The Moss Lawn Guide: Planting, Benefits, Care & Costs

A visually apealing moss lawn

Moss lawns are becoming more popular for homeowners who seek a low-maintenance alternative to traditional grass lawns. Other reasons are their ability to thrive in shady areas, their aesthetics, the increase in biodiversity and the list goes on. This guide will explain everything you need to know about moss yards by explaining what they are, their benefits and comparisons to grass lawns, how to plant and maintain them and finally we’ll break down the costs for you.

1. What is a Moss Lawn?

A moss lawn, also referred to as a moss yard or moss garden is a ground cover that can be made up of one or multiple moss species and creates a dense green carpet that is knitted together and used as an alternative to traditional grass yards. A moss garden doesn’t require mowing, fertilizing, or regular watering and can be used in a similar way as its grass counterpart.

Here are some features of a moss lawn:

  • It is often planted in shady areas where grass struggles to grow.
  • It is very low in maintenance.
  • It requires no watering (if planted in the shade), pesticides, or fertilizers.
  • It can be used in a similar way as a traditional grass garden (except for heavy foot traffic areas where pathways should be installed).
  • It prefers poor soil conditions.
  • It is beneficial for the local biodiversity.

The rise in popularity is no coincidence and the benefits are explained in the following chapter.

2. What are the Benefits?

One of the main benefits of a moss lawn is its distinctive visual appeal. Its unique look and feel set it apart from traditional grass lawns. It enables landscapers or homeowners to transform shady, muddy areas into beautiful lush garden areas that remain lush all year round.

A moss lawn with pavers and a a water stream
A beautiful moss lawn with pavers and a waterfall.

It’s low-maintenance is another benefit that should not be underestimated. A moss yard barely needs any maintenance because mowing is not necessary, they require little to no watering, fertilizing, or pesticide use.

The initial costs may be higher than a traditional grass garden but in the long run, a moss lawn is more cost-effective due to its low maintenance.

The environmental benefits are also substantial because they increase biodiversity and improve the quality of the air and water. They also conserve water and improve the soil health.

Moss thrives in shady, damp conditions with poor soil. This makes it a great solution for gardens with difficult growing conditions for grass.

Tip: Read more about the the benefits of a moss lawn in this article.

3. Moss Lawn vs. Grass Lawn

Traditional grass lawns require significant time and effort because they need to be watered, mowed, fertilized, and weeded. An average household spends 150 hours annually on lawn care tasks. Moss front lawns, on the other hand, need minimal maintenance after establishment.

The initial cost of a moss yard is typically higher than a grass lawn because of the price of moss. However, the long-term maintenance costs are much lower so over time, they are more cost-effective in the long-term.

A grass lawn is a monoculture and is constantly disturbed by mowing and offers little habitat value. Moss gardens on the other hand create a stable habitat for insects, small amphibians, and birds. This results in a more vibrant lively garden.

Grass yards thrive in sunny areas with nutrient-rich soils and are the best option if your garden offers these conditions. Moss is the best option if you have a garden with shady conditions.

Both grass and moss gardens can help with erosion control. Grass is a good solution if the soil is nutrient-rich and has many sun-hours. Erosion can be controlled in shaded areas with moss because it grows over the soil in a closed-knitted garden. This stabilizes the soil, reduces runoffs, and keeps the water in the areas because of the sponge-like structures of moss.

Grass lawns handle heavy-foot traffic well while moss can handle moderate foot traffic. Therefore it is recommended to use pathways for heavily used areas.

No chemicals are needed for moss but grass needs to be fertilized and pesticides may be needed. This hurts the local habitat because contaminates groundwater and harms the local ecosystem.

TIP: Read more about Grass Lawns vs. Moss Lawns in this article.

4. How to Plant and Grow a Moss Lawn

Choosing the right moss is elementary when you want to plant and grow a moss lawn. Mosses can be categorized into two categories; Acrocarpous and Pleurocarpous. Acrocarpous mosses grow upright, in clumps and are slightly more drought-tolerant and mainly used for decorative applications but should not be used as an alternative to grass.

