Got moss in your garden?
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. This fascinating plant has some amazing properties which can make it a boon in the garden as well as a viable compost material.
In this post, we’ll cover some of the benefits of moss for gardeners even before it’s composted. We’ll also look at some of the challenges of composting moss, and how to overcome them.
What is Moss?
Moss is a type of plant that grows in damp and shady places. It has no true roots, stems or leaves, but instead consists of small green shoots that grow close together.
It also has some amazing benefits for gardeners and soils.
It is often the first plant to colonise ground, and can release nutrients from the soil. One 2019 study by Mahrup et al found that moss can improve soil structure and increase nutrition uptake. The difference was significant – with corn growing 4mm a day faster when growing with moss.
Moss is often said to have a high lignin content which slows the decomposition and breakdown. However, some studies have challenged this.
For example, one study by Erickson et al found that 6 mosses were devoid of lignin. However, mosses may have a lignin-like structure which slows decomposition.
Can You Compost Moss?
Yes! Moss (living or dead) is composed of organic matter just like any other plant. It will break down over time in the compost pile, adding nitrogen and other nutrients to the mix. However, the process can take longer than with other compost materials.
I’ve added it to my own compost pile many times (albeit well mixed in with other materials) and have found that after hot composting AND a decent maturation time, there is no sign of it in the finished product.
Benefits of Composting Moss
As with all compost, composted moss helps the garden in a number of ways:
- Improves soil structure: The decomposed material helps improve soil structure by increasing air pockets and drainage in compacted soils.
- Adds nutrients: As moss breaks down, it releases nitrogen and other essential nutrients into the soil which can help promote healthy plant growth.
- Reduces waste: By composting moss instead of throwing it away, you’re helping reduce waste while also creating a valuable resource for your garden.
Learn more about the benefits of composting.
Tips For Composting Moss
- Although some moss does not have lignin, its cell wall structure can still slow down decomposition. As with other tough materials, shred or chop up large pieces before adding them to your compost pile to speed up decomposition.
- Make sure your compost pile has enough moisture so that the moss doesn’t dry out too quickly; if necessary add water regularly during dry spells.
- Add plenty of carbon-rich materials such as wood chips or shredded newspaper to balance out the high nitrogen content of the moss.
Composting moss is a great way to recycle organic matter while also improving your soil’s fertility and structure at the same time. However, given the benefits it has to the soil and plants, it might just be worth leaving it where it is at times!