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Using Moss for Low-Maintenance Landscaping

Humble yet lush, low maintenance with high reward, let moss take charge of your yard.

Written by Elizabeth Millard

Photo: Adobe Stock / Goldengel
Are there areas of your landscape where you just can’t get anything to grow because they’re too shady, can’t be watered regularly or are hilly and difficult to manicure? Do you feel like you don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours as a DIY landscaper, yet you want the grounds around your log or timber home to feel lush and well-tended? Or, is your house a seasonal destination, and you don’t want to sacrifice a few days of your vacation to yard upkeep?
The answer to all these questions is the same: Plant moss.
When it comes to a single type of plant that can tie together various parts of a garden, thrive on rainwater alone, grow almost anywhere and won’t require soil tests to determine pH levels, moss is the best friend you didn’t know you had.
There are more than 20,000 moss varieties worldwide, so you’re sure to find one that will work in your region. Best of all, because it’s so hardy, moss can be preferable to grass — particularly because you can skip the fertilizer, weed killer and tedious mowing. It even makes a great substitute for mulch, because it holds moisture and prevents soil erosion.
Intrigued? Use these six tips to get your moss party started:
  • Source local species. You likely have moss growing near you, and once you spot it — during hikes, in parks, even in ditches — you’ll find it’s everywhere. Varieties native to your area will work best.
  • Skim chunks or sheets. Moss doesn’t have a deep root system like other plants; it’s more like sheets of sod. So get a large amount, preferably in clumps with soil attached, as a starter for your yard.
  • Clear your space. Dig up any weeds, stray plants and grass in the area where the moss will go, then rake the ground and remove any sticks so the moss can better establish itself.
  • Water thoroughly. Moss loves moisture, and watering until the ground is a little muddy will give it a good starting point.
  • Press firmly. Put your moss clumps/sheets onto the soil and press them into the ground. Insert a stick through the center of each clump to keep it affixed until its rhizoids (its root substitute) can take hold.
  • Make a slurry. If you want to be more artistic with your moss — for example, wedging it between the stones of a walkway or along a rocky slope — then take a handful of the moss, shake off the soil and throw it in a blender along with one cup of buttermilk and one cup of water. Blend until smooth; then, pour the mixture where you want the moss to grow. You can also use a paintbrush and “paint” the moss onto surfaces like rocks or wood
Water often while your moss is getting established, and you should see growth within a few weeks. Although it might take more than a year for the moss to expand fully in all of the areas where you’ve placed it, you’ll be richly rewarded with a low-maintenance landscape favorite for years to come.

Make Room for Moss

Want to get moving on a maintenance-free moss garden? Let these common varieties plant the seed.

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