Why Does My Garden Have So Much Moss?


It can be a little scary to see lots of moss growing in your garden.  Seeing moss in your garden doesn’t always mean that there is a problem, but moss can be a symptom of an issue that you may need to correct.

So, why does your garden have so much moss?  Moss is more likely to grow in shady, damp areas with acidic or compacted soil.  Moss may also grow in soil with poor nutrient content, in places where other plants cannot survive.

If you want to kill moss or stop it from growing in your garden, there are lots of ways to do it.  Before we get to that, let’s look at what moss is and when it grows best.  Then, we’ll know how to kill or prevent it in the future.

Why Does My Garden Have So Much Moss?

To understand why moss is growing so well in your garden, it is important to know what it is and where it thrives.

What Is Moss?

According to Wikipedia:

“Mosses are small, flowerless plants that typically grow in dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations.”

Mosses do not have seeds.  Instead, they have spores, which are spread by the wind.  They often grow thick and form a dense carpet to cover the ground.  Moss has the benefit of retaining moisture and preventing soil erosion.

moss on statue
Moss can be used for decorative purposes if you like how it looks.

Moss is the main component of peat, which is often used in gardening due to its ability to retain moisture.  Moss can also be used for decorative purposes, as in an ornamental garden.

For more information, check out this article on moss from Wikipedia.

Where Does Moss Grow Best?

Moss grows best in shady, damp areas.  Moss soil that is acidic, compacted, or lacking in nutrients.  Moss will often grow in places that other plants cannot grow.

Since moss prefers shade, you will often find it at the base of a tree, shrub, or other plant with dense foliage that blocks sunlight.  Moss is also more likely to be found in shady areas near buildings that block sunlight.

moss
Moss grows well on the floor of shady forests.

Moss will also grow better during rainy, overcast areas where there is less sunlight and more moisture.  Moss has no roots, so it can grow in inhospitable conditions with little soil, such as on brick walkways or patios.  This gives moss an advantage over other plants with deep roots that need plenty of soil to survive.

Is Moss Bad For Your Garden?

Moss itself is not bad for your garden.  Moss will not kill other plants or cause disease in your garden.  However, if moss is growing in your garden, it may be a symptom of a problem that you need to solve.

For instance, if parts of your garden are too shady or too wet, then moss may be the only thing that can grow there.  Also, if your soil is lacking in nutrients or is too acidic or compacted, moss is more likely to grow where nothing else can.

Is Moss Harmful To Humans or Animals?

No, moss is not harmful to humans or animals.  It is not toxic or poisonous.

How To Kill Moss In Your Garden

If you don’t want to keep moss around for decorative purposes, then you will want to find some ways to kill it and remove it from your garden.  Let’s get started with how you can do just that.

Spray Moss With Vinegar

Although moss prefers acidic soil, it cannot handle extremely low pH, such as that found in vinegar.  If you spray a patch of moss with vinegar, the sudden change in pH will shock the moss and kill it.

spray bottle head
Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and spray it on moss to kill it.

You may need to apply vinegar more than once, but after the moss dies, you can pull it up and compost it or dispose of it.  Just remember that vinegar does not discriminate, and can kill your plants just as easily as it kills moss.  So, watch where you are spraying!

Pour Boiling Water On Moss

Moss does not normally encounter boiling water, and so it really has no defense against such temperatures.  Boiling water will likely kill moss in your garden.

boiling water in kettle
Boiling water is one way to kill moss, or any other plants!

Just remember that it will also kill your other plants, so don’t spill it on them.

Use a Shovel to Scrape Moss From Patios and Walkways

Since moss has no roots, it is easy to pull up by scraping it from the bottom.  If moss is growing on a stone patio or walkway in your garden, you can use a shovel to scrape it away and dispose of it.

shovel
Use a shovel to scrape moss off of hard surfaces, like stone paths or walkways.

Use a Rake to Pull Moss Out of Grass

This method also takes advantage of the shallow roots of moss.  When you rake your yard, it will pull up moss easily, without ripping out the grass.  Remember to dispose of the moss when you are finished raking.

rake
Use a rake to pull up moss from your grass.

