Tag Archive | moss

Growing Moss

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

We have a cottage in northern Wisconsin where the soil is extremely sandy, conditions are wet (at least most years), and there’s no direct sunlight. My husband spent hours and hours building new steps from bricks and sand, down from the driveway, and I was constantly battling the growth of grass or weeds settling into the cracks between the bricks. Finally, after several years of coddling the growth of moss, I now have a lovely set of steps with moss growing between the bricks — although there’s a way to go yet until it’s where I want it.

There are lots of places where we can’t get things to grow because of shade or moist conditions. Rock gardens always look good with moss between the stones and, of course, a natural, woodland look always needs large rocks with moss. You can grow your own!

07b00980d4f216a286fe4fd73a16382aThe most important ingredient in any recipe for moss is patience (as I learned): it can take years to achieve that fuzzy carpet. The next item on the list is the powers of observation. There are hundreds of different mosses, each suited to a particular ecological niche, and the best way to choose one that will grow well where you want it is to notice what’s already growing there or in a similar location. [Note: I’m chagrined to remember pulling out tufts of moss from between my bricks after they were newly laid because I thought it was ‘spoiling’ the look! Grrr!)

With any luck, the moss you want will be somewhere on your property or that of a friend, because the next step is to collect some. Taking mosses from public lands is not legal; taking them from private ones without permission is stealing. If necessary, moss starts can be purchased; specialists in bonsai supplies sell them.

Collecting Moss

DSC_0743

Collect moss after a soaking rain, or, if that’s not possible, water the mossy area thoroughly. Though there are some mosses that will grow on several different substrates, you’ll have the best luck if you collect from a surface similar to the one you want to cover (wood, soil, or rock).

Take small, roughly 1 1/2-inch diameter patches, and never more than two or three from a square foot of moss. If it is growing on soil, make sure you take the patches with soil attached. Keep the patches moist.

Growing Moss from Slurry

This method is mostly used for hard surfaces such as rocks, flowerpots, and concrete. The idea is to coat the object with a mush of ground moss that contains lots of spores. To get it, you simply process clean moss in a blender, combining it with a thick liquid that will hold it in suspension and help it adhere.

4912b88dde824566d0c7fa410fe5163c--growing-moss-grow-moss-on-potsYogurt and buttermilk are think and sticky — and acidic, which moss likes — and are therefore often used in slurry recipes, but they are not essential. Potter’s clay (from the craft store), thinned to thick-milkshake texture with water, works even better because it holds moisture longer. Diluted manure can also be used if you have a blender dedicated to garden purposes.

For about 3 cups of slurry, enough to coat roughly 1 1/2 to 2 square feet of surface, you’ll need: 

  • 1 loosely packed cup of moss pieces, or a bit more
  • 2 1/2 cups of liquid: diluted potter’s clay, diluted manure, yogurt, buttermilk, or whatever mixture you want to try
  1. Grind the moss in a blender with 2 cups of the liquid. The result should be about the texture of thin pudding. Add more moss (or more liquid), if necessary.
  2. Thoroughly wet the object, paint it with the remaining 1/2 cup of thick liquid, then paint on the moss slurry
  3. Keep the surface constantly moist, using a gentle mist so you don’t dislodge anything. Once a day will probably be enough if the item is in a damp, shady place, but don’t let it dry out. Within six weeks or so you should see the thin green, algae-like filaments that signal new moss is growing.

Transplanting Moss

This method is most often used where the moss will grow on soil, though transplanting will work on any surface as long as it is porous. Before you go out collecting, prepare the site. Remove vegetation (except existing moss, of course). Text for pH and lower it if necessary; most woodland mosses are acid lovers, happiest when pH is about 5.5. Rake the area smooth and water thoroughly.

Collect the moss patches. Place them on the prepared site, pressing down well, then pin them to the soil here and there with twigs to help them bond with their new home. If you’re doing only a small area, you can cover it with the moss “sod”, but otherwise, spread the patches out about 8 to 10 inches from center to center. They will grow together, eventually, as long as you keep the soil between them damp and free of weeds. For faster coverage, make some slurry and spread it between the patches.

Water well right after planting and frequently thereafter. The moss should take hold in about a month. Once it’s established it will tolerate a dry day or two, but not until then.

 

 

Advertisements

Plants for Pavers

255bb1765f5c93f118e2a433e93dd504--garden-steps-garden-paths

Pavers planted in the style of a rock garden

Pavers create lovely walkways through our gardens, but why not make the garden part of your walkway?! There are many plants that will thrive between pavers, sending leaves and flowers through the cracks as they spread their roots under the protective mulch of the stones. Which ones you choose will depend on the size of the spaces between the stones, and on whether you want just a bit of green fuzz or something more like a rock garden.

02b83c5523bdb774266540ce0bcb9136--patio-country-flagstone-patio

Pavers planted with sweet alyssum

In the latter case, you might like to try old-fashioned pinks, Dianthus deltoides. In early summer, this long-lived perennial sends up green wands topped with fragrant flowers in shades of red, pink, and white. But they’re equally valuable for their sturdy tufts of narrow, dark green leaves, which start early in spring and stay good looking for a long time. An alternative is sweet alyssum, an annual that self-sows so reliably that it’s effectively perennial. Alyssum can have a somewhat weedy appearance; the stems are lax and the leaves are pale, but it’s fragrant white, pink, or purple flowers will keep coming all summer as long as you shear it back from time to time.

If you want the low, mat-like look and would like to have fragrance to boot, choose Corsican mint (Mentha requienii), which has tiny, round intensely fragrant leaves, or one of the various creeping thymes (Thymus serphyllum). T.s. ‘Coccineus’ has crimson flowers and dark foliage, which T.s. ‘Albus’ has lighter green leaves and dainty white flowers in early summer.

IMG_3032

My considerably less formal pavers planted with thyme and moneywort

Don’t forget that not all paved places are created equal. Where conditions are hot and dry, the pinks and thymes will thrive, the alyssum will be ok, and the mint will fade away. Should the pavement be in damp shade, on the other hand, the mint will be happy, the heat lovers won’t, and you could also think about using moss. It is a slower grower that will take much longer than plants to fill up and spaces, but if conditions are right for it, the effect can be beautiful.