A close-up view of mosses can reveal some amazing beauty. Naturalist Phil Henderson suggests embracing moss in certain areas of yards.

A close-up view of mosses can reveal some amazing beauty. Naturalist Phil Henderson suggests embracing moss in certain areas of yards.

Moss can be beautiful

Sure, encourage grass in those bright, open central areas, but let moss thrive in the shady fringes of your yard’s grassy bosom.

Now that the weather is improving and you have turned your attention outdoors, you may have noticed that while you were sleeping and ignoring your lawn this winter, moss was growing and mixing with precious blades of grass.

Last year’s patch of perfect green is now spoiled by mosses that threaten to take over. You have probably invested a lot of time and a good deal of money growing a fine crop of unsullied grass, the object of much pride and pleasing comments from admiring neighbours. Now, all that is ruined by moss.

It’s like discovering your prized dog, alumni of all the best puppy schools, eating your neighbour’s garbage in the early hours of collection day. In horror, you scramble outside in your housecoat and socks hoping to retrieve the puppy before he is recognized, just as your neighbour opens his door and rushes out with a broom.

So, how do you deal with the moss? The answer is near at hand, it is inescapable. Every garden and home improvement centre and big box retail outlet has large signs instructing and commanding you to “Kill Moss”. Even if these signs don’t immediately convince you to stop and pick up a couple gallons of liquid moss death or a bag of fertilizer fortified with moss killer, you’ll be back.

On returning home, the first thing you’ll do is inspect your lawn. You will find moss. And not just any old moss. You will find unsightly moss, damaging moss, horrible moss that if left unchecked will cause something unspeakably horrific. No one tells you what, exactly. They don’t even tell you why moss is bad.

It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you need to fear it and kill it.

Manufacturers and retailers won’t tell you that dumping a bunch of poison on it won’t do much good. Beware of the thrill of killing moss, of reaping revenge on that aggressive destroyer of a proper suburban aesthetic. It will be short-lived.

To truly rid your lawn of this green scourge, you have to remove the conditions in which it thrives, primarily moisture and shade. This might involve pruning shrubs and trees to increase sunlight and air flow, aerating the lawn, applying sand to aid drainage, applying dolomite lime to counter soil acidity, and over-seeding.

The bad news is that you may have to engage that enemy of modern life, that almost buried and forgotten relict of a past age: patience.

For those who don’t discard this paper at such a dreadful thought, I offer you an irresistible alternative: embrace moss. Give it a little space. Sure, encourage grass in those bright, open central areas, but let moss thrive in the shady fringes of your yard’s grassy bosom.

Then call up your friends, offer them all refreshments and magnifying glasses and show them the intricate and beautiful world of the mosses. Remember to ply them with plenty of refreshments first or you will simply end up with fewer friends.

Next, work on your neighbours. Soon, mosses will be accepted as diverse, exquisitely adapted plants that can be used to great effect in every garden, and every lawn, too.

Join the Langley Field Naturalists Thursday, April 19 for “Living on the (ice) edge: Baffin Bay in the midnight sun” presented by John Lowman. It begins at 7:15 p.m., Langley Community Music School, 4899 207 St. Everyone is welcome.

— Phil Henderson,

Langley Field Naturalists

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