Cover Moss With Mulch or Other Materials

Although moss prefers shade, it does need light to survive.  If you completely cover moss and prevent it from getting sunlight, then it will die.

You can use any of the following materials to cover moss:

wood chip mulch
You can use wood chips for mulch, but there are other possibilities as well, including compost.

Mulch and cardboard have the added benefit of adding organic material and nutrients to your garden, so those would be my first choices when attempting to kill moss by covering it.

How To Prevent Moss In Your Garden

Killing moss won’t help you in the long term unless you take steps to prevent it from coming back in the future.  Here are some ways to keep moss from growing in your garden once you’ve gotten rid of it.

Reduce Shade In Your Garden

Moss prefers shady environments, so anything you can do to reduce shade and allow sunlight into your garden will discourage moss.

One way to reduce shade in your garden is to cut branches from nearby trees, or to cut down entire trees if necessary.  You can always have them turned into wood chips and use them as mulch for your garden.

Sometimes, cutting down branches or trees does not help, or it isn’t feasible.  Other times, your garden may be shady because it is near a house, barn, shed, or other structure.  In these cases, you can try to plant shade-tolerant crops (such as garlic, lettuce, or potatoes) in shady areas of your garden that tend to get moss.

As a last resort, you can move your garden to a location with more sunlight, to prevent moss from growing in the future.  This will also give your other plants a better chance to grow and thrive.

Address Damp Areas Of Your Garden

Moss prefers damp environments, so taking care of soggy soil will prevent moss from growing in the future.

First, you should work to improve the drainage of your garden soil.  Usually, clay soils tend to hold moisture and drain slowly.  You can remedy this by adding compost to your garden, which will provide organic material.

clay soil
Clay soil tends to retain water and drain slowly. Add compost to remedy this problem!

You can buy compost or you can make your own from grass clippings, fallen leaves, vegetable scraps, and so forth.

Another way to improve soil drainage is to aerate your soil.  You can do this by turning the soil with a shovel or pitchfork, or by using an aeration tool.  When soil contains more air, water can travel through it more easily, improving drainage.

Finally, you can build a system of trenches and pipes to divert rainwater away from damp areas of your garden.

For more information, check out my article on how to make soil drain better.

Do A Soil Test and Fix Soil Nutrient or pH Levels

If your soil’s nutrient or pH levels are off, then it may be that only moss is able to grow in it.  The first step to fixing these problems is to identify them with a soil test.

You can buy your own soil test kit online or at a garden center.  For a fee, you can also send a soil sample to your local agricultural extension for more precise testing and recommendations.

For more information, check out my article on how to do a soil test and my article on what a soil test tells you.

Generally, your soil should have a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 for most garden crops (potatoes prefer soil that is more acidic, and blueberries prefer even more acidic soil).  A pH outside of this range means that certain nutrients will be unavailable to your plants.

If your soil pH is too low (acidic), you can raise it with lime (calcium carbonate).  For more information, check out my article on how to raise your soil pH.

If your soil pH is too high (alkaline), you can lower it with sulfur.  For more information, check out my article on how to lower your soil pH.

sulfur
Use sulfur to lower soil pH.

If your soil test indicates that there is a nutrient deficiency in your soil, then you will need to supplement that nutrient somehow.  There are many fertilizers with different formulations to supply varying amounts of the “big three” nutrients (NPK, or nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium).

For more information, check out my article on NPK ratios in fertilizer.

Of course, using compost made from vegetable matter and manure will also help to replace nutrients in your garden, while providing structure to the soil and replacing organic material.

Conclusion

Now you have a good idea of why there is so much moss in your garden, and what you can do to prevent it.  It’s time to apply your knowledge and get to work in the garden!

I hope you found this article helpful.  If you have any questions or advice of your own about moss in a garden, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jonathon. I’m the gardening guy (not guru!) who is encouraging everyone to spend more time in the garden. I try to help solve common gardening problems so that you can get the best harvest every year!

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