Have you ever heard of moss lawns? As the climate changes and more homeowners look to make eco-friendly outdoor swaps, lawn alternatives have become increasingly popular. We’ve discussed popular lawn alternatives on the blog before. One of the options we mentioned was creating moss lawn, or replacing the grass in your yard with moss. Today we’ll talk about what moss for yards and how to make your alternative moss lawn come to life.
In the US, when we think of a yard, we think about grass. However, in other parts of the world, moss and other equivalent ground cover has been popular for ages. Moss lawns have a number of benefits that make them a good fit for almost anybody, in nearly any climate.
What is a moss lawn like?
If you’ve never heard of using moss in place of grass, you may be wondering what the experience is really like. Moss is easily identifiable for its unique, dense and low-growing appearance. Moss does not have a vascular system, and spreads uniquely. Instead of spreading grass seen, moss lawns are planted and propagated using spores.
The appearance of a moss lawn is different to that of traditional grass or artificial turf. However, it still provides the uniform green color and a soft surface underfoot. Moss lawns are resilient and easy to care for once established, though due to their more delicate nature, pathways and walkways should be incorporated into moss lawn designs.
The Pros of Using Moss for Your Yard
If you hate the upkeep and constant mowing of a traditional grass lawn, then moss offers a convenient solution. As you may have guessed, moss does not require mowing. This means less physical work for you. Removing the time you would spend in the hot sun mowing during the summer means you have more time to focus on enjoying your outdoor living space.
Additionally, removing the need to mow adds another layer of eco-friendly benefits. Lawn mowers use guess and release air and noise pollution. Because moss can grow in most soil types, even nutrient depleted soil, fertilizer is not necessary. This means fewer pollutants to compromise the health of your family, pets, or any potential wildlife.
Growing traditional grass seen on hills can be complicated. Even laying seed can be difficult on a slope. Erosion from wind and water can wash away grass seed before it sprouts, or wear away areas of your lawn to dirt. Moss lawns are a great solution, and are a great way to control erosion in a steep grade.
Finally, moss is a low-water plant. Unlike lawns which require near constant watering to stay green, moss is less greedy. Instead of dying in a drought, moss is able to become dormant. When moisture returns, it comes out of dormancy and turns green again–no additional planting efforts required.
Cons of Using Moss for Your Yard
Though there are a large variety of benefits of a moss lawn, nothing is perfect. While grass loves direct sunlight (when paired with ample hydration), moss may wither when exposed to too much direct sun. While this does mean that shady areas will thrive, the overall effect could get relatively patchy. This can be solved by picking a variety of moss that is native to your region.
Additionally, while moss is durable, it doesn’t stand up to foot traffic in quite the same way you’d expect from grass. If you have a lot of kids, dogs, or are using your backyard as a space to be active, a moss lawn might be the wrong choice.
Finally, the largest drawback to moss lawns is the cost. Unfortunately, most moss needs to be special ordered, which makes it a more costly alternative lawn solution. You can get moss from local retailers or online nurseries.
How to Maintain a Moss Lawn
The first step to ensuring the success of a moss lawn is to know how to properly maintain it. Moss thrives in acidic soil. Before committing to the idea of a moss lawn, test your yard’s dirt to determine the pH. Alkaline soils can prevent moss lawns from thriving.
Once your moss is established, it simply needs to be kept clear of debris. This is simple for yards without large trees. However, if you live in a climate with significant leaf fall, you will need to manually remove this debris. A bagging lawn mower helps to expedite the process.
The Best Moss for Yards or Lawns
Different species of moss thrive in different conditions. Most varieties prefer shade, but some can thrive in partial to full sun. Keep in mind the light in your yard when selecting the variety of moss.
Some moss varieties grow in clumps, making them less than ideal for yards or moss lawns. You want to select a sprawling moss that will create the plush-carpet like effect you’re looking for. Consider one of the following moss varieties for use in your yard:
Here are a few select mosses for lawns in different light conditions:
- Climacium americanum: Also called tree moss, climacium americanum is great for deeply shaded areas, but can tolerate partial sun. It prevents very wet conditions and can grow up to 5 inches tall, making it exceptionally soft underfoot.
- Hypnum imponens: Also called sheet moss, this moss grows well in both shade and partial sun, and is durable to moderate foot traffic. It is a shorter variety of moss, with good sprawl.
- Thuidium delicatulum: Also called fern moss, this moss has leafy fronds and thrives in darker, wetter locations. If you have a hill in your backyard, this moss is one commonly recommended for erosion control.
- Dicranum scoparium: Also referred to as broom or rock cap moss, this variety is known for its coloration. It grows in a bright green carpet, and needs less moisture than the previous varieties.
- Atrichum angustatum: Also called star moss, this is a rare variety of moss that prefers sun or partial sun. This moss is compact and durable, making it a good option for higher traffic yards.
- Leucobryum glaucum: Also called white moss for its coloration, this moss starts out with a light greenish blue coloration, turning silvery white as it dries. Interspersed with other moss varieties, it can give a beautiful textural look to your moss lawn.
- Polytrichum commune: Also called haircap moss, this moss can grow in a variety of conditions, including on hills or in full sun and shade.