How would you like a lawn that stays green all year, looks beautiful, grows on poor soil, is native to your area, and needs hardly any spraying, fertilizing, or watering?
You would? Then don't grow grass. Grow moss.
No, Grumpy hasn't been smoking moss. He knows that many of his readers don't appreciate it. They email and complain, "My yard has so many big trees that I can't grow grass, only moss. How can I kill the moss?"
Whaaat? You mean you'd rather have eroded bare dirt than a lush, green carpet that's soft on your tootsies? If so, an immediate psychiatric exam is in order.
The garden above in North Carolina is one of the most remarkable I've ever visited. I was led there by friend, fellow blogger ("Gardening With Confidence"), and professional garden coach Helen Yoest, who lives in Raleigh and on Twitter. She said she knew of the best moss garden in the South. She was right.
Who created it? For more than ten years, co-owners David Spain and Ken Gergle of Moss and Stone Gardens and The Moss Farm have been designing shade, water, and moss gardens. Their idea is to work with nature, not against it, and to reduce the wild collection of moss by teaching people how to grow moss so that it spreads quickly on it own.
What's Cool About Moss?
Moss is a special type of plant called a bryophyte. It doesn't have roots, flowers, fruits, or seeds. What you're seeing when you look at a mat of moss are leaves and stems that directly absorb water and nutrients. Moss spreads vegetatively and also by spores. It doesn't keep grass from growing. Rather, it grows in places that grass won't, like shade.
Myths About Moss
"Moss grows only on acid soil." Negatory. Because moss grows so well on acid soil, people assume it needs a low pH to thrive. It doesn't. It will also grow on neutral and alkaline soils.
"Moss needs poor, compacted soil." Negatory. Again, unlike grass, moss tolerates these conditions, but it doesn't need them.
"Moss needs lots of water." Negatory. While it is true that most mosses spread more quickly and looks lusher and greener when watered for a few minutes several days a week, they tolerate drought quite well -- better than grass. If you don't water it during an extended drought, the moss doesn't die. It simply goes dormant and starts growing again when the water comes.
"Moss needs lots of shade." Negatory. While moss tolerates deep shade, it also grows in light shade and sunny spots, as long as conditions are favorable.
"Moss kills grass." NEGATORY. Moss just grows where grass won't.
Where to Get Moss
If you Google "moss" and "mail-order," you'll find moss suppliers that will ship all kinds of moss to you. However, not all kinds will do well for you. As David explained to me, the best mosses for your garden are those you see growing in the wild in your area. Others may not like your growing conditions.
But Grumpy is not suggesting you go out to a state park and rob it of moss. Look around your neighborhood. Lots of people hate moss. Offer to take it off of their hands. I know of a nice moss garden where the owner just transplanted moss his neighbors didn't want.
David has designed some really cool ceramic moss planters called "Moss Rocks," like the ones you see below (photo by Ken), so that discriminating gardeners can enjoy miniature moss gardens in their homes. They comes in several different sizes and colors. For ordering info, click here.
And just how cool are Moss Rocks? They'll be featured on Martha Stewart's show on October 5, so look at local listings for the time. Martha says moss rocks are perfect additions for any room -- living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen, or prison cell.