Plain Gardening: “The moss is killing my grass!”


This week, Plain Gardening visits the home of News 5 Chief Photographer Gary “Bubba” Arnold.  Bubba’s dealing with an issue that bothers lots of folks in our well-treed corner of the world: it’s hard to grow grass in a shady yard.

Gardening expert Bill Finch says plants are green for a reason.  They use sunlight and chlorophyll to produce food.  Green is about photosynthesis and if they don’t get enough sunlight, they don’t grow.

There are lots of trees in Bubba’s yard, way too many for a lush grass yard.  As the grass thins out, the only thing that will grow in that soil is moss.  Some folks may say, “The moss is killing my grass!”, but Bill says the moss is taking advantage of the fact that there’s no grass to compete with it.  If you get rid of the moss, the grass won’t return…you’ll just be left with bare dirt.

So, what do you do?  Bill says you either have to thin the trees to let in more light or just embrace the moss.  And there’s a lot to love about moss:  it’s soft underfoot, it looks pretty, and it requires very little watering.  The Japanese are way ahead of us on this point; in fact, many homes in Japan cultivate moss lawns.

Perhaps add a pond and you’re good to go!  Even if you don’t really like moss, Bill says there’s no easy way to kill it, and even if you could you’ll just end up with bare dirt…so you may as well just grow to love your moss.  If you have running water, you may need a barrier—it erodes easily.  And it may need a sprinkle of water in the late spring and late fall.

If you have questions about moss, call Bill’s radio show Sunday mornings from 9-11 on 106.5FM or email

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