telling you that something is wrong with your soil.
Once you figure out what’s wrong with the soil and causing the moss to go away in the first place, it’ll likely disappear on its own, albeit slowly. You can keep it where it’s at or get rid of it.
If you decide that moss isn’t for you and your garden, there are many ways to get rid of it. You can use solutions or moss killers, both natural and chemical, or just rake the moss up depending on where it is. To get rid of moss, you can:
- Rake it up (it’s rootless and shouldn’t disturb your soil if you take it or pick it up).
- Aerate your lawn for drainage.
- Use a chemical moss killer (though this may damage the other plants in your garden).
- Use a natural moss remedy (like vinegar, baking soda, or dish soap).
Remember, though, moss will just keep coming back if you don’t fix the issue that caused it in the first place. Take this opportunity to observe your watering techniques, the sunlight in the area, and the pH of your soil.
Moss isn’t harmful to your garden. Some even dedicate entire spaces in their garden for moss, as they enjoy its aesthetic appeal.
On the other hand, some might not enjoy moss in their lawn because it seems to take over patches where there’s no grass. Moss grows where nothing else does, so rest assured it wasn’t the moss that destroyed your plants.
If you decide moss isn’t right for your garden, you can remove it by using a natural moss killer or raking it. Be sure to fix the presenting issue, or it’ll keep coming back.