How to Deal with Moss in Your Lawn

A lush, green lawn is the pride of many homeowners, but the unwelcome appearance of moss can quickly turn that dream into a frustrating reality. Moss, those soft, spongy plants that thrive in damp, shaded areas, can be a nuisance to lawn enthusiasts. However, fear not! In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into effective strategies for dealing with moss on your lawn. From chemical control methods to natural alternatives and even embracing moss as a part of your landscape, we'll cover it all.

Understanding the Culprits Behind Moss Growth

The emergence of moss on your once-pristine lawn can be perplexing, but it's essential to grasp the underlying causes to effectively tackle the issue. Moss flourishes in conditions that are less than ideal for traditional grass growth. Shaded areas, compacted soil, poor drainage, and imbalanced soil pH are all factors that contribute to moss taking root. Additionally, overzealous watering practices and neglecting proper lawn care can create the perfect environment for moss to thrive. By identifying these culprits, you're better equipped to adopt the right strategies to prevent and manage moss growth effectively, ensuring a lush and vibrant lawn for years to come.

Chemical Control

Given the strength of some chemicals, it’s hardly surprising that they can provide the most effective method of moss control.

  1. Selective Herbicides: For those facing a stubborn moss problem, selective herbicides formulated for moss control are a viable option. These products are designed to target moss specifically while leaving the grass unharmed. Ferrous sulphate is a commonly used chemical treatment that turns moss black as it dies, making it easy to rake away. Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions and apply the herbicide during the appropriate season for best results.

    Ferrous sulphate, commonly referred to as "iron sulphate" is a traditional moss control solution. It is a water-soluble salt that contains iron in its Fe2+ form. When applied to moss-infested areas, ferrous sulphate performs a dual role. Firstly, it acts as a moss killer by altering the cellular structure of the moss, causing it to blacken and wither. This not only aids in the visual removal of the moss but also helps improve the overall appearance of the lawn.

    Secondly, ferrous sulphate also acts as a fertiliser. It provides a source of iron that can enhance the green colour of the surrounding grass, giving it a healthier and more vibrant appearance. However, ferrous sulphate should be used judiciously, as excessive application can lead to soil acidification, potentially affecting the health of the grass.

  2. Iron-Based Moss Killers: Iron-based moss killers work by altering the pH level of the soil to make it less favourable for moss growth. These treatments also help improve the colour of the grass, making it a two-fold solution. They are environmentally friendly compared to some traditional chemical options.

    Iron-based moss killers encompass a broader category of products that utilise iron compounds for moss control. These products typically include ferrous ammonium sulfate, ferric sulfate, or other similar iron-based compounds. The mode of action is similar to that of ferrous sulphate, causing moss to blacken and weaken.

    One advantage of iron-based moss killers is their reduced potential for soil acidification compared to pure ferrous sulphate. They often contain additional ingredients designed to minimise the impact on soil pH. This makes them a more environmentally friendly choice, especially when used in moderation and in accordance with manufacturer instructions.

  3. Copper Sulphate: Copper sulphate, also known as bluestone, is a common fungicide and algaecide that has moss-killing properties as well. It can effectively control moss growth in lawns and other outdoor areas. However, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind when using copper sulphate. Copper sulphate works by damaging the cell walls of moss, causing it to die and dry out. It's particularly effective in controlling moss in areas with poor drainage and excessive moisture. It should be mixed with water according to the manufacturer's instructions and sprayed onto the moss-infested areas. Ensure even coverage and avoid over-application, as excessive amounts can harm grass and other plants. Copper sulphate can be toxic to aquatic life, so it's important to prevent runoff into water bodies. Also, use protective gear like gloves, goggles, and a mask when handling and applying the product to ensure your safety. While copper sulphate is effective, it's important to note that it's not the most environmentally friendly option and iron based moss killers are kinder to the environment.

Be aware that some lawn treatments will stain paving, so be careful, during application. 

Control without Chemicals

It’s understandable that, if you have a pond or pets and children that use your garden regularly, you will not want to use chemical products to treat your moss. These methods can be just as effective.

  1. Aerate and Dethatch: Poor drainage and compacted soil contribute to moss growth. Regularly aerating your lawn allows air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the soil, promoting grass health. Dethatching by vigourous raking with a spring-tine rake, or removing the layer of dead grass and debris, prevents moisture from getting trapped and encourages proper grass growth. A mechanical sacrifier can be hired for larger areas of lawn. Top tip: Ensure that the height of tines is adjusted to be just above the surface of the soil, if they are too low you will damage your grass.

  2. Improve Sunlight Exposure: Moss thrives in shady areas with limited sunlight. Prune overhanging branches and thin out dense vegetation to allow more sunlight to reach the grass. This not only discourages moss but also benefits the overall health of your lawn.

  3. Adjust Watering Practices: Moss loves moisture, so adjusting your watering routine can make a difference. Water your lawn early in the morning to allow ample time for the grass to dry during the day. Water deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth and discourage moss from taking hold.

