Encourage Moss growth/discourage grass growth

Takoma Park, MD(Zone 7a)

I have a very large tree in my front yard. It shades the front year-round, no sun of any kind. The moss has been spreading from directly beneath the tree into the lawn. I would love to have a completely moss covered front yard. Can anyone give me advise on how to encourage the moss growth and discourage the grass growth without damaging the tree? Zone 7a. Thanks.

Bessemer City, NC(Zone 7b)

Keep it moist and always free of fallen leaves or covering debris. Keep soil on the acid side.

Gent, Belgium(Zone 8a)

Must be a lovely sight!
Would love to see a picture of it.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

We did the same a few years ago with an area...we did not want to fight the moss so we decided to make a moss lawn. The moss in this area came on it own. It is a sunny area (relatively speaking, we live in the woods) and therefore weedier. We bite the bullet and sprayed the area with Round-up (have heard it kills the grass/weeds but not moss) immediately after we sprayed the area we got into a LONG dry, hot spell, after a while even the moss went brown....we were sick we thought we really did kill the moss....the next year we had less grass/weeds and the moss lived through it...I have found this area to need constant weeding and therefore- high maintence, BUT I love it and deal with it's maintenance issues. (this past summer I spent 10+ hours on my hands and knees weeding it and you wouldn't know it now) That was the only time we used chemicals on it.This spring I think I am going to throw some preen around on it and see if that won't cut down on recurring weeds.

We have moss in other areas, that are more shaded, not nearly as many weeds in these shady areas and weeding goes quickly.

Round up would kill any folliage it got in contact with, and should not harm the tree roots.
Best of luck, woulld like to hear your progress on it this summer.

Here is a picture of heavily shaded path, the moss is so thick here it feels like you are walking on padded carpeting!!

Thumbnail by Shadyfolks
Gent, Belgium(Zone 8a)

Wow! Shadyfolks, I really love that path or rather luxurious moss carpet!!
I looks like an opening set for a fairy tale.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Thanks, I feel very fortunate!

This message was edited Feb 3, 2007 8:40 PM

Hiouchi, CA(Zone 8b)

what a lovely setting you have there, do you walk on it much ?
i do not see any leaves or other debris ?
i have moss every where but not on the paths like that :-)
did you clean the path of debris for the moss to grow like that ?


Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Hi Dick
Yes, we use the path, but do not run the wheel barrow over it any more, we made another path for that. Years ago I started to blow the paths clean because I didn't want slime and slippery leaves on it when walking on it. Within a few years the moss grew and overtime it has become thick and lush. This area of our property sits low, there is a creek about 20 feet to the right of the path, so there is constant humidity and the moss is very happy. We will blow it off whenever it needs to be cleaned of debris. Our dog and the neighbor's dog can tear it up and we can have divots of moss all over the place. I just put them back down and step on them with my heel.

We had three areas that skunk or something tore the moss up, over and over again this summer, The damaged areas were so large, you just couldn't keep up with it, night after night. Even my neighbor was trying to fix it when she saw it, but gave up, LOL! I finally decided that I will let mother nature take its course and we shall see how it comes through winter once the the weight of the snow packs it back down. I am hoping for the best...time will fix it I figure.

Here's a picture of one area I was describing above. It's like the critter knotted up the moss in little balls and you could not lay it back down flat. If you straightened up an area the next day it looked like this again...you can see why I gave up. I am sure the moss will be patchy, but in another year it'll be fine.

Thumbnail by Shadyfolks
Hiouchi, CA(Zone 8b)

you will NOT believe how much damage the Robins can & will do chasing worms :-)
i almost have a worm farm here in our little forest along with 3 kinds of newts
everytime i move or pickup a pile of anything i see some kind of a critter crawling or slithering
the Robins are always following me & picking, scratching & moving stuff around
BUT i'm sure they don't feed at night
so no telling what is causing your troubles ?
maybe raccoons ?


Thumbnail by Strever
Gent, Belgium(Zone 8a)

I have a simular problem with my residential couple blackbirds.
In the book I have 'Moss-gardening' by George Schenck, he gives a possible sollution to this problem by putting and pinning down a fine black netting over the moss, that eventually becomes invisible after some time.

