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

Ground cover for Connecticut sandy gravel bank
January 11, 2012 - What ground cover plant can I use on a sandy gravel bank behind my house?
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for burned acreage in Bastrop, Texas
October 31, 2011 - The fire took 2/3 of the trees on my half acre in Bastrop County. It was mostly wild. What do I plant for ground cover? Do I plant native grass seed in fall? I want to keep it native as possible. ...
view the full question and answer

Plants to grow between flagstones in the Hudson River Valley of New York
May 08, 2012 - I live in newburgh, ny & have aquired some bluestone. I want to do a walkway but will need a low mowable ground cover to go between the stones (not enough bluestone to cover the area. I know I have ...
view the full question and answer

New gardener on lawn for Poolville TX
April 28, 2012 - I have never had the opportunity to have a nice yard until recently when I got married. My husband loves a nice yard and we have worked very hard and put in hours of work. We are learning by trial a...
view the full question and answer

South Austin Groundcovers for Oak Shade
March 29, 2013 - Hi! I live in S. Austin now but used to work at the Wildflower Center! My backyard is shady with several oak mots. Do you have any suggestions as to what if any ground cover will grow in all that sha...
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