How can I create a place for moss to grow?

February 04, 2010|By Ellen Nibali | Special to The Baltimore Sun

Question:In my very shady back yard, grass is very difficult to grow - tall trees, compacted soil, and slight slope. Since moss seems 'determined' to grow, how about accepting it, nurturing it, instead of grass? I realize the deeper roots of grass would be better to hold soil, but moss is better than bare ground, right?

Answer: You're right. It's impossible to grow grass in shade. Grass is a prairie/meadow plant and demands 3-4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Moss is an acceptable ground cover, in fact moss is prized in some countries. There are many species of moss and each is interesting to see.

Moss is definitely better than bare ground and, yes, requires very little nutrition. It will put up with low light, little water, acidic soil (so you don't need to lime), and compacted soils. Moss doesn't handle the wear and tear of heavy foot traffic, so if you have well-used paths, you might want to put down mulch on the path. Adding beds with an assortment of ferns, hollies and other shade-loving plants with more root will help prevent erosion. Just avoid invasive ground covers; some of them are notorious pests you'll come to regret, such as Bishops weed. See our publications on groundcovers and invasives at www.hgic.umd.edu. Click on Publications.

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