How To Maintain Moss-Free Surfaces

How To Maintain Moss-Free Surfaces

A Comprehensive Guide to Moss and Algae Control

Maintaining clean and moss-free surfaces in amenity landscapes is not only aesthetically pleasing but also crucial for the longevity and safety of various structures. Whether it's a patio, a tarmac driveway, or a roof, the presence of moss can diminish visual appeal, pose a safety hazard due to its slippery nature biologically degrade the surface and reduce drainage. On turf surfaces, moss can decrease the aesthetic appeal and functionality of the surface. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the importance of surface maintenance, introduce a range of effective products, discuss application techniques, and address safety and environmental considerations.

What are amenity and industrial areas?

Amenity refers to areas that are used for leisure, recreational and sports activities. It includes all kinds of non-agricultural land such as sports and recreational turf; roads and pathways; public gardens and parks; and woodlands. Industrial areas similarly include non-agricultural land but is used for the purposes of industry rather than leisure. It includes outdoor space around warehouses, factories, and other buildings as well as roads and railways.

Hard and permeable surface definition

The use of products such as herbicides and biocides to control mosses and algae is regulated under different laws which authorised products only for particular crops or surfaces and against specific organisms. This means that it is useful to understand what definition can be applied to any particular surface so that the products that can be used on it can be identified.

Hard surfaces: Any man-made impermeable surface that are not intended to bear vegetation such as concrete or asphalt.

Permeable surfaces: Any man-made permeable that overlies soil and is not intended to bear vegetation, such as gravel.

Turf surfaces:

  • Amenity grassland: Turf or grassy areas that are subject to minimal management including airfields, railway embankments and roadside verges.
  • Managed amenity turf: Turf that is frequently mown and intensively managed including areas for public use and sports turf.
  • Lawns: Closely mown grass in public or private gardens.

Importance of Surface Maintenance

Many hard and permeable surfaces in amenity and industrial landscapes, including residential gardens, public parks, and commercial properties, are designed to be free from vegetation. Not only does this enhance the visual appeal of the landscape, but it also prevents potential hazards such as slippery pathways and deteriorating surfaces. Moreover, maintaining clean surfaces prolongs the lifespan of structures, saving both time and money on repairs and replacements. Similarly, turf surfaces can deteriorate and function less well when moss is present. They therefore greatly benefit from regular maintenance to keep surfaces clean and free of moss and algae.

Techniques for controlling moss and algae

Where moss and algae are concerned, prevention is better than cure. Here are three design and mechanical control techniques that can be used to reduce their presence.

    1. Surface Moisture
      Unlike most plants, moss does not have a root system capable of seeking water and nutrients from the ground. Instead, they have small hairlike structures called rhizoids which anchor the plant to the surface, but they are only able to obtain water and nutrients from their immediate environment. This means that, like algae, mosses tend to be more successful in damp environments but do less well when conditions dry out.

      The first step towards moss free environments, therefore, is to ensure good drainage which can quickly move water away from the surface and deeper into the ground. This may mean aerating turf and permeable surfaces to reduce compaction, improving drainage in areas surrounding paths and other hard surfaces to allow rapid run off, ensuring that there is a suitable incline on surfaces to prevent water from pooling.

    1. Surface debris
      Moss and algae will establish more readily when they are able to cling onto the surface. On turf and permeable surfaces, it may not be possible to control this but on hard surfaces regular removal of debris means that it is much more difficult for moss and algae to establish.

  1. Light levels
    Moss and algae tend to prefer a slightly shady environment because in full sunlight they can become desiccated, making survival more difficult. Where possible it can be useful to increase light levels, for example by pruning overhanging plants, or moving the positioning of outdoor furniture. This may also help to increase surface drying, further reducing the attractiveness of the surface for moss and algae growth.

Products for controlling moss and algae

Even with the best design and mechanical controls employed, there are likely to be times when moss and algae affect surfaces. For these times there are several products which offer effective solutions for homeowners and landscape professionals alike. Mosses can be controlled with herbicides that specify moss control on the label whilst algae and other green deposits should be tackled with biocides. Let's take a closer look at some of the best products and their active ingredients, formulations, and efficacy against moss and weeds.

