© Ralph Anderson
How would you like a lawn that stays green and beautiful year-round, is native to your area, grows just fine on bad soil and needs hardly any weeding, watering or fertilizing? You'd love it, you say? Then don't grow grass — grow moss. (Bing: When is the best time to plant moss?)
That was the decision Barbara and Richard Urquardt made when they nestled their house amid a verdant forest and ancient stone outcroppings atop a huge hill in Raleigh, N.C. They wanted a lush carpet to cover the site's poor, rocky soil and provide vibrant, year-round color, but it also had to be native and grow in shade to complement the indigenous plants and rock formations. That meant one thing: moss.
Enter David Spain and Ken Gergle of Moss and Stone Gardens in Raleigh. For more than 10 years, they've been designing shade, water and moss gardens. Their philosophy is to work with nature, not against it, and to reduce the collection of moss from the wild by teaching people how to grow it at home.
For most moss lawns, Spain and Gergle use three or four different kinds. Here, however, they planted about 15 types. Some are clumpers (acrocarps), but most are flat spreaders (pleurocarps). Mixing species provides a seasonally changing collage of different shades of green: blue green, emerald green, mint green, dollar-bill green and golden green.
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The benefits of mosses are aesthetic and practical. On the aesthetic side, they give the garden an aged look, as if everything has been in place a long time. They also combine superbly with shade-loving perennials, such as hostas, wild gingers, hellebores, ferns, trilliums, lilies-of-the-valley and heucheras. On the practical side, they act as a moisture-retentive mulch that reduces erosion and needs very little maintenance.
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What's cool about moss
Moss is a special type of plant called a bryophyte. It doesn't have true roots, flowers, fruits or seeds. What you're seeing as you look at a mat of it are leaves and stems that directly absorb water and nutrients. Moss spreads vegetatively and by spores. It doesn't keep grass from growing; rather, it grows in places that grass won't, such as in shade or on rocks and tree trunks.
Moss needs two things to grow: daylight -- not direct sun -- and moisture. Take one away and it shuts down. The more often it gets water, the faster it grows, but it doesn't need deep watering. Just give two minutes of water a day in early morning to keep it growing constantly. That's only a tiny fraction of the water a grass lawn needs.
For beginners, Spain recommends two of the fastest growing and most widely adapted spreading mosses: sheet moss (Hypnum sp.) and fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum).
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They are available by mail from mossandstonegardens.com and tripplebrookfarm.com. Supply the right growing conditions and many native mosses will show up on their own. To learn more about moss gardening, visit mossandstonegardens.com.
I am sorry, but some are a bit confused here--
Only places where grass can not grow, you may have Moss, and most buying a house, with it will know that if there is only moss everywhere or in spots, there is something wrong with your lighting or your soil----And if you are afraid of mold and mold smell under your house, these moss patches typically smell like mold-- because it is a close family!
MAD MAD MAX you are correct--BUT--do not forget the BIGGEST ADVANTAGE--no mowing!!
I am doing this on my yard, it is working well, but we are retired so no children, but to give shildren a play area, set aside a part of back yarrd away from patio, deck, etc. that can be mosses later.
The trick that worked for me--first kill all grasses, weeds, etc, I used Diesel/gasoline mix in sprayer and lawn weed/grass killer, doing sections of about 200' x 200' each time. I burn coal for primary heat, do have gas forced air but gas too costly, coal cheaper and hotter, the ash I spread about an inch deep over killed lawn area.Thats it, I watch it and any weeds srart they get blasted with gasoline, then I get moss pieces from my way back yard[woods], place it on the ashes, water, anf let it go. It will establish in no time, the coal ash draws moss, When I spdead ash and oh say the weather does not cooperate, the moss begins growing by itself, guess the coal ash is acid, that is the trick I found to work well.
Try it it does work, takes time, but a nice green cushioney lawn is great!NO MOWING