Moss Lawns: Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Since the dawn of suburbia, lawns have been used as status symbols. Originating from the Old French word “lande”, meaning barren land, a well-kept lawn was a way that English aristocrats showed off their wealth to their peers, wasting valuable resources on land used for nothing but aesthetics. 

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This same game of social charades continues today, costing us a third of our public water supply, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In the U.S., this equates to 9 billion gallons of water per day, not to mention the 200 million gallons of gas burned by lawnmowers. Imagine half a million swimming pools dumped daily onto land used solely to impress neighbors. In a world where

population growth and drought spells are growing, we can no longer afford to waste one of our most precious resources just to keep up with the Joneses. However, there is a way that we can have lawns that are both easier to maintain and environmentally friendly. The solution is found in a species considered an enemy to lawnlovers but is a powerful ally in the fight for our planet: moss. 

 

The Magic of Moss

Moss lawns are nature’s velvet carpets, and they’re very beneficial to the surrounding ecosystem. A small moss lawn can absorb more carbon than 275 mature trees. They also:

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  • Produce a ton of oxygen.

  • Require significantly less water.

  • Absorb air pollutants.

  • Prevent soil erosion and runoff.

Not only are they great for the climate, you don’t even have mow them! They’re non-vascular and they never grow more than a few centimeters. All they require is a little moisture and some shade. Plus, they: 

  • Rarely need weeding.

  • Don’t require fertilizer.

  • Thrive in low-nutrient soil.

  • Did I mention they attract fairies and other mythical creatures?

I can’t prove the last part, but the rest is scientifically backed. Moss could be the next wave of eco-innovation. Companies like Green City Solutions are already creating moss benches to offset pollution in big cities. While this trend is just starting to pick up steam in the west, it’s been around for hundreds of years in Japan. In this case, the grass may truly be greener on the other side of the world– and softer. Seriously, if you still don’t believe in the magic of moss, walk barefoot in a moss patch after a rain day. There’s nothing quite like feeling the rush of lively earth running through your toes. 

 

How to Grow a Moss Lawn

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  1. Find some shade. Moss grows better in shaded areas and tends to wither under direct sunlight.

  2. Remove grass and weeds. If there is a spot in your yard where moss is already growing amongst the grass, start there.

  3. Acidify soil. Moss thrives in acidic soil, though it can grow in any pH. The upside to acidic soil is that it discourages grass and weed growth. You can find soil acidifiers at your local gardening store.

  4. Plant moss. The best place to find moss is in your yard, or in a local forest. Just collect patches, transplant them, and they’ll spread rather quickly. You can also buy moss starter kits.

  5. Collect rainwater. Moss does best with rainwater because it can’t filter out all the extra chemicals in tap water. Keep a rain barrel nearby or use tap water if you need to. Moss doesn’t need as much water as grass, but it does need consistent moisture.

  6. Clear leaves. Patches of leaves can inhibit growth, but moss beds are sensitive to raking. You can clear leaves with your hands, or spread a net across your yard when the leaves start to fall. Just roll up the net when the trees have shed they’re layers.

 

Overall, moss requires much less work than traditional lawns. In addition, they aid the surrounding ecosystem and increase biodiversity, while grass lawns are merely mono-crop blocks that spread pesticides. The latter use up an excessive amount of resources in a time where drought is becoming increasingly more prevalent, but moss serves as a much-needed carbon filter that can conserve water and even restore balance to the atmosphere. Let’s ditch these outdated relics of a rich aristocracy and move towards a future of moss-laden fairytales.