Pleurocarpous mosses grow outwards in a creeping manner and create a carpet-like appearance. These mosses are ideal as an alternative to grass because they cover large areas with a closed-knitted appearance and handle foot traffic well. Examples are Sheet moss or Carpet moss.

After you have decided on the moss, you’ll need to start preparing the area. Moss prefers (partially) shaded areas with well-drained soil with a pH between 5.0 and 5.5. Begin by cleaning the areas of weeds, grass, roots, and debris. Adjust the pH if necessary with sulfur to lower it and limestone to raise it. Lightly scratch the surface to help the moss attach.

Next, you can begin with planting the moss. There are several options and one option is to collect it from nature. This is cost-effective but may be illegal and requires some because you need to identify the right moss and collect it sustainably. You can also buy live moss from our nursery or use a slurry to cover the area. Wet the moss before you plant it, apply an adhesive (not necessary), and place the moss clumps onto the soil. Press it down lightly to remove any air pockets.

The initial care for the first 6-12 weeks is elementary for the survival of the moss. Keep the moss moist with a light spray every morning. Use filtered tap water and ensure the area is not waterlogged. Fencing the area during the establishment phase may be a good idea to protect the moss during this fragile phase.

Tip: Read more about how to plant and grow a moss lawn in this article.

5. Care & Maintenance

As mentioned before, the maintenance of a moss lawn is relatively easy after establishment. Regular watering (with filtered tap water) and shade are extremely important during this phase. Check after 6-12 weeks if the moss has attached itself to the soil.

Once the moss is established, no watering as long as there is sufficient shade. Rainwater is usually sufficient to keep the moss green and lush. Keep an eye on coloration because if it turns brown (dormant), you’ll need to water it.

Watering a moss yard
Watering a moss yard

Regularly remove fallen leaves, twigs, and other debris because it can smother the moss. Moss needs photosynthesis, and if it’s blocked from light, it will die.

Moss can handle moderate foot traffic but keep an eye out for frequently used pathways and if the moss becomes patchy, consider installing stepping stones for heavily used areas to protect the moss.

Pruning and trimming are usually not necessary if parts become overgrown, you can trim these areas and use the fragments to fill patchy spots (if there are any). These fragments will grow into new plants and within no time, the moss carpet will be closed again.

Weed control is normally not necessary because the closed-knit structure won’t allow weeds to grow. But in case it happens, you’ll have to hand-pull the weeds because they compete for space and nutrients with the moss. Avoid using chemicals because this will harm the moss.

If discoloration occurs, you’ll need to take care of the moss lawn. Yellow moss is mainly caused by too much sun or alkaline soil, browning is caused by dryness or cold, and black moss can mean fungal infections.

Tip: Read more about how to care for a moss lawn in this article.

6. Cost Breakdown

The initial costs for a moss lawn are higher than a traditional grass garden but the long-term savings balance that out. Depending on the size of the area, a moss garden could be cheaper in the long run.

Below you can find a breakdown of the costs.

  1. A soil pH test kit costs between 20-30 dollars.
  2. Sulfur or limestone needs to be added if soil adjustments are necessary which will cost around 40 dollars per bag to cover 100-200 square feet.
  3. Live moss will cost you between 4 dollars and 10 dollars per square foot (the price decreases when you buy it in bulk). We have live moss for sale here.
  4. Installation can be free if you do it yourself (it’s not difficult!). A professional will cost between 10 and 18 dollars per square foot, including the moss, labor, and other materials.
  5. The maintenance costs are almost free because no mowing is necessary and the lawn only needs occasional watering during hot summer months.

Tip: Read more about how much a moss lawn costs in this article.

7. Conclusion

Moss lawns are low-maintenance and sustainable alternatives to traditional grass lawns. The initial costs are higher but the long-term savings (time and money), the aesthetics, and the environmental benefits make it a smart choice.

They need almost no maintenance, they increase biodiversity, conserve water, and provide a chemical-free environment that is safe for animals and humans. Moss yards grow well in shady areas with nutrient-poor soil and can turn muddy gardens into a lush and beautiful oasis.

This article is a summary of the ‘Moss Lawn’ series. Feel free to explore the linked articles in every section to learn more in detail about moss lawns.

Tip: Our moss nursery sells live moss. You can buy our moss online!

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