What is a moss lawn?
A moss lawn a lawn alternative made up of a dense area of moss that covers a wide expanse of space.
Contrary to what most people think, moss is actually able to be walked on and can withstand light foot traffic, making it a great alternative to grass lawns. In fact, it is actually recommended to sit or stand on moss when it is first planted, to make sure it attaches to the soil properly (as it doesn’t have a vascular root system).
A moss lawn is quite spongy and soft, both in appearance and feel when walking on it. The surface of moss is often a little uneven, making it extremely different to the traditional grass lawn that is often called a ‘green desert’ because of its uniformity.
Where do moss lawns grow best?
Moss lawns grow best in shady or dappled shade areas. Because moss is more expensive to buy and install, it is best to make sure that your space has the right conditions for it to grow in, to ensure it is a successful investment.
Benefits of a moss lawn
After a moss lawn has been planted and fully grown in, it can be very beneficial and rival the traditional turf grass lawn.
- No mowing required: because moss is quite a short plant and can only grow up to around 10cm, it does not require any mowing. This saves you heaps of time in the garden, but also means you are a more eco-friendly gardener.
- Easy maintenance: moss can grow in almost any type of soil or conditions, meaning it does not need fertiliser to keep it healthy. Because of its great biodiversity interest, it also is less likely to establish disease or get any pests!
- Can grow in difficult conditions: compacted or rocky soil is completely fine for moss to thrive in. Better yet, it is ideal for slopes and steep backyards as it is great for erosion prevention!
- Less water usage: while moss needs to be very hydrated and watered when planted, after it is established you can mostly leave it alone. Because it doesn’t have a vascular root system like normal grass lawns, it absorbs all of its water and nutrients from the leaves. This means that rain is enough for moss to grow with, and in very dry conditions they will go dormant and wait for a wet period to come around again!
What are the cons to a moss lawn?
There are of course, disadvantages to any plant, but with moss, there are many that can actually be worked around quite easily.
- Light foot traffic: moss is not as hardy as a normal grass lawn, so if you wish to play soccer in your garden everyday, a moss lawn is definitely not recommended. If it is a heavy foot traffic area though, that is often walked through, adding in stepping stones or pavers is the ideal addition.
- Needs to be kept clear of leaves: although a moss lawn does not have to be mowed, it does need to be kept clear of leaves and garden debris. This is so moss rot or mould forms. This can be done by hand or by using a leaf blower.
- Shade preferential: moss is mostly shade preferential. While there are some types of moss that don’t mind sunlight, direct, constant sun will damage your lawn.
- Difficult to source: sourcing moss for your lawn will probably be the most difficult obstacle to overcome. The best way to find the moss you would like is by heading to specialised plant nurseries. It can be more difficult to find in Australia, as many are not native plants.
List of moss grasses
- Star moss (Atrichum angustatum)
- Big star moss or Catherine’s moss (Atrichum undulatum)
- Tree moss (Climacium americanum)
- Mood moss or windswept moss (Dicranum scoparium)
- Feather moss or sheet moss (Hypnum imponens)
- Pincushion moss (Leucobryum albidum)
- Cushion moss or white moss (Leucobryum glaucum)
- Haircap moss (Polytrichum commune)
- Fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum)
- Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.)
How to grow moss
1. Check soil acidity
Most mosses prefer quite acidic soil, usually between a pH of 5 and 5.5. Test your soil with a pH test to see if the area is suited to planting straight away. If it is too alkaline, adding in compost, manure or soil acidifier should do the trick.
2. Prepare your area
Your chosen area should be clear of any weeds, debris or dead leaves. Turn over the soil and rake it as even as possible. The soil should be firm with a bit of texture to enable the moss to attach properly.
3. Plant your moss
Water your planting area significantly; it should be soaked but without puddles of water. If your moss looks a bit dry before planting, soak it in a bucket for a couple of minutes.
Moss has no root system, so the ‘planting’ involves just placing the moss in your chosen area. It is best to press the moss in tightly and place landscaping pins to hold it in place. You can then walk, sit or stand on your areas of moss to help it establish (be sure not to dislodge it).
Your moss lawn should be watered and kept thoroughly moist for the first four to six weeks or until the moss doesn’t easily detach from the soil.
Moss lawn maintenance
Moss does not need regular watering once it has been established. If there is exceedingly dry weather, you can use a sprinkler or mister for a few minutes to rehydrate it.
Weeds are likely to try and grow in your moss lawn, the same as any other lawn type, especially in the establishment period. It is best to manually remove each weed as most moss do not respond well to herbicides.
As mentioned above, you will need to keep your moss lawn relatively clean of leaves and garden debris to ensure no rot or mould forms.