9

I have an awful lot of moss in my lawn and I've been raking it out and collecting a lot of it.

I've read that it might not be a great idea to put moss in the compost bin and I'm averse to throw away anything green.

Is there anything I can use this moss for in the garden?

16

Moss is just fine in your compost! Moss is one of the great opportunists in the plant world. Moss is not hurting your lawn. The presence of moss is telling us your lawn is not vigorous enough, you are watering too often and too shallowly, you are probably mowing too short and you've possibly got shade involved.

The cool thing about moss is that if there is bare soil moss will be able to grow and cover that bare soil. Moss is unable to grow without plenty of moisture, will not out compete or harm your grasses, thrives in shade and cool temperatures.

There is moss killer, a copper sulfate you can use but you will be right back to bare soil. Glyphosate is overkill and forget reseeding for 3 weeks. What you've already done, raking it out is perfect first step. Go ahead and put it in your compost, gees, this is a wonderful plant and moss spores are everywhere all the time. I'm betting you live in the Pacific Northwest? Yes?

Your main focus should be figuring out why your lawn is wimpy and dying out to cause bare ground. Here are some of the proper maintenance practices to enhance the vigor of your lawn grasses;

1) Do not water every day. Water deeply and then do not water again until you see your footprints after walking on your lawn. When the grass doesn't spring back up after stepping on it, that is the sign to water again and deeply. Allow to dry until you see your footprints again, no sooner. This trains your grass to grow deep roots which cool season grasses are genetically designed to have. These genetically deep root systems need sufficient top growth of photosynthetic material with which to make their food and to support those roots.

2) Mow no shorter than 3". I am serious. Not 2 1/2 but 3 full inches! When the grass is cut this way you end up taking off less each time you mow (once per week minimum). Bag and compost. I've never found a mower that is able to really chop the blades of grass fine enough. Great stuff for compost. Not so much for your lawn. I'd rather fertilize correctly than deal with thatch.

3) You need a soil test. Your soil is probably acidic, duh, Pacific Northwest! Copper Sulfate will kill the moss but it will also lower the pH of your soil even more. Grass needs a more neutral pH. Do not lime without a test. This is the only way to know how much lime to apply to your lawn as well as the amounts of necessary chemicals grass needs. Otherwise, you the dude in control will be blindly managing your lawn. At least one test; guess they are about $15 now at your closest cooperative extension service. In Washington that would be WSU.

4) Fertilizer should be higher in N than the P and the K, in terms of percentage. Fast release in my experience is not that healthy for your crop of grasses. There are amazing slow release, organic fertilizers that also have important microchemicals and beneficial thatch eating bacteria. Traditional Scotts/Ortho synthetics are applied 4X per year. Each has a different formulation for spring, early summer, late summer and then fall. Important to follow. The slow release you won't need to do but 2 or maybe 3X. I have to tell you with decades of caring for lawns on a commercial basis (Seattle WA area) it is worth every extra penny offset by having to fertilize less often. I was so impressed by these 'organic' fertilizers I actually PUSH these products. The one I used was Dr. Earth Lawn Fertilizer. Seriously amazing the difference in health of lawns.

5) Aerate once per year with a core aerator easily rented and costs shared with your neighbors. It is fast and simple and takes little of your energy to get 'er done. Leave the cores right where they fall!

6) Get an extra set or two of blades for your mower. You want brutally sharp blades! If your mower is unable to be raised high enough to cut no shorter than 3 inches, your shop should be able to customize the height adjustments. Get to know these guys! Stick around if you are able to learn how to maintain your mower. Learn how to change out air and gas filters.

7) If you are trying to grow grass in shade you will have to reduce fertilizer of that shaded grass by half. Too much fertilizer on grass not getting enough light will put undue stress and weaken grass in the shade. You might consider getting rid of grass in the shade by making a graveled park look instead of having to keep fighting growing grass where it will never be happy or having to manage part of your lawn one way for sun and another for shade.

Just by changing your maintenance habits you will not have to 'worry' about moss or weeds or any other chemical applications. Moss is green and you have to get close to see it is moss not grass. Moss is just telling you your lawn is not happy and management practices need to change to promote grass, not moss.

