The Marvels of Moss


Yesterday I was off lecturing again on Creating a Shade Garden for All Season Interest. At the end I talked a little bit about moss gardening.

My long-time readers know that I love my moss and know that I do everything that I can to encourage it–even if the Spoiler disagrees. Luckily I can pretty much have free rein (or reign!) to do what I want to in the beds.

Moss grows naturally for me in a lot of my beds. I am trying to encourage that as a native ground cover (rather than something like mulch, which my readers know that I detest for numerous reasons). I have had a lot of success even though the last two summers have been quite dry. It’s a bit of a myth that moss needs a lot of water. It’s a little bit like a lawn in that way–only far more sustainable.

Moss will go dormant when it is dry, as will grass. There is a tipping point, however, when grass just up and dies. Moss simply remains dormant until it rains and then it revives.

The other great thing about moss is that it harbors all sorts of nice creatures–salamanders, newts, toads–all the sorts of things that are endangered right now–as well as the “good” bugs that you want to encourage in the garden.

What it doesn’t do is make slime fungus or artillery fungus or those nasty puffballs that mulches can do if they are digesting some sort of item in the mulch. People put down mulch to enrich the soil and then freak out when it begins to decompose and do just that. Mulch is not a “window dressing” for the soil. If folks don’t understand that, then they shouldn’t use it.

And there are several reasons one might not want to use mulch this close to a home (you can see our siding and windows in the above photo). That nasty artillery fungus is one. Insects (insects like wood chewing insects, not beneficial insects)and mold are another. So for this reason the moss if preferable as well.

And it is a myth that moss cannot be walked on. We have moss all over our yard. If you walk on it when it is very wet, it might pull up. So you tamp it back down and go on. But it’s far more “walkable” than a lot of the plants sold as living mulches.

If you choose to encourage moss in your yard, good for you. I highly recommend the book The Magical World of Moss Gardening by Annie Martin (for more about a post I did on that book, see here). And always remember, don’t go collecting it unless you have permission. That’s never sustainable!

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