Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - January 02, 2010

From: Vancouver, BC
Region: Canada
Topic: Soils, Groundcovers, Turf
Title: Replacing a Grass Lawn with Moss
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I have a small north facing yard that I would like to change from grass to moss. There is some moss now but still lots of grass. I need to rake a lot of leaves in the fall but want to get away from a lawn. I live in Vancouver, Canada. Is this possible to do? What would be involved?

ANSWER:

Good idea!  You already know that the grass is struggling and that moss will grow.

What you probably didn't know is that moss has no vascular system or roots, which means that it takes all the nutrients it requires directly from the air and not the soil.  That means less water (about one percent of what grass requires) and no fertilizers or pesticides.  It is drought tolerant and will come back with a splash of water even after it looks "toasted", making it a very sustainable alternative to grass.

According to David Benner, a retired professor of horticulture who has maintained a moss lawn in Pennsylvania for over 30 years, the trick is the acidity of the soil.  To establish his moss lawn, he covered his lawn with an acidic combination of sulfur powder and aluminum sulfate and waited.  The grass died over the winter and moss blew in on the breeze.  You are already part way there.

You can read a very informative article about Mr. Benner in the NY Times on-line.  You will have to "register" to read the second page, but there is no cost to do that.  According to the article, he deals with leaves by laying a net over the "lawn" which he drags to the compost heap once the leaves have fallen.  You could do that if you find that raking the moss dislodges too much of it (again, no real root system).

There is also a wealth of information on the website of Moss Acres, a company in PA, including an FAQ section on the technical aspects of "planting" moss.

You will need to decide if you are going to take the radical approach Mr. Benner did or gradually change your soil pH (ideal pH for moss is 5.0 to 6.0)and let nature take it's course. 

 

 

 

More Soils Questions

Shade tolerant plants for Waynesville MO
April 09, 2013 - We moved to Waynesville, MO (gardening region 6) and when we bought our house there was a nice looking gardening area in front of the house. It is shaded moderately by a Redwood Tree and was "occupie...
view the full question and answer

Plant mistakes from Cedar Park, TX
April 09, 2014 - At our "Wilts End" in Cedar Park, TX. and are looking for a tall shrub/tree that will hide a 6-ft tall concrete wall and muffle the noise from a busy street. The wall forms a very wide-angled V shap...
view the full question and answer

Destructive landscape crews in The Woodlands TX
October 20, 2012 - Hi. We need help. We recently moved to a house where landscape crews have been blowing away the leaf litter from the front yard for many years. The underbrush was also cleared long ago. The result...
view the full question and answer

Is California fan palm found on Edwards Plateau from Austin
January 18, 2013 - Is the following Palm, Washingtonia filifera, found in the Texas Hill Country, specifically the Edwards Plateau or Balcones Canyonlands NWR.
view the full question and answer

Plants that will grow on the Connecticut coast
June 08, 2010 - I live on the coast in Connecticut and have a hard time growing plants here. I live about 1/2 mile from the beach and find that my soil is very rocky. The only plants that have done well in my yard ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.