Moss Is Boss! Roll Out the Green Carpet

October 1, 2011 | By | Comments (26)

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How would you like a lawn that stays green all year, looks beautiful, grows on poor soil, is native to your area, and needs hardly any spraying, fertilizing, or watering?

You would? Then don’t grow grass. Grow moss.

No, Grumpy hasn’t been smoking moss. He knows that many of his readers don’t appreciate it. They email and complain, “My yard has so many big trees that I can’t grow grass, only moss. How can I kill the moss?”

Whaaat? You mean you’d rather have eroded bare dirt than a lush, green carpet that’s soft on your tootsies? If so, an immediate psychiatric exam is in order.

The garden above in North Carolina is one of the most remarkable I’ve ever visited. I was led there by friend, fellow blogger (“Gardening With Confidence”), and professional garden coach Helen Yoest, who lives in Raleigh and on Twitter. She said she knew of the best moss garden in the South. She was right.

Who created it? For more than ten years, co-owners David Spain and Ken Gergle of Moss and Stone Gardens and The Moss Farm have been designing shade, water, and moss gardens. Their idea is to work with nature, not against it, and to reduce the wild collection of moss by teaching people how to grow moss so that it spreads quickly on it own.

What’s Cool About Moss?

Moss is a special type of plant called a bryophyte. It doesn’t have roots, flowers, fruits, or seeds. What you’re seeing when you look at a mat of moss are leaves and stems that directly absorb water and nutrients. Moss spreads vegetatively and also by spores. It doesn’t keep grass from growing. Rather, it grows in places that grass won’t, like shade.

Myths About Moss

“Moss grows only on acid soil.” Negatory. Because moss grows so well on acid soil, people assume it needs a low pH to thrive. It doesn’t. It will also grow on neutral and alkaline soils.

“Moss needs poor, compacted soil.” Negatory. Again, unlike grass, moss tolerates these conditions, but it doesn’t need them.

“Moss needs lots of water.” Negatory. While it is true that most mosses spread more quickly and looks lusher and greener when watered for a few minutes several days a week, they tolerate drought quite well — better than grass. If you don’t water it during an extended drought, the moss doesn’t die. It simply goes dormant and starts growing again when the water comes.

“Moss needs lots of shade.” Negatory. While moss tolerates deep shade, it also grows in light shade and sunny spots, as long as conditions are favorable.

“Moss kills grass.” NEGATORY. Moss just grows where grass won’t.

Where to Get Moss

If you Google “moss” and “mail-order,” you’ll find moss suppliers that will ship all kinds of moss to you. However, not all kinds will do well for you. As David explained to me, the best mosses for your garden are those you see growing in the wild in your area. Others may not like your growing conditions.

But Grumpy is not suggesting you go out to a state park and rob it of moss. Look around your neighborhood. Lots of people hate moss. Offer to take it off of their hands. I know of a nice moss garden where the owner just transplanted moss his neighbors didn’t want.

Moss Rocks!

David has designed some really cool ceramic moss planters called “Moss Rocks,” like the ones you see below (photo by Ken), so that discriminating gardeners can enjoy miniature moss gardens in their homes. They comes in several different sizes and colors. For ordering info, click here.

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And just how cool are Moss Rocks? They’ll be featured on Martha Stewart’s show on October 5, so look at local listings for the time. Martha says moss rocks are perfect additions for any room — living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen, or prison cell.

 

 

 

COMMENTS

  1. Tim Hammitt

    Recently, my daughter turned 6,and for her birthday we took her to Zilker Botanical Gardens for the “Faerie Homes and Forts” trail. Many of the entrants used the dried “Preserved” moss for various effects. So, that being said, my daughter asked if we could make a faerie home and enter next year. I am an avid gardener and crafter, and decided that our Faerie home entry would have a living turf roof. I harvested some moss from my mother-in-law’s back yard and covered the roof with it. I have been able to keep it alive this far (for two weeks), but it is drying up too quickly in the central Texas heat. Any advice?

    June 16, 2016 at 7:25 pm
  2. Evelyn

    Am really interested in converting portions of my yard to moss, due to large trees, but concerned with the viability for my area. Deep south Texas, hot, hot and humid describe us. I really have never seen any growing in the wilds and I live on a ranch. So wondering if it could work and where to find products. Appreciate any info.

    June 9, 2016 at 4:39 pm
  3. Michal

    Harmonijna kolorystyka zaś klimat mieszkania.
    Dziwi nam tylko pare rozwiazan, np. brak dojscia do lozka po prawej witrynce, czy malego stolu pysznego, ale prawdopodokbnie sa one zrobione u dołu klientow.
    To znaczy sypialnia miala miec skutek ‚kajuty’? No mi sie troche sprzęga.
    Podoba mi sie kacik ddla dzieci przy salonie oraz transparentna kuchnia z elementami pospolitego drewna.
    Ciekawe sa tez rozne konstrukcji na przestrzeni scian. Daja pprzytulny wynik z mala doza industrialu.
    Na pewno ‚sciagne’ to młode rozwiazanie!