Hiouchi, CA(Zone 8b)

raydio is correct
in SoCalif zone 10b i set my sprinklers to come on twice a day for 5 min most of the year
and once a day in the wintertime, after about a year i had lots of moss :-)
the area that got too much sunlight in the summer would always die back
& regrow each winter

now i am retired in NoCalif where i get all the mosses, ferns & fungi i can imagine :-)


This message was edited Feb 8, 2007 10:22 AM

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Your log is beautiful! I agree moisture is key!

Hiouchi, CA(Zone 8b)

i am slowly moving them about to make interesting paths :-)
i don't remember if this is a rock or stump ?

Thumbnail by Strever
Bessemer City, NC(Zone 7b)


I have the same sort of damage occurring in one mossy allee, and have wondered what it is that overturns the moss. There's lots of critters around but I don't know which one it is. It also happens at night here.

An opossum, maybe?

Whatever-it-is also likes to scratch through the compost pile, in search of worms, I'd say. It mostly picks though the bottom foot around the pile.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

It's beautiful whatever it is!

What I find interesting is that the moss in the scruffed up area is not as thick and lush as that path (shown in earlier post) These areas are approximately 60' apart. The critter(s) never bothered the path then entire season yet, night after night they would go after the same areas. I don't know what type of moss is growing in these two areas, but that they are a different type. So I wonder, is the critter going after something IN the different mosses, OR is there something in the soil??? I am guess it is in the moss, because they don't really seem to bother the soil. All the areas where I have moss growing are on sand soil...This soil is not rich like a compost pile so I doubt they are finding worms, but they must be finding something because they kept coming back...as for critters I would guess, racoon, skunk or opossum
Life with moss;)

Bessemer City, NC(Zone 7b)


You might be onto something there. The moss-investigator might not be the one in my compost heap......

There are other types of mosses closeby, too, that never get bothered with. Just this one long run with a rather coarse moss--not the cushiony-velvety types. It is maybe an inch and a half tall in summer, but is fairly low right now. The soil is hard-packed and poor underneath. I was assuming there were worms or some insects under there they were seeking......

Whatever-it-is must be hibernating....no sign of mucking around just now.

This is the kind of moss that gets disturbed (this is a critter-loosened mass):

Thumbnail by raydio
Bolivar, TN(Zone 7a)

I hate that moss. We have it spreading all over the place. Finally got tired of it on the patio (slippery when wet) and sprayed it with vinegar. No moss. My hus. bought a large container of vinegar and as soon as it gets warm enough I am going to spray the heck out of a lot of stuff. If snuffs out other plants and grass, covers bricks and rocks and stinks when disturbed. LIZ

cosby, TN(Zone 7a)

this is michiline from cosby, personaly i love moss, i have read in several places that if you take a clump and but in a blender and chop it up, add water and a little beer if you spray this around it will grow moss, ive never tried it, i think i will try it this spring and see how it goes. has anyone else heard of this? happy gardening

Gent, Belgium(Zone 8a)


happy to meet another moss-lover!

I've also heard of this method, I believe in the book of George Schenk called; 'Moss-gardening'. I think it must work but the condition of the substrate where it is sprinkled on must be suitable.
It wouldn't probably work in a sun-baked spot and in dry air conditions.
Observation of their natural growing places is the best way to know where mosses feel happy. Also most moss-species grow on acidic soils, and depending on the variety in shaded to half shaded locations, humid to soaked soils. The book of George Schenk gives many recipes for growing different types of mosses, and is of great value for any real moss-lover.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Sorry to hear that you don't like Moss. Moss in the wrong spot can be hell, Moss in the right spot is heaven (my own opinion!)

Southern, CA(Zone 8b)

I see some moss growing in my shade plant area, and I wasn`t sure if it was a good thing or bad. I thought maybe it was some sort of rot, but reading some of your post, I see some people don`t mind having moss.

Bessemer City, NC(Zone 7b)

Another thing: Mosses prefer hard-packed soil.


Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

That is correct about the hard packed soil, if you have a soil lacking in humus, it is acid and sandy with fine grains amongst it you will get compaction, moss will grow easily, very quickly in fact in the autumn when it is cooler and wet.

