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All you need to know about moss

All you need to know about moss

Moss in lawns that is.
When people find out that my business is looking after lawns one of the first questions they ask me is, “How can I get rid of the moss in my lawn?”
The problem is, it's probably the most difficult one to answer. But here are my thoughts on it.
Thank you for visiting my ideas about moss.

  • Why do we get moss?
  • When do we get moss?
  • Where does it come from?
  • How do we get rid of moss?
  • How can we stop it from coming back?


Why do we get moss?

  • I consider that moss is a “big picture problem”. Moss will grow anywhere that it is allowed to. It doesn't put down any proper roots, just anchors. It just draws its moisture and nutrients from the dampness around it. Moss is a fragile organism that does not like to be disturbed. Hence the proverb “moss doesn't grow on a rolling stone”.

When do we get Moss?

  • Usually in winter, it has two seasons, before Christmas and after Christmas. It may well be growing at Christmas as well but we don't notice it because it's too dark

Where does moss come from?

  • Moss grows from spores carried on the wind. There are a lot of them around so you can't really stop the spores.

How do we get rid of moss?

  • You can't get rid of moss by using normal weed killers. The most common way of killing moss is to use Ferrous Sulphate (Iron). This desiccates the moss (dry's it out) you can see the moss turn black and it dies pretty quickly. There were more sophisticated methods of killing moss such as dichlorophene but this has been banned for several years now. There are some weed killers that are available to professionals. The biggest problems with the more sophisticated methods are that they do not give an instant result and the temperatures have to be warm enough for them to work. We used to use dichlorophene years ago but people were usually disappointed with the result because it did not make the moss go black as they were expecting and by the time the temperature were right the problem was not as pressing as they first thought. Apart from that dichlorophene cost a fortune.
  • As moss is a very fragile (I'm going to call it a plant) plant I believe the best thing to do is to disturb it by hard raking or scarification.

How can we stop moss from coming back?

  • As I say above this is a “Big Picture Problem” and you will have to do almost all of them to keep the moss in check.
  • First look at where the moss is growing. It will be thriving best in an area that is shady and damp. So think about how you can make it less damp and shady. i.e. should you have your lawn tucked right up against the shady side of a fence?
  • Ventilation helps (I don't mean just leave the back gate open). Don't have such high fences, use hedges instead so that there is a breeze blowing across the lawn to help it dry out.
  • Moss doesn't like traffic, that's why you don't get very much on a football field where you have 22 men running around in studs at least once a week. I'm not advocating getting the lads around for a kick about. But if you get out on your lawn and do a few jobs you will have less moss. (You don't get very much by the washing line). 
    I would recommend that apart from scarifying it in autumn you get out and give the lawn a good rake now and again. If it's dry enough to use the mower then do so by all means this will hoover up the odd leaves that are bound to be landing on it and make it look smart. Do not scalp it! It needs the blades of grass to pick up every bit of sunlight during the winter months.
  • Aeration, Aeration & more Aeration, this is really important. As I said moss does not like being disturbed. The idea of aeration is to get movement in the soil so the air can get in. 
    We are talking about the micro level here, we want to create fissures in the soil that the water and nutrients can move through and the grass roots work down into. Don't get hung up on “Hollow Tine” aeration, that's what they do on the golf greens. It's a great thing to do on a surface which is mostly sand, so you can run over it with the rotary mower and break those cores down. But most domestic lawns are just sown on the topsoil or lack of it. i.e. In our area its mostly clay. If you want to do this by hand I would recommend driving a fork into the soil and just give it a slight heave this will have the desired effect of causing fissures in the soil. 
    If you were a farmer growing grass to feed sheep or cattle you would kill it all off every few years, plough it up and sow it again that way you would healthy young grass that grows well and tastes good. 
    We don't often have the luxury of ploughing up and starting again so heaving that soil by aeration or slitting and reseeding is the best we can do.
  • If you can get the grass to grow well then the moss will not be such a problem. So Fertilizer is important as well. I believe in “little and often” is the right way forward. In the past Nitrogen was the answer and it's true that if you ladle on nitrogen the grass leaf will shoot up and grow fast. This does not necessarily mean that you are doing the grass a lot of good in the long term. Be careful or the grass will just grow weak and sappy and produce lots of thatch which will choke the swath and make a nice damp bed for moss to get going.
  • I think I've written enough about moss for today, you may agree with me you may disagree with me I hope you have learnt a bit. If you like this page please visit the Facebook page and make a comment or even press the button to give it a “Like”


  • Now let your winter of discontent be made glorious summer- call Tony's team - they'll come your way-some time in May-and your green green grass of home will be the envy of Neighbours - by Summer Time, when the living is easy.

     With apologies to Will Shakespeare, Tom Jones and others! 

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    Mrs J. S.
    Potton Beds

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    Mr K.C.
    Benington Hertfordshire

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    Mrs U.

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    Impington Cambridge