Stopping Lawn Moss

stopping lawn mossWhile some people build their landscaping around moss, its presence on turf lawns is an eyesore. It’s also an indication that your soil isn’t providing the conditions your grass needs to thrive. These tips will help you get at the root of the problem.

Where Does Moss Grow?

Moss is much easier to get rid of than most weeds. Here’s why:

– The plant does not directly hamper the growth of grass, but it thrives in conditions that are poor for growing turf grasses.

– Moss has difficulty on sandy soils, but it grows fine on all other soils from loam to hard clay. It also has a hard time gathering on pebbles, hardscaping and tree roots.

– Moss spreads through rhizomes that move across the soil surface, following the path of runoff.

– These primitive plants don’t have a vascular system, so they can’t store food. Changing growing conditions even slightly can stop growth.

Soil Acidity

The most common cause of moss growth is soil acidity. Grass thrives in soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Moss grows on the surface, making pH less of an issue. However, it grows best at a pH between 5.0-5.5, both by increasing growth and hampering the growth of competing grass. You can check your soil pH using test kits available at any garden or home improvement store.

You can increase soil pH by adding lime or potassium carbonate. The best amendment will depend on the needs of your lawn.

There are several types of lime available with wildly varying strengths. For easy comparison, these adjuncts are labeled with a Calcium Carbon Equivalent (CCE) number. Pure calcium carbonate has a CCE of 100, while stronger alkaline materials have a higher number and weaker ones have a lower number. CCE ranges from 86 for slag to 179 for quicklime. Fine liming material will mix more easily with soil, making it more effective. Lime isn’t soluble, so it needs to be mixed thoroughly with the topsoil.

Potassium carbonate adds potassium (K) to the soil. It can be used to fertilize the lawn, but it shouldn’t be used if your soil already has a good nutritional balance. Unlike lime, it’s permeable, so it can be applied directly to the surface, soaking into the soil during irrigation.

Soil Compaction and Thatch

Moss thrives in wet soil, and that soil will stay wet if it’s compacted or covered in a thick layer of thatch. Heavy rainfall on compacted soil also washes away alkaline components from soil, raising pH.

As a general rule, thatch should be no more than ½ inch thick. A Billy Goat overseeder or power rake can lift the thatch layer. After removing the thatch, use an aerator to break up the surface soil and relieve the compaction.


Moss loves to grow in shade, but so do some grass varieties. Planting shade-loving grasses like St. Augustine, perennial ryegrass, poa bluegrass or tall fescue in shaded areas will increase ground cover. Don’t want to mess with spot applications of seed? Use a sun/shade seed blend when you overseed.


Too much water creates the moist conditions that moss needs to thrive, while too little will stress grass, opening up areas for moss to take root. Water enough to keep the soil moist through the growing season, and keep track of precipitation with a rain gauge so you can just enough water to keep the grass healthy.

Killing Moss

Moss leaves behind spores that can establish a new foothold after you’ve killed off growths. For this reason, it’s best to address issues that encourage growth before trying to remove moss from your lawn.

The easiest method to destroy moss is to use your overseeder or power rake to scarify the surface of moss-infested areas.

Moss can be killed by applying ferrous sulfate or potassium soap. These chemicals kill moss by drying it out. Keep in mind that ferrous sulfate will stain anything it gets on, including pavement, wood and patio furniture.

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