Open Your Mind to the Moss-abilities

With spring approaching, I am gearing up to spend more time outside by packing up the sweaters and busting out the sunscreen. As I make my preparations, a thought occurs to me – warmer weather means yardwork, and yardwork means the return of my outdoor maintenance nemesis: mowing the grass.

Ultimately, my dream lawn is no lawn at all. I look for hacks to reduce how much grass I have to trim back and have found several solutions, including installing gardens, hedges, stone paths, and even embracing *drumroll* moss!

While some might find moss intrusions on their lawns to be a nuisance, I have come to welcome the low-growing ground cover, as it helps me push back the high-maintenance grass one precious square foot at a time.

If you’re like me and looking to reduce the size of your turf lawn or fill in the voids in a stone walkway with an alternative groundcover, consider letting moss into your yard (and your heart).

Moss can provide ecological benefits to a yard once it’s allowed to establish in lieu of traditional grass. Since most mosses don’t grow over 4inches in height, they don’t require any sort of mowing maintenance (hooray!), which reduces fossil-fuel use and carbon emissions. Its thick matting provides moisture retention for soil and surface erosion control, as the underlying dirt isn’t exposed to sunlight to dry it out and rainfall isn’t able to carry loose dirt away. It also provides habitat for insects (especially lightning bugs), which draws in birds - who can use the moss itself for nest construction.

Colonies of moss may already be a familiar sight on shady tree trunks and damp stones, but how do you bring it into your lawn?

Oftentimes, moss can be found growing underneath existing grass, and removing the taller plant will allow the shorter moss to fill in and form a uniform layer. Moss is also likely to establish in areas of the lawn where there is shade, acidic soil, and compacted earth – many of which make it difficult for turf grass to grow. The key factor in establishing a healthy and sustainable moss lawn is water. Moss lacks roots and absorbs moisture and nutrients through direct surface contact with the air and water that flows over it. Moss also relies on water for reproduction, as it needs to be submerged or rained on for the male reproductive cells to swim or splash their way over to the female’s eggs. This makes moss the ideal groundcover for areas in your lawn that seem to pond or remain wet longer than others – or for spots you don’t mind sprinkling with the hose during the dry heat of summer.

If you’re like me and looking to minimize mow-time and maintenance, then consider allowing moss to be your lush green groundcover replacement! Now is a great time of year to encourage moss growth since springtime brings wet weather that moss loves. Try transplanting a mat of it you find growing near your home, or look for a patch that already exists in your yard and pull back the grass so it is able to thrive.

Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to kick the lawnmower to the curb for good – but for now, I’ll keep on pushing my way through (slightly overgrown) grass while dreaming of moss-covered fields.

Additional Information, Sources, and References:

"The Benefits and Ecology of a Moss Lawn"

"Incorporating Moss into the Garden"

"Growing a Moss Lawn"

"Tips for Growing Moss in Your Garden"

Blog Author: Lauren Conard, Urban Technician

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