No matter where in the world you are located, moss will be nearby. It grows everywhere and it is not always a nuisance plant.
It can serve you well and your plants, even if you have no practical uses for it.
Once you know how moss grows, and the conditions that encourage it, you will be able to dominate your landscape. Keeping mold, fungi (including mushrooms), and algae away from your flowering blooms.
Moss will become your go-to garden alarm to alert you of problems in garden beds before they become a priority concern.
Continue reading to discover the practical methods to get rid of moss in garden beds and fix the problem(s) that brought them.
How to Get Rid of Moss in Garden Beds
Moss can be removed from garden beds by either handpicking it off, turning it over in the soil, or using a hand rake to scrape it out. Its anchors are shallow rhizoids that will be just beneath the topsoil. Prevent it from returning by amending the soil with compost, and cutting back overgrown plants.
1. Remove it by hand
Moss grows very slow and does not always get the respect it ought to. It is a plant but because it grows where we do not want it, some may (wrongly) call it a weed.
Moss is not a weed and it cannot be treated as one.
It is a plant and does not need much to grow. It also does not take a lot to remove it. It will take a while to kill it so forget the chemicals.
This is a species that outlived dinosaurs. Nobody EVER has managed to wipe it out. It gets controlled but it always returns when the conditions swing in its favor.
Whenever moss shows up in a garden bed, reach for a hand rake. If you do not have a hand rake, a fork will do the same job. Not a gardening fork. Cutlery.
Disposable plastic cutlery has numerous uses in the garden. Scraping moss from garden beds is one of them. Labeling plants is another. Use enough of them and you can build a small enough fence to keep cats out of flower beds, too.
Moss is small and it does not attach deep into your soil because it has no roots.
Moss uses rhizoids to anchor onto surfaces.
The rhizoids are so thin that they do not even need the soil. They can anchor into mulch, stones, bricks, concrete pavers, and even the wood of raised garden beds.
To remove the moss, use a hand rake (or fork) to scrape it from underneath. It lifts off in a clump or sheet, depending on the type of moss.
2. Turn the moss over to bury it
The moss may not even need to be removed. It only grows in moist soil when it has access to light.
Take away either moisture or light and it will stop it from growing. It will not kill it. It just goes to sleep.
Then again, that is what most chemicals do too. Put it in a coma. It returns when sunlight and moisture return.
For small patches, simply turn the soil over. Moss is a green plant that uses photosynthesis to grow.
Without sunlight and moisture, it has no energy source. Plants that depend on photosynthesis cannot grow in the dark.
Scrape the moss off the soil, poke a hole in the garden bed, bury the moss, then backfill the hole.
That is the easiest way to stay on top of newly formed moss growth before it starts to spread.
3. Mix in compost
A healthy garden bed should not have moss growing. When it appears, something has gone wrong.
Moss will grow in acidic or alkaline soils, but it favors acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 5.5 over alkaline soils. Very few outdoor flowering plants need that level of acidity.
Acid-loving houseplants such as rhododendrons and azaleas do well with acidic potting mixes in containers indoors or in hanging baskets. Outside in the garden though, not so much.
The majority of the best vegetables for raised beds prefer pH ranges above 5.8.
Finding moss growing in a vegetable bed is almost certainly an indication of a pH imbalance.
Compost is the solution for those. Not mixing in lime, Epsom salts (useless in soil with pH lower than 6.0) baking soda, or any other miraculous natural moss killer.
Compost is an organic soil amendment that has plenty of nutrients to correct acidity imbalances.
The correct amount to add depends on what you grow in the garden bed.
In a vegetable patch, the ideal soil to compost ratio is 80/20 – 80% soil mixed with 20% compost.
The maximum amount of compost should not exceed 30%, and that high quantity is only for garden beds in the ground soil.
Under 30% compost is enough to provide decent moisture retention but with sufficient aeration to prevent the soil from compacting.
Compact soil leaves it moist, which is why moss starts growing in (or on the topsoil at least) it in the first place.
As great as it is to grow plants, at some point, the growth must come off. Too much of a canopy will shade garden beds. Shade means there is less sunlight and that will starve plants.
The exception to that is for cultivars that do well in shaded locations.
Examples of those are the Virginia Creeper, Foxglove, Hydrangea integrifolia, and various other plants that are considered the best plants for north-facing gardens where there are only are a couple of hours of the morning sun, then shade for the rest of the day.
When sun-loving plants do not get sunlight, they do not drink as much.
With less hydration, photosynthesis slows and the plants’ growth becomes stunted. Then, the soil holds moisture for too long, eventually compacting.
That is when moss starts to spring up.
It only needs a couple of hours of some light and it does need to be bright. Shade is fine for moss to grow, so long as moisture is there too. It needs both. Not just shade but moisture too.
For garden beds to remain healthy and free from moss, sunlight needs to shine through the canopy and put some heat in the soil for the moisture to evaporate, or the plants to drink.
Sunlight is the fastest way to dry soil.
On moss patches around paths, driveways, and even properties, pruning back overhanging trees can be the fix for getting moss to stop growing on concrete too.
Do not neglect the pruners – or the long-reach loppers for the overhead tree branches.
Don’t necessarily throw your moss away…
Moss can be used in numerous projects.
Multiple species can be harvested and there are usually multiple types of moss growing in every area.
All in all, there are over ten thousand species. All in different shades of green and each having a different leaf shape, size, and texture. Some grow like ferns too.
For fun mini gardening projects, learning how to grow moss indoors from the moss harvested from the garden is one of the simplest projects to undertake that does not need much space or equipment.
A glass jar, some stones, sand, and sterile soil will get the process going.
You can use moss as ground coverings in glass bottles, over pebbles, in terrariums, aquariums, and if you know anyone with reptiles, bearded dragons, geckos, snakes, or fish, most will be glad to take the moss off your hands.
Frequently Asked Questions related to getting rid of moss in garden beds
Can moss be composted?
Moss holds a lot of water so it takes a while to break down and needs to be composted at extreme temperatures. In a compost pile, it will not grow, but once that is applied to garden soil, it can germinate once the spores get exposed to water and sunlight. If you have no use for moss, trash it.
Will moss harm plants in a garden bed?
Moss is not a parasitic plant as it does not need nutrients. It grows entirely with water and sunlight only. The damage moss does in garden beds is absorbs too much water causing the soil to dry out. It will also raise the humidity in crowded garden beds, and that can attract bugs.
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Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.