Herbicides for moss control

  1. Spot On Pro Weed and Moss Killer
    Spot On Pro Weed and Moss Killer is a glyphosate free herbicide which can be used to control all unwanted vegetation, including mosses, on hard and permeable surfaces. The active substance, acetic acid, has a rapid burn down effect with visible moss control within hours. The active substance breaks down quickly in the soil leaving no residues once moss and weeds have died back.
  2. Katoun Gold
    Containing pelargonic acid, Katoun Gold is a non-selective contact herbicide which can be used to control broad-leaved and grass weeds, and moss on a variety of permeable surfaces and on soil around ornamental plants. Like acetic acid, pelargonic acid will desiccate moss plants leading to rapid control following direct contact with the herbicide.
  3. Ferromex® Lawn Moss Killer
    Ferromex® can be used to control moss growth in lawns. The active substance, iron sulphate, burns and blackens the moss which will need to be raked out of the lawn. Ferromex has the added benefit of containing ureic nitrogen to give the grass a boost. This helps to thicken and infill sparse areas further reducing opportunities for moss to establish.

Non-pesticidal options for moss control

  1. MossOff® Multi Surface Moss & Algae Killer
    MossOff® Multi-Surface Moss and Algae Killer is another effective solution for combating moss and algae growth. It has a physical action on the moss, coating the leaves to prevent uptake of water and nutrients. With its biodegradable formula, it offers excellent coverage on various surfaces, including patios, driveways, and fences. This product provides rapid results, making it a favourite among homeowners and gardeners.
  2. MO Bacter Organic Lawn Fertiliser & Moss Killer
    MO Bacter is a granular lawn fertiliser which also actively controls moss in grass. The high levels of potassium in the product cause the moss to breakdown. Unlike iron products there is no need to rake the moss out of the lawn because the added bacteria then consume the moss causing it to be converted into organic matter and nutrients. MO Bacter can be used through the growing season to deliver a moss free and healthy looking lawn.

Biocides for algae and lichen control

  1. MMC Pro Hard Surface Cleaner
    MMC Pro is formulated with quaternary ammonium compounds which help to remove algae, mould and other green deposits from hard surfaces. The powerful formulation gives visible results within 12-24 hours and once dry can create a molecular film which provides preventative action for a number of months. Its unique formulation ensures long-lasting results, making it an ideal choice for patio and roof cleaning.
  2. Enclean®
    Enclean is a plant origin-based biocide which can be used on all hard surfaces to remove algae and other green deposits. The active substance, nonanoic acid, works by destroying cell membrane, preventing physiological processes. Enclean delivers fast and long-lasting results effectively eliminating algae stains, restoring the surface to its original condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best cleaner to remove moss and algae?

Specifically formulated herbicides and non-pesticidal products are highly effective for moss control on different surfaces as summarised below:

Product Hard Surface Permeable Surface Turf Surface
Spot On Pro
Katoun Gold
MO Bacter

Biocides such as Enclean and MMC-Pro will give excellent results for keeping hard surfaces clean and free from algae and other green deposits.

When should I apply moss and algae killers?

In general, apply moss killers during periods of active growth, typically in the spring or early summer when the active substance will be absorbed into the plants.

Algae and green deposit controls can be applied at any time of year, but target surfaces should be dry for best effect.

Does bleach/soapy water/vinegar remove moss?

While these household remedies may offer temporary relief, they are not as effective or long-lasting as dedicated moss killers. Pesticides including biocides and herbicides go through an extensive approval process in the UK to ensure that they are safe and effective for the intended uses. Therefore, it is always best to use products that have been formulated and are authorised for a specific use.

How to remove without scrubbing?

After controlling on hard surfaces, it may be necessary to brush away the decaying moss plants so that they do not create a habitat for new moss growth.

Products designed for algae and green deposit removal such as MMC-Pro can simply be sprayed onto the surface and left to work.

On turf, if iron sulphate herbicides are used it may be necessary to rake out the moss once it has died. Products such as MO Bacter contain bacteria which recycle the moss in situ removing the requirement for raking it out.

What should I use on patios and tarmac?

For moss control on patios and tarmac use hard surface herbicides such as Spot On Pro, or non-pesticidal products such as MossOff®.

For algae and green deposit control on patios and tarmac biocides such as MMC-Pro and Enclean are ideal.

In conclusion, maintaining clean and moss-free surfaces in amenity landscapes is essential for both aesthetic and practical reasons. With the right design, mechanical controls and products, homeowners and landscape professionals can effectively combat moss and algae growth, ensuring safe and visually appealing outdoor spaces for all to enjoy.

Take a look at some of the leading moss control products on the market here.