  4. Use MO Bacter: MO Bacter is a revolutionary product in the realm of lawn care, offering a distinctive approach to both moss control and lawn nutrition. Unlike traditional chemical moss killers, MO Bacter employs a natural, biological method that not only eliminates moss but also enriches the soil and promotes healthy grass growth. This product contains naturally occurring bacteria that target moss and other organic matter, such as thatch, in your lawn. When applied, these bacteria break down the moss, causing it to decompose over time. This natural process is slower than the rapid blackening caused by chemical moss killers, but it has the advantage of being more environmentally friendly and promoting long-term soil health. It's important to note that MO Bacter's biological action takes time. Results may not be as immediate as those from chemical treatments. However, the long-term benefits for your lawn's health and the environment can outweigh the patience required for visible results.

How to Deter Moss in Lawns

  1. Proper Lawn Care: The best defense against moss is a healthy lawn. Regular mowing (but not too short), fertilising, and proper watering practices keep your grass strong, making it more resistant to moss invasion.

  2. Improve Soil Drainage: Moss thrives in areas with poor drainage. Incorporate organic matter into your soil to improve its structure and drainage capabilities. Avoid over-watering, which can lead to waterlogged soil conditions.

  3. Correct Soil Acidity: Moss prefers acidic soil, so testing your soil's pH and making necessary adjustments can discourage moss growth. Applying lime can help raise the pH and create an environment less favourable for moss.

  4. Top Dress in Autumn: Treating your lawn with some TLC in autumn pays dividends in preventing moss from forming over the wet winter months. 

Autumn Top Dressing: A Beneficial Strategy for Moss Prevention

As the seasons transition and the wet winter months approach, taking proactive steps to prevent moss growth becomes essential for maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn. Applying an autumn top dressing is indeed a beneficial strategy that can help deter moss and contribute to the overall well-being of your lawn. Let's explore why and how an autumn top dressing can play a crucial role in moss prevention.

Benefits of Autumn Top Dressing:

  1. Leveling and Smoothing: Over time, lawns can develop uneven surfaces due to factors like foot traffic and natural settling. An autumn top dressing can help level and smooth out these irregularities, creating a more uniform surface.

  2. Thatch Reduction: Thatch, a layer of dead grass and organic debris, can accumulate on the soil surface. Excessive thatch can create a hospitable environment for moss growth. Applying a top dressing can help break down thatch and encourage its decomposition.

  3. Soil Aeration: Compacted soil hampers water infiltration and root growth, providing an ideal setting for moss to thrive. Top dressing with well-aerated materials like compost and sand helps improve soil structure, promoting proper drainage and root development.

  4. Nutrient Enrichment: Many top dressing materials, such as compost, contain valuable nutrients that contribute to soil fertility. A nutrient-rich soil supports healthy grass growth, making your lawn less susceptible to moss invasion.

  5. Microbial Activity: Quality top dressing materials can introduce beneficial microorganisms to the soil. These microbes assist in breaking down organic matter, including potential moss habitat, and enhance overall soil health.

How to Apply Autumn Top Dressing:

  1. Timing: The best time to apply an autumn top dressing is during the early fall, before the onset of heavy rain and frost. This gives your lawn a chance to benefit from the treatment before winter weather sets in.

  2. Prepare the Lawn: Mow the grass to a low height before applying the top dressing. This helps the dressing penetrate the grass canopy and reach the soil.

  3. Choose the Material: Opt for a high-quality top dressing material, such as compost or a mix of sand and loam. Avoid materials that might introduce weed seeds or disease pathogens.

  4. Application: Evenly spread the top dressing material across the lawn using a shovel, rake, or specialised spreader. Aim for a thin layer—around 1/2 to 1cm —ensuring that the grass blades are still visible after application.

  5. Leveling: Use a lawn roller or the backside of a rake to gently level the top dressing and ensure it's in contact with the grass and soil.


Incorporating an autumn top dressing into your lawn care routine can be a valuable preventive measure against moss growth during the wet winter months. By addressing thatch, improving soil structure, and enriching the soil with nutrients, you create an environment that's less favourable for moss while promoting the health and resilience of your lawn. 

Alternatives to Lawns

If you find that moss on your lawn is a repetitive problem, it may be worth looking into finding alternatives to a grassy area. These alternatives could include:

  • Embrace Moss Gardens: Instead of battling moss, why not embrace it? Moss gardens are a beautiful and eco-friendly alternative to traditional grass lawns. They require little maintenance and can create a serene, woodland atmosphere in your garden.

  • Ground Covers: Explore a variety of ground cover plants that are well-suited to the climate. Creeping thyme, sedum, and clover are excellent options that can provide a lush, low-maintenance ground cover.

  • Add Paving or Decorative Gravel: If you have an area of your lawn prone to moss, then consider an alternative material such as a decorative gravel or paving.

For a selection of paving stones as an alternative to grass, visit Paving Superstore.