Getting rid of moss on pavement and lawns

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Jul. 3, 2013
- Contributed Photo

Moss on walkways and lawns is attractive to some, and a nuisance to others. A nice brick walkway might look like a quaint English garden path before you walk on it, but it could well become treacherous under some conditions.

A little bit of green moss or algae is somewhat tolerable. When it fills every crack and crevice between those pavement stones, it rises to the level of being an annoyance. My son and I labored long and hard a few years ago to create walkways around our home with hexagonal pavement stones. But over time, in some areas, they were almost completely outlined by luscious bands of rich green moss. Not surprisingly, the areas affected were shaded most of the day, and, as a consequence, also quite moist.

Under such conditions, moss will thrive, even if the walkways see foot traffic. These walkways can become dangerous when wet, particularly if the pavement undulates or there are steps. There are short- and long-term solutions.

In the short term, scraping or otherwise removing the clumps and tufts of moss is only the first step. Blasting the walk with a stiff stream from your garden hose should follow that. I am not an advocate of power washing equipment, as it can erode pavement and damage lawns. Even vigorous treatment with a hose, though it appears to remove the green, is probably not getting the job completely done.

There is no shortage of home remedies. Many include vinegar and some also include the use of household soap. Of course you can also find commercial moss treatments (such as Moss Out!™) on the shelves of the local home or garden store. Most of these are not toxic to other plant growth. The key ingredient is ammoniated soap of fatty acids. The corresponding product for removing moss from roofs uses zinc sulfate. If you have read in this column about removing moss and algae from roofs, you might remember that one of the maintenance solutions is installation of zinc strips near the peak of the roof.

Use of an oxygen bleach solution, or a soap that contains it, after removing the bulk of the moss infestation, should put the problem into temporary abatement. Allow it to soak the area for 20 minutes or more, and wash the surface with your hose. This is a remedy that will not harm surrounding vegetation.

The use of chemical solutions, such as weed killer, will certainly eradicate any growing thing on or in between sections of your walk. But that is a drastic remedy. You will still have to remove the ugly brown mess, and when the chemical is gone the moss will return. Fixing the real problem is the best long-term solution.

Correcting the conditions that foster the growth of moss includes reducing or eliminating a shady environment, along with increasing the air circulation to reduce the amount of moisture in the area. Prune tree limbs over walkways to allow more sunlight to reach the pavement. Sometimes that requires removing the lowest limbs on trees, but it might mean taking out a tree (or two) altogether. If the grass near the walks is competing with moss for survival, it is a sure sign that the conditions are better for growing moss than grass.

The University of Connecticut's Home and Garden Education Center advises homeowners to take the long-term approach. "In general, moss control products may have immediate effects," they say. "But in the long term it is important to realize that killing or removing the moss and failing to correct the conditions that favor it will only result in its re-invasion."

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