    May 21, 2016 at 10:27 am
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  5. Mary Lou Anderson

    How do you get moss to spread? Have some in back yard but not sure what to do to get it lush. Thanks

    June 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm
  6. Randall

    The Moss won’t stop at your lawn. It will spread thru the Neighborhood. The moss will clime and kill your Trees. The moss will attack your home, growing in moist areas, on wood rotting it out Quickly before you can paint. Moss is slippery when wet, supper slippery on WOOD STEPS. After a hard rain I have slid ten feet across A moss covered lawn, leaving A ten foot strip of Mud. Like on A slip and slide. When old people fall one word—lawsuit!!!. Moss and fungal infections on skin. I cant prove it but I believe they are related. Hope you don’t plant A Moss lawn, but if you do Buy Hydrocortisone cream to rub on that fungal infection.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:33 pm
  7. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Judi,
    That’s a formula for getting moss to grow on concrete, stone, brick, etc. You don’t need the buttermilk to make it grow on the ground. What you do need is shade and compacted, moist soil. Then just sprinkle crumbled moss over the surface or lay down mats of moss. Moss that grows naturally in your area works better than moss that’s grown out of state.

    April 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm
  8. Judi

    Just found your blog today…trying to find some hints on what to do with my yard. Been 20 years and we have the blackest thumbs ever….everything dies or looks horrible.
    Love the moss look…I read years ago – probably in SL – that if you crumble up moss in a container of buttermilk and then spread it around the area where you want the moss, it will grow. Do you think it’s possible?
    Looking forward to following your blog.

    April 23, 2012 at 9:10 am
  9. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Della,
    Moss has a lot of good qualities, but durability isn’t one of them. It doesn’t have real roots, so it’s easily worn away by foot traffic.

    April 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm
  10. Della Badart

    I am in Austin Texes and have an area under a peach tree I thought would be prefect. Could moss be used as an accent in heavy traffic area? I’m looking for an alternative ground cover for a large covered area.
    Badartworld.com

    April 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm
  11. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Hey, Alice — Grumpy has been to Nanaimo! Angelia, I don’t think Abilene’s climate is very conducive to a moss garden. Too hot and dry in summer.

    October 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm
  12. Angelia Joiner

    Will moss grow as a ground cover in West Texas around the Abilene area? If so, which type?

    October 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm
  13. Alyce Carney

    I am really happy to have read this article. A client of mine told me that at her oceanfront house in Nanaimo, B.C. she has been propogating moss from her home to the seashore – so it grows in that environment too!

    October 23, 2011 at 4:48 pm
  14. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Cynthia,
    Eden Woods is really pretty. Where exactly is it? I’d like to see it sometime.

    October 12, 2011 at 3:10 pm
  15. David Spain

    Toni, I don’t need a reason not to live in Texas, it’s my home state, I lived in Houston, Austin and Dallas. I hope to change the misconception that moss won’t thrive outside of Maine, Seattle or the Appalachians, it does! You only need to match the right species to fit your conditions.

    October 12, 2011 at 7:04 am
  16. Cynthia Crane

    So glad I found this! Great post! Funny thing, I just read your post on the Strawberry Bush and I got my shoots from the owner of Eden Woods, a local (central VA) moss garden that is in the Smithsonian Institute Archives of American Gardens. I blogged about it here: http://www.thecranesnest.com/2011/09/moss-gardening-when-grass-is-not-option.html
    Thanks Steve! I’m following all your posts now!

    October 11, 2011 at 1:44 pm
  17. emma o’connell

    WOW! That picture is amazing. How great!!

    October 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm
  18. emma o’connell

    WOW! That picture is amazing. How great!!

    October 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm
  19. esh

    What a gorgeous “yard”!

    October 5, 2011 at 8:30 pm
  20. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Toni,
    You’ve given me yet another reason not to live in Dallas. Maybe you could spray-paint the moss green.

    October 5, 2011 at 1:16 pm
  21. Norie Burnet

    Moss is truly nature’s gift. It’s helps to purify the air, build soil, stop erosion, and nurture our senses.

    October 5, 2011 at 12:46 am
  22. UrsulaV

    Moss is seriously fabulous stuff. I have a buddy who had to give up her previous hobby—growing coral in saltwater fishtanks—and went to cultivating interesting kinds of moss as a substitute.
    (Do I need to mention that the woman is made out of patience? Probably not.)

    October 4, 2011 at 11:22 am
  23. Toni – Signature Gardens

    Will moss grow in Dallas/Fort Worth in 70 days of 100+ degrees with less than an inch of rain in months? I think negatory, sadly. Usually only in spring or fall in areas with poor drainage. Sure would love to grow a little of the green stuff on some of my rocks, though. I tried to get it to grow on a concrete lantern, but it just fried in July. Ho, hum. I guess moss is always greener on the other side of the fence.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:46 am
  24. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence

    Thanks for the shout out, Steve!

    October 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm
  25. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Kirsten,
    Moss is easy to transplant. Just use a spade to slice it off the top of the soil, put it where you want, tamp it down, and water. The dug out patch will regrow, as long as the growing conditions don’t change.

    October 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm
  26. Kirsten

    Oh I love moss! I have a bit of it my my yard (in a shady lawn area) but would like more. Do you know if you can dig a little out of a good patch and transplant it to a bare patch of ground? Will the dug out part regrow? Thanks for the post!

    October 1, 2011 at 8:40 am

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