Yard and Garden: Removing Moss from Lawns

May 9, 2019, 9:00 am | Richard Jauron, Willy Klein

AMES, Iowa – Iowa’s plentiful rainfall the last 18 months contributes to growth of moss infestations in lawns. Moss thrives in damp and shady areas of lawns. Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach tell how to eradicate moss for home lawns. 

lawn with Moss by Graham.stock/adobe.comWhy is moss so common in lawns and gardens this year?  

Mosses are adaptable, opportunistic plants. They thrive in a wide variety of locations, but are most often found in moist, shady sites. The abundant rainfall over the last 12 to 18 months has provided favorable growing conditions for mosses.  

How do I control moss in my lawn?  

Mosses are common in thin, weak lawns. Poor turfgrass vigor is usually due to excessive shade, low fertility, poor drainage, compacted soil or any combination of these factors.  

Mosses can be temporarily removed by hand raking. Mosses don’t have true roots and rake up easily. However, the underlying conditions responsible for the poor stand of grass must be corrected to achieve a permanent solution.  

If shade is a factor, prune low-hanging branches of trees and shrubs to allow more light into the area. Plant shade tolerant grasses in shady areas. The fine-leaf fescues (creeping red fescue, hard fescue and chewings fescue) tolerate considerable shade.  

The best times to fertilize lawns in Iowa are spring, September and late October/early November.  Use a lawn type fertilizer. Apply lime to lawns only when recommended by a soil test

Compacted soils can be improved by aerating the lawn with a core aerator in spring or late summer. Core aeration should improve water infiltration and promote drying of moist soils.  

How do I control moss in landscape beds?  

Mosses in perennial beds and other landscape areas are typically found in damp, shady locations.  Mosses don’t harm perennials, shrubs, trees or other ornamentals. If their presence is objectionable, remove mosses with a rake or other garden tool. To discourage mosses from coming back, periodically loosen the upper one to two inches of soil with a hoe or hand cultivator. Cultivation promotes drying of the soil surface.  


Photo: Moss By Graham.stock/adobe.com

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