En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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 Groundcovers Questions

Is Phyla lanceolata (frogfruit) poisonous to dogs fromTitusville FL?
June 01, 2014 - Is Phyla lanceolata, also called Fogfruit, Lanceleaf Fogfruit, or Northern Fogfruit, toxic to dogs? We have it growing amongst our grass. I can't find it on any toxic plant list.
view the full question and answer

Reducing Allergens in Yards and Gardens
January 31, 2012 - What are some allergen-free native plants to Central Texas that thrive in the soil and can survive in the weather?
view the full question and answer

Pros and cons of Hydrocotyl bonariensis as lawn replacement
March 22, 2008 - Want to convert lawn TO dollar weed! My Garland TX yard has become so shady over the years that I have a hard time with grass. A few years ago I noticed dollar weed in the grass which seemed to cre...
view the full question and answer

Kinnikinnick for a green roof
July 04, 2012 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I live just north of Seattle and want to build a green roof (outdoor kitchen) I'm concerned about the weight of the soil (saturated), drainage etc. am building from scratch and...
view the full question and answer

Perennial ground cover for hillside in Holmdel NJ
April 25, 2014 - I live in NJ. I would like to use a perennial ground cover for my landscaping bed on a hill with full sun and deer resistant. It's a good size landscaping bed that is facing east (southeast). What...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center