How to get rid of moss in lawns: Top tips from garden experts

Moss in the lawn with garden rake in the background
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After winter, or periods of waterlogging, you may need to learn how to get rid of moss in lawns. There are several reasons why moss might grow on a lawn, but most are fixable without you having to rip it up and start again.

It's important to use a safe and effective method. You don't want to cause more harm than good, by removing moss in such a way that you cause more problems for your lawn. Thankfully these lawn care experts have tried and tested methods on how to get rid of moss in your lawn ideas in a natural, safe and environmentally friendly way.

'Moss in lawns isn't solely caused by one factor but rather a combination of issues,' explains David Hedges Gower, chairman of the Lawn Association.

'It's often associated with shade or poor drainage, but these aren't the only contributing factors,' says David. It's important to recognise that there is no way of effectively eliminating moss permanently.

These methods are about removing existing moss and preventing it from returning as best you can.

How to get rid of moss in lawns

First things first, is moss in lawns a problem? In short, not really — it is more an annoyance that could spoil the look of your garden design rather than a massive issue, so don't panic.

In fact, according to the RHS, moss can actually be of some benefit. 'If your grass is thin or patchy, moss can keep the lawn green and soft to walk on, and it creates a valuable habitat for small invertebrates,' say their experts. 'Having a wide range of plants in your lawn increases its value to wildlife.'

That said, there are also many valid reasons why people look for ways to get rid of it too — plus, the presence of moss can point to some problems with your soil or grass that need to be dealt with.

Moss will not only steal some growing space from your grass, but it also uses some of the nutrients it needs. In addition, when the moss dies off in the warmer summer months, it often leaves ugly bald patches.  

Portrait shot of David Hedges Gower, a lawn expert
David Hedges-Gower

David is one of the UK's leading lawn experts, with over 30 years' experience in the industry. He is Chairman of the Lawn Association, an educational platform for homeowners and professionals, and founded the world's first lawn care qualification.

Moss growing in garden lawn and preventing grass from growing

(Image credit: Steven Morris / Alamy Stock Photo)

How to get rid of moss using tools

One method of how to get rid of moss in lawns is to rake it out gently. 'Moss is easier to remove when it's loosened from the soil. A garden fork or lawn aerator can aerate the soil, improving drainage and reducing moss growth,' says Jane Dobbs, lawn expert at Allan's Gardeners.

'By aerating your lawn, you allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the soil better. For thick patches of moss or to dig out compacted soil in mossy areas, you'll need a shovel or spade.'

'After aerating or removing moss, you can use a lawn roller to firm up the soil. The grass grows better when there's a level surface. When overseeding your lawn after moss has been removed, a grass seed spreader can help you distribute the seed evenly. These tools will vary depending on the size of your lawn and the severity of your moss problem. Having the right tools on hand can make moss removal easier.'

Jane Dobbs  headshot
Jane Dobbs

Responsible for leading the gardening team at Allan's Gardeners, a landscaping and lawn care business based in London. She has 10 years experience as a gardener.

Garden rakes leaning against a wheelbarrow on a green lawn

Using a scarifier is a highly recommended way to remove moss from your lawn. In smaller spaces, a thorough rake over will do the same thing (Image credit: Mateusz Sommer / Alamy Stock Photo)

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How to get rid of moss using prevention

Garden expert Fiona Jenkins advises against mowing your lawn too short, as this could damage the grass and make it more prone to moss. Similarly, don't allow your lawn to grow too tall, she says, as this will add shade to the lower blades and soil, which results in more moisture. And moss thrives in a moist environment. 

'Water the lawn deeply and infrequently,' says Fiona. 'Completing regular shallow watering can encourage shallow root growth, making the grass more susceptible to moss. Instead, water the grass deeply and less often to help promote deeper root development.' 

Finally, avoid excessive foot traffic. 'When the soil is compacted due to excessive foot traffic, this creates an environment which is favourable to moss,' explains Fiona. 'Try to redirect foot traffic where possible. Consider adding a path edging or stepping stones in high-traffic areas,' says Fiona. 