  • 1
    Great comments on moss, and I am taking some steps to get rid of the moss from my lawn. But now that I have removed moss, I'm just curious as to what I can use it for. Thanks for your input :) – Danger Fourpence May 16 '17 at 19:42
  • Put it in your compost heap, you could even use this stuff if thick enough for lining hanging baskets as Bamboo inferred. Put it on top of weeds on the back of your plant beds. Makes super compost. How much have you raked up? Do you have a compost pile? The only compost one can trust is their own. – stormy May 16 '17 at 19:53
  • Yeah I have a pretty hefty tub full of compost and I could probably match it in volume by moss (with a lot of raking). Looks like it's going to gradually get added to the compost bin and I'll let the birds take what they need in the meantime – Danger Fourpence May 16 '17 at 21:34
  • @DangerFourpence Another cool moniker btw. That moss once decomposed might be 1/8 of the volume you've got now. Remember that moss is no more than a temporary green growth in those bare spots. Just throwing grass seed won't be enough to get your lawn up to snuff. Dump the tub of compost on the ground, cover it so it doesn't get TOO wet, throw some fertilizer on it, turn it once a week and you are good to go. Please ask questions as you work. Hey, right now it is SNOWING where I live! Ugh. – stormy May 16 '17 at 21:58
  • To add to your excellent list, if there are very wet patches, especially in shade, where only moss will grow, dry these out by spreading sand on your lawn and raking it in. Don't overdo it, just a centimeter at a time, rinse and repeat for a few years. Worked wonders on mine, though I still have to repeat it occasionally. – RedSonja May 17 '17 at 8:16
4

You can add it to a compost heap, so long as one part moss is mixed with 4 parts other materials. It can also be stored in a bag and added to the compost over time if there's too much straightaway. That, though, assumes you have not used chemicals on the lawn during the last few weeks - if you have, then its not much use for anything.

Birds often take it to line their nests with, so leave it out in little piles here and there, if its not too late for that where you are. It it hasn't been treated, you can also use it to line a hanging basket.

I do wonder why you have so much moss though; the usual cause is too much shade in winter, especially in damp climates, secondary causes are poorly maintained and unfertilised turf,and grass cut too short.

  • Hey there @Bamboo! Love the bird nest thing. Copper Sulfate won't harm the compost will it? If that is all the OP has used...broadleaf weed killer on the other hand...can you imagine what is in compost made by the 'clean green' dump facilities or compost making services using home owner lawn debris?? Love lining the hanging basket idea. I have used plain burlap for the same. – stormy May 16 '17 at 19:38
  • @stormy works well for baskets and the birds here pick moss from the garage roof in spring,but never from the lawn,too risky and harder to get it up – Bamboo May 16 '17 at 20:07
  • Birds are very smart...they know the moss on the garage roof probably doesn't have a plethora of crap chemicals included. Moss is also known as an 'indicator' plant. Kale is another. Indicator plants take up and store chemicals like crazy. Organic kale, strict management albeit not in a greenhouse or protected soils shows huge amounts of heavy metals. Moss does the same. – stormy May 16 '17 at 22:31
  • @stormy the garage roofs are white asbestos and concrete...I hope the moss doesn't absorb asbestos! Birds also like the plumes on pampas grass, if you leave 'em on till spring, they're always nicking bits of those around March. – Bamboo May 16 '17 at 22:40
  • Great point. People live in homes to this day with asbestos, even in London. Isn't that amazing? Wonder when people in Pompeii and Rome finally figured out that lead wasn't such a cool thing for pipes and dinnerware? We all learn the hard way. Our civilization is the same way, only we think we know everything. Fluoride in tap water? – stormy May 16 '17 at 22:49
3

Not quite “in the garden” — but you can always consider drying the moss and selling it at a local crafts fair or flea market, or selling or gifting the moss to a friend who will do so.
Similar to one of the suggestions given in another answer here.

You might be surprised at the demand for such things in some niches. Most of what you would see in craft shops is an artificial replica of organic moss because such things are cheaper to produce and distribute. You probably will not be able to procure customers for all your moss, but it could be worth a modest venture.

Most of your customers will be people who don't have access to such things in their neighborhoods. The more urbanized the habitat, the more likely you will be to find therein a market or even a periodic venue.
As such, the value of the moss and lichens in such trades is improved by preserving as much of its natural environment as possible. If the moss is firmly attached to a stone or scrap of bark, then don't separate the two.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.