Asked June 3, 2019, 2:41 PM EDT

Hi, I'm slowly introducing moss as the dominant groundcover in my shady backyard. I'm foraging the moss from other sites, then I'm tilling up the ground, raking away the debris (sometimes hand-pulling a few stubborn weeds), putting down compost, soaking it, laying the moss down, soaking it again, and then putting netting down over it to protect it from the birds. The moss is taking beautifully. But my yard was a weed farm before I tilled it up and I have a TON of weeds coming up through the moss. Right now, I'm not pulling them, both because they're under netting and because I'm worried about disturbing the moss patches before they're established. I don't use pesticides and am wondering if there is another solution to addressing the weeds. I have been considering putting down corn gluten after I prepare the soil, because the weed seeds getting pulled up to the surface after tilling have germinated yet--is this a reasonable time to use a pre-emergent control? I am also considering dowsing new sites in boiling water before I put down the compost. Would love any suggestions. Thank you!

Prince George's County Maryland

3 Responses

We recommend that in future extension of your moss beds, that you put down newspapers 3-4 layers, then put your compost on top of that and plant. We assume your compost is weed seed free. This should allow your moss to get established completely weed free.

For small/seedling weeds in the moss now, either snip them off low with scissors or weed very carefully. To weed moss, place your left (or not dominant) hand flat on the moss/soil so that the weed is sticking up between two of your fingers. Press down with your hand as you pull the weed with your other hand.

There are pre-emergent herbicides that may be helpful, but corn gluten is not an effective herbicide. It also serves as a nitrogen source fertilizer and, since the moss don't need fertilizer, the only beneficiaries of that would be the weeds.
A broad-leaf pre-emergent may be very helpful if applied in late summer/early fall to prevent the emergence of winter annual weeds, which will quickly overrun your moss next spring.


Thank you! Would you recommend pulling up the moss I have now, removing weeds from the moss spore pieces, and re-introducing them on top of the newspaper? It's a good amount of work, but if it will really successful, I'm willing to duplicate the work.

That's your call since you are "on the ground."

Consider the size of the job and how extensive (small and broken-up) the planting of moss is. Also, whether the moss is well established already.

To be sure our reply above was clear: the moss will go on top of the compost, which is on top of the newspapers.

You want the moss to be a fairly solid mass by the time the newspapers have decomposed and no longer provide a barrier next spring. Since it grows slowly, plant closely.