Unless I put compost on the surface I get it on the beds, as the compost wears down I start to get some moss again on some beds but a rave around will help stop it. I don't like it on the beds, but have learn to like it in the grass. I had it really bad on one bed until I mulched it, I would clean off one sort and another would grow! Some of them have a deep tap root and to lift it brings soil which can't be removed.

I was cleaning up that bed today, the grass path running between two beds was nearly all moss, yet last year the grass grew more when it was dry. I just let it get on with what it wants to do now.

I have learnt to live with weeds growing amongst the moss-grass too, it is just old rubbish grass but looks good when mown, I don't even mind it looking not so good in between the mowings now, I quite like the little flowers that can grow. I dug out lots of dandelions once, they haven't regrown much but seeds do blow in, I have a nice row on the other side of the hedge along the roadway which set themselves.

Moss, weeds, it is all good for some wildlife. I have found caterpillars overwintering amongst the moss when I have pulled some for packing bulbs in, it is a good protector for them and I get to enjoy the butterflies and moths, some of them live on certain types of weeds. The birds live off grubs and all sorts that hide amongst it. I was upset one year when I spot sprayed some plantain leaves in the grass with something similar to roundup, it rained and I saw a goldfinch drinking water from the leaves. I never used it again.


Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

You certainly do love your moss! Your place sounds wonderful, heaven sent!

Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

I haven't gone to heaven, yet......earth laboured! I love your shady woods.

The low down of it is I think we have been brain washed into thinking all should be neat and manicured. Why??

Wildlife depends on a natural environment, even down to wild flowers for breeding, butterflies need wild grasses and weeds. They won't survive if everyone uses poisons, no bugs will, then the birds don't get fed, the whole eco system is messed up.

I am guilty of having first tried a feed, weed and moss killer. I wish I had not now, but I have established a good eco system where everything sorts itself out. I still see people rushing to use every latest product on the market, I hope that more people will find there is better way if they will give it time.

Santa Maria, CA

Your moss does not look like a moss species. It could be something else.
It is hard to tell from your image. Got any close up images? Have you tried to get it identified?
If you are interested in an identification there is a possibility that I might be able to id it or if not contact a bryologist friend who may be able to. What is really needed is for a whole plant with the capsules. Got any images of that moss with capsules???
This thing really looks interesting as I grow several different kinds of moss and have seen many species but yours is foreign to me!!!

Bessemer City, NC(Zone 7b)


Maybe it's the bad pic that makes it seem unusual........ ;-)

I'm interested in knowing whatever you may find out about it.

I don't have any more pix of the moss (assuming it is that) but can make some better ones today. There are no capsules to be seen now, but I'll photo them if/when they set them.


Burwash Weald, United Kingdom(Zone 9b)

What a nice thread to find - I was just out in the lawn area this weekend and thinking - need to rake, drat, and really liking the way the moss is taking over - and now I have permission to leave! Excellent news! Many thanks.

Bessemer City, NC(Zone 7b)

Jerry: See http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/694660/ for pix of the moss you asked about in http://davesgarden.com/forums/p.php?pid=3206375 .

Takoma Park, MD(Zone 7a)

Wow everybody! This is all so useful. We've been having some really unusual weather (3 weeks of really warm, which brought out the Cherry blossums and two weeks of snow/ice and below freezing temps) in DC these days, and my moss right now is lime green with new growth! It is still quite patchy, which is why I was looking for suggestions on how to encourage it to fill in. I'm going to try the Roundup idea this spring in selected areas to see what happens.

I don't really know why the moss is growing where it's growing -- under my big oak tree and all over the front yard, which is the top of a hill, so most of the time it is very dry. This year, I will water more and see if that too keeps the sunny areas from browning and drying out.

I'm very glad there are so many moss lovers out there! I'll try to get some pictures up in May when my two kids get back from college with the cameras! Thanks everyone for all your assistance and comments. Jacki

Gent, Belgium(Zone 8a)

Just wanted to show a picture of a structure I made in concrete some years ago, with the purpose to let grow mosses over it.

