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.
- Your soil is probably too wet.
- Moss doesn’t grow quickly.
- Your garden is shaded.
- 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.
Moss is opportunistic but not aggressive, meaning 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. Your Soil Is Probably Too Wet
Moss is an excellent indicator of problems with your garden soil. It 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 pots, too much water may flush all the nutrients out of the soil and make it impossible for the plants to feed on what they need. Excess moisture retained in the pot can attract moss or encourage harmful microbes to grow.
In the garden soil, poor drainage may cause waterlogging, which can eventually create flooding or even attract harmful fungi. 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 one or a combination of the following:
- Aerate your soil. You can do this using plug aeration to create air pores and loosen compacted soil, allowing your desired plants’ roots to penetrate deeper.
- Amend the soil with sand or other materials that improve drainage. Garden soil overridden with moss must be likely to retain too much moisture on the surface. Improving the drainage capacity of the soil will not only rid of moss but also protect your plants’ roots from root rot.
- Adjust your watering routine. There’s a chance that you’re overwatering your garden soil too frequently, creating a conducive environment for moss growth.
- Use a moisture meter to see what the lower layers of your soil are getting from the top layer and adjust accordingly. If the topsoil is wet but the lower layers are dry, it’s likely because the topsoil has become too compacted, keeping the soil surface or the root zone wet for too long.
- Install an irrigation system. It will help you regulate the amount and frequency of watering, preventing overwatering issues. 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 potted and in-ground outdoor plants, and you can make them yourself.
This YouTube video takes you through a quick and easy approach to making 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 Doesn’t Grow Quickly
Although it may seem like it has popped up out of nowhere, moss takes time to grow. Although some species can take only a month or so to mature, many species can take up to 1-2 years to cover entire gardens. They need consistent surface moisture to thrive but can be drought-tolerant once matured.
Small patches of moss can easily be ignored or removed. However, if it’s taken over much of your garden, it’s best to understand the underlying issues in your garden soil’s quality. You’ll also need to remove the moss patches if they’re not in line with your garden aesthetics.
This timelapse video shows moss growing over a period of 50 days:
As you can see, moss 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.
4. Your Garden Is Shaded
Moss can grow just about anywhere, but many species especially love 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 the perfect conditions for moss, such as 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 water. 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.
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. Acidic soil has pH levels below 7, whereas alkaline soil is over 7.
Most plants like slightly acidic soil, at around 6.5 on the pH scale. The pH of the soil is essential, as it determines how many and what kind of nutrients your plants will be able to absorb.
Moss may be an indicator that your soil has a low pH, more around the low 6s or 5s, 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 that’s harming your garden. Instead, the moss is 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.
Shade is another factor on a 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 water problems, 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.
Improving your soil’s drainage capacity by working 3-5 inches (7.6-12.7 cm) of sand or other porous materials into the top 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) of the soil can provide a long-term solution to waterlogging problems. It’s also best to reduce foot traffic on your amended garden soil to prevent compaction.
Your Soil Is Compacted
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, but the moss isn’t the one responsible for killing your plants and vegetation.
Overwatering and foot traffic can make the soil become compacted over time. To fix compacted soil, you need to add more organic matter like compost to help loosen the soil up. Porous materials like sand and perlite are also excellent but can be costly.
If your soil has become hydrophobic, the water may remain on the surface. Adding a layer of mulch and watering lightly but frequently can eventually rehydrate and repair your hydrophobic soil.
How Can I Prevent Moss?
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, has proper watering, drainage, and pH, 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 scraping the mossy layer off with a spade or shovel.
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:
- Use a commercial chemical moss killer. Apply the product as recommended on the label. However, this may damage the other plants in your garden, so be sure to apply it locally on mossy areas. You may need to flush the soil deeply to remove the chemical before growing new plants in it.
- Use a homemade moss remedy. You can dilute a cup (250 ml) of 5% vinegar in a cup (250 ml) of distilled water and spray the solution on the moss to kill it. You can further dilute the solution by using a liter (0.26 gal) of water when using it on soil so intend to grow plants in soon. Check the soil pH to ensure it isn’t too acidic for your new plants since vinegar can lower the soil pH.
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 to moss, as they enjoy its aesthetic appeal.
On the other hand, some might not enjoy moss on 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 underlying soil issues, or the moss will keep coming back.