“Honey, it’s time to mow the moss!”
I realize it is a bit early to address such a topic, but it will not be long before some homeowners may be faced with such a dilemma.
Sellers of lawn fertilizers and moss killers are not going to like this story. Why? Because it will give hope to rain-soaked homeowners who suffer from moss-ridden lawns nurtured by our moist Northwest climate. Besides, this is a true story.
A few years ago in the rain forest near Allyn, Wash., the Bob Supino family was fighting a losing battle against the moss invasion of their freshly-planted turf. Of course, the lawn did have a few strikes against it to begin with.
First, it was lacking one key ingredient — topsoil. Indeed, the yard-to-be was a mixture of sand, rocks and clay perched on top of a hardpan.
Second, the struggling new turf quickly became a fine fescue feast for 40 million (a rough count) crane fly larvae.
Finally, as the moss was marching toward final victory over the rapidly-diminishing grass, Diane noticed that some unusual things began to happen.
“People began to stop by and compliment us on the lush green appearance of our lawn at unusual times of the year — like in the middle of winter when all the neighbors’ lawns looked like they were dead.
“We began to wonder if we should kill the grass and just go with the moss,” she said.
Even a friend who was a turf salesman checked out their yard to determine the feasibility of producing moss lawns for Northwest landscapes. Possibly with tongue in cheek, he was impressed by the prospects.
Eventually, the moss was growing so fast that Diane had to mow it – even when neighboring grass lawns were still ugly brown and dormant. Passersby then began to comment on the nice appearing patterns on the velvet-like lawn. Some felt it even rivaled some of the finest formal gardens of England.
“However, in the summer when the weather became drier,” she said, “the moss took on a different luster. That caused people to stop by and ask how we created the unusual blotchy, dead-like, orange-rust appearance when everyone else’s lawns were nice and green.”
All these things caused the family to ponder what it should do. First, they listed all the advantages they could think of for growing a moss lawn.
1. Low maintenance — no watering, fertilizing or application of moss killers.
2. Enjoy the comments of passing strangers on the unique appearance of the lawn at unusual times of the year.
3. No need to worry about invading buttercups, clovers or dandelions because their bright yellow and purple blossoms proved to be attractive contrasts to the lush green hues of the moss.
4. When mowing, the moss clippings could be gathered in a moss catcher and fed to the family rabbits.
5. The cushiness of the moss created an unusual but pleasant spring in one’s steps when walking across the lawn.
However, they also recognized that moss lawns were not without their drawbacks. Bob noted two important ones.
First, they had to learn new clichés like, “The moss is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
Second, they experienced serious difficulties when shopping for “keep off the moss” signs.
Finally, Diane reported that squirrels began to hide bulbs from the neighboring yard in the moss turf. She complained that they remembered where each one was hidden and their activities tore up portions of the lawn.
Well, Lily-Miller and Nulife, with these serious drawbacks, maybe there is still hope for grass lawns after all.
Dennis Tompkins is a certified arborist, hazard tree risk assessor, Master Gardener and urban forester from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. Email him at email@example.com.