Thumbnail by bonitin
Santa Maria, CA

On the occurrence of moss in your yard:
This may sound inane but not all moss are created equal!!! :-)
The occurrence of mosses is dependent upon the presence of a particular species that can survive within the environmental limitations of the area in which they are found.

Generally, mosses like cool (not hip!! cool as in cold!) areas. The area has to be cool enough for a prolonged enough time to allow moss to survive there.
All with some exceptions (Sphagnum is one) are found in places that receive some quantity of shading during the day everyday.

Also mosses tend to occur where there is moisture for at least a period of time daily within their growing cycle. For example, as I am in coastal California in a city the richness of a moss flora is relatively scant! In fact it is surprisingly to even discover that the prevalent moss species, a Brynum, is best found not only on the ground but in the roof gutter of my van that sits on the northside of my home and is shaded most of the day though during summer receives a great deal more sun. An interesting spot but why here?
Metal has a very interesting property in that moisture condenses on it like it does on windows in a steamy room. On a vehicle in shade the metal is probably cooler than the ambient temperature of the surrounding air and with any degree of humidity condensation occurs and tends to roll off the roof into the gutter that sits above the doors and windows. Here dust accumulates and the moisture provides enough water for Brynum spores to be able to germinate and grow new plants before the summer dryness and the plant goes into less active growth.

While I think that I am stepping on some academic toes when I state that mosses are never really apart from SOME presence of water, verification of my hypothesis remains to be confirmed. Yet several questions point to this conclusion.

Hiouchi, CA(Zone 8b)

nice concrete structure bonitin
it looks like it did what you wanted :-)


Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

I agree, your concrete structure looks like something out of ancient history bonitin, I'm impressed!

Are the large blocks solid concrete, or did you use a hollow structure to build on?

Gent, Belgium(Zone 8a)


The structure is solid except for some space I left for planting in it. Every centimetre in my garden is very valuable and is used to the maximum, because of its tiny size.

In fact it was meant to serve two purposes: I needed a kind of steps to give me access to the roof of my little shed (from there I can harvest the figs of a very tall fig tree, and clean the rubble that piles on it,; it's a transparent roof, because the little shed also serves as a plant-hospital.

As I had a pile of old stones I wanted to get rid off, not easy for me because I have no car, I thought I could use them to make the steps.
So in fact the structure is made of old bricks, bits and pieces, glued together with cement. The outside I covered with a thick layer of cement. I made the surface rough on purpose, so it is more easy to collect dirt and easier for mosses to have a hold on.
The place is in half shade, it only gets the morning sun from spring on, in the winter there is no sun whatsoever.
When I look at it now it actually served three purposes: I got rid of the old bricks, I have access to the roof of the shed and it is a place for mosses to grow.

I've also been making stones with the purpose of growing mosses on for places in the garden, I cannot grow anything on, also to cover the linings of my little pool.
Advantages of mosses on stones are that blackbirds cannot pull them out, there's nothing to harvest for them underneath!

I also like to give an ancient look to my plant containers, so I give them a treat with cement and dirt.

An example of a container with cement- treatment.

Thumbnail by bonitin
Gent, Belgium(Zone 8a)

some stones freshly made to cover the linings of the pool, with rough surface and dirt rubbed in it while the cement was not hardened yet.

Thumbnail by bonitin
Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

I'm impressed bonitin! The plant pot looks like it has come from the bottom of the ocean.

You have given me an idea, I have recycled constituted stone bricks as a low wall building up the bed under the tree. All I need to do is cover them in concrete and rub in the dirt! I have been wanting to camouflage it but didn't think of doing that. Thanks!

Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

Did you know we now have a new forum, Sustainable Alternatives?

bonitin it would be great if you could post about your concrete glued mossy stones there!


Gent, Belgium(Zone 8a)

Thank you Wallaby for your compliments!

I didn't know about the new forum and it might be a good idea, like you suggest, to pass through my little part of experience with recycling.

Lincoln, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

I linked to your two posts on a thread I started about my stone wall, but it would be a good idea for you to start your own thread to encourage others, it has encouraged me!

In the past I have seen tubs made from using polystyrene or plastic covered in cement and aged, but haven't seen a use for myself until you posted abour yours. I am thrilled about it!

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