New turf installation around a new stepping stone pathway to a pebbled area and patio with steps

(Image credit: CBCK-Christine / Getty Images)

Top tips for a moss free lawn

  • Pay attention to shady spots: It can be hard for grass to grow well in shade. As well as pruning back trees or plants that are overshadowing your grass, when sowing grass seed, use a seed mix designed for shade and read up on how to sow grass seed properly. 
  • Aerate compacted and heavy soil: In gardens with compacted soil, either spiking the lawn with a rake or using a mechanical aerator will help grass grow well. 'If your soil is heavy, use a manual or mechanical hollow-tined aerator in autumn, every three or four years, which removes small plugs of soil,' advises the RHS. 'Brush a top-dressing mix into the holes, comprising three parts sandy loam, six parts sharp sand and one part peat-free multi-purpose compost, to improve drainage.' 
  • Reduce the acidity of your soil: Reducing the acidity of your soil helps to discourage moss. 'Apply lime, at not more than 50g per sq m (1½oz per sq yd), to slightly reduce acidity,' say the RHS experts.
  • Stop cutting your grass so short: Letting your grass stay a little longer can help promote good health and give moss less of a chance to take hold. 
  • Keep your grass healthy: 'With increased mowing over summer, grass may become nitrogen deficient,' say the experts at The Grass People. 'The best way to combat this is with a slow release fertiliser so your lawn gets all the nutrients it needs to thrive. This can also help prevent moss and weeds from establishing themselves within the lawn.'

FAQs

What causes moss in lawns?

There are several factors that can result in moss growing in your lawn. Some are temporary, caused by weather conditions, while others point to an underlying issue with your soil or ground conditions. 

In some cases, it might be the condition of your grass that could be causing the moss to take hold. Patchy or thin grass gives moss the space to grow so needs to be remedied at all costs. Long dry spells, too much shade, cutting your grass too short, too much footfall and soil that is depleted of nutrients can all be reasons for sparse grass.  

In addition, compacted soil and waterlogged ground can also cause moss to thrive. 'A waterlogged lawn will allow moss to grow and should be treated with a moss killer to prevent it from taking over your garden and allowing the lawn to thrive. 

'We suggest using fertiliser during the spring to help the grass recover from a wet winter. By using a fertiliser, the grass root system will also develop into a stronger network, which should make it more capable of withstanding future waterlogging,' advises William Mitchell proprietor of Sutton Manor Nursery.

Can I get rid of moss in grass naturally?

There are several methods that can be used for removing moss from lawns, some involve the use of chemicals, others use specialist tools and there are also ways that rely on a wholly natural approach.

When it comes to chemical-free methods, you will be looking at the use of tools or natural moss-removers — or both. 

'Moss can be removed by raking or using a powered scarifier, or by applying a non-chemical, bacteria-based moss remover,' say the RHS.

A lawn scarifier is a machine designed to remove 'thatch' from your lawn. This is a thin layer of old grass stems, dead moss and things like leaves. This layer can become compacted onto your lawn and prevents water and nutrients penetrating the soil beneath — they are available as manual models as well as electric and basically replace the need for raking. 

Do take time to research the best time to scarify lawns. 'Heavy scarifying should be done in March, April and September and October and lighter scarification can be done in February, May, and October too,' says David Hedges-Gower, chairman of the Lawn Association.

'Remove loose moss in autumn by scarification or vigorous raking,' say the RHS. 'The aim is to remove all the loose debris, but not uproot the grass. On a small lawn or if the moss is only in a limited area, this can be done with a spring-tined rake. For a larger area, you could hire a mechanical scarifier.'

Another natural approach is to use a non-chemical, bacteria-based product designed to add nutrients to your grass as well as removing the moss. 

You could try products such as Vitax Moss Remover (No Rake) available from Amazon. It feeds the lawn at the same time as containing natural bacterias that digest the moss. Do be sure to check the application instructions — some can only be used at certain times of the year and require you to mow the lawn, using the lowest height setting on your lawnmower before spreading. 

What chemical products will eradicate moss in lawns?

If you don't have any success with a rake, scarifier or natural moss removal products then you might need to take a harsher approach. 

According to the RHS, there are two types of chemical moss killer you can use: those containing sulphate of iron and moss killer combined with fertiliser. 

'Moss killer containing sulphate of iron (or ferrous/iron sulphate) can be applied in autumn or spring,' say the RHS. 'The moss will blacken after two or three weeks, then needs to be raked out.'

Moss killers that are combined with fertiliser can be handy in cases where the grass is not growing well. One such product is Maxicrop Moss Killer + Lawn Tonic, from Amazon. Designed to be used between March to September, it contains natural organic seaweed and ferrous sulphate and starts killing off moss within hours. 

You need to be really careful to follow instructions properly when using these chemical-based products in order to avoid killing your grass as well as the moss. Plus, you should be aware that this is only a temporary solution. If you want to prevent moss from returning, the overall health of your lawn needs to be addressed. 


If you are looking to revamp your lawn, you can also read more about how to scarify as well as when is the best time to sow grass seed – plus the best petrol lawnmowers for keeping your grass nice and trim too.

Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.