Tag Archive | shade garden

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

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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.

 

 

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A Natural History of Ferns (book review)

this article originally appeared in the Summer 2006 edition of the Outagamie County Master Gardener Association newsletter

Book Review by Karen DesJarlais

A Natural History of Ferns By Robbin C. Moran

imagesI just finished reading this book and I know what you’re thinking. Too many rainy days, must have had trouble sleeping. But you’re wrong; this book is riveting as plant books go. I think you’ll gain new respect for ferns if you didn’t appreciate the wonders of a spore reproducing plant that dates back 340 million years.

The book’s 33 chapters (any one of which could be a stand alone) is organized under six major headings: Life Cycle, Classification, Fern Fossils, Adaptations, Geography, and Ferns and People. You’ll be glad to know that the glossary is clear and will cause you to be a real page turner if you want to enhance your knowledge of ferns or be botanically correct.

Here is the author’s crystallized version of how enriching fern study can be. “Learning the meanings of names of ferns opens a little window that looks out onto pteridology, the study of ferns. Through it you can glimpse people who developed the science, the voyages that brought back to Europe many previously unknown and marvelous species and the ancient cultures and what they believed about plants.

The book has the best explanation I’ve seen of the advantage of using the Latin binomial for plant reference and ex- plains how the process of naming works. To name a “new” plant with a new Latin name, you need to comply with five requirements prescribed by the International Code of Binomial nomenclature. The code evolved over the years and every six years, an International Botanical Congress revises it.

You don’t need to have a PhD in botany or membership in a scientific society to name a new species. Anyone can do it as long as they present evidence that the plant differs from any previously discovered and as long as they follow the rules. Between 1991 and 1995, about 620 new kinds of ferns were described worldwide, mostly in the tropics.

You’ll enjoy the chapter “At the Movies” as it relates to a movie “A New Leaf” released in 1971. The plot centers on the naming of a new fern.

We shouldn’t be surprised that ferns could be invasive. One such purple loosestrife like species is the salvinia mo- lesta. It’s capable of doubling its population in size in just two days. This weedy one clogged irrigation ditches, blocked drainage canals and jammed water pumps. In some places, it harbored the human blood of parasite schis- tosomiasis causing entire villages in the Asian tropics to be abandoned. The story of finding the natural predator for this species is like a CSI.

In contrast, the most economically beneficial ad smallest fern in the world is the Azolla. In North America, it grows in the Mississippi River floodplain of northeastern Arkansas. In Southeast Asia, especially China and Vietnam, it’s a rich nitrogen fertilizer for rice paddies. Nitrogen is release as it decomposes. Because of Azolla, the rice grain is richer in protein than if fertilized with chemical fertilizer. You’ll enjoy the cultural and economic discussion surrounding this tiny fern.

Pteridomania is the most engaging chapter under the “Ferns and People” section as well.

If you enjoyed botany at any point in your life, you’ll love this book. If you didn’t, you’ll find the author’s conversational styles slyly teaches you a lot. Yes, there are pictures; several pages of colored plates and lots of enlightening drawings, many of them done by the author.

I have a whole new respect for the Osmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern) that I just got from Wild Ones. It has a longer fossil record than any other fern, extending back 200 million years.

I found my hardcover of A Natural History of Ferns at the Menasha Public Library. It’s still raining (the ferns love it) and my eyes are getting a little heavy but I know it’s not the book!

OCMGA 7th Annual Garden Walk – Garden #5

Each summer, the Outagamie County Master Gardener Association hosts a community garden walk to help raise money to further develop the Community gardens of Goodwill Grows, and to add food to the local food pantries. This year’s Garden Walk will be held on Saturday, June 20 when the public is invited to tour five select gardens in the Fox Cities. For more information about the times, cost, and addresses, please visit our Facebook page.

Each of the gardens represents a unique look at gardening style and design, and each of the five will be the subject of posts. The last of our gardens is described here today: the Sandi Anderson garden:

“This selection is a delight for all interests! This collection of gardens set in an expansive lawn offers something for everyone. It is a personal work of love for Sandi’s children and grandchildren, and includes perennials handed down from her parents. A gnome garden for curious children, shade gardens, vegetable garden, rose garden and more all bordered by wooded areas with trillium poking their bright faces up in early spring. Sandi dots her gardens with wonderful structures like the Eiffel towers (yes, plural). A large wooden gate that was rebuilt after tornadoes struck the area 2 years ago. Take extra time to stroll around the grounds and discover a wide variety of perennials. You might also find a worm farm inside 2 old tires if you’re very observant! A thrifty and creative gardener, Sandi makes use of all her property has to offer.”

Written by De Dalum

Posted by Vicki

OCMGA 7th Annual Garden Walk – Garden #4

Each summer, the Outagamie County Master Gardener Association hosts a community garden walk to help raise money to further develop the Community gardens of Goodwill Grows, and to add food to the local food pantries. This year’s Garden Walk will be held on Saturday, June 20 when the public is invited to tour five select gardens in the Fox Cities. For more information about the times, cost, and addresses, please visit our Facebook page.

Each of the gardens represents a unique look at gardening style and design, and each of the five will be the subject of posts. Today, the Anne Rausch garden:

“The Japanese maple greets visitors at the front door. Then your awareness is transformed by the abundant greenery and variety of colors, textures and shapes in this rejuvenated yard. It was a simple city lot with lawn and 2 trees when Anne purchased the property. Now, you will see the spellbinding transformation from boring to amazing. This suburban landscape has been ornamented with trees and shrubs to provide all season color and to attract birds. Look for the ornamental pear, the weeping cherry, weeping flowering crab apple, riverfront birch, tiger eyes sumac, Kentucky coffee bean tree, and more. Natural fencing along property lines adds to the beauty of this yard. She also has time and space for an herb garden, a full sun vegetable garden, and a unique water collection system. The term “water barrel” hardly does it justice.”

Written by De Dalum

Posted by Vicki

OCMGA 7th Annual Garden Walk – Garden #3

Each summer, the Outagamie County Master Gardener Association hosts a community garden walk to help raise money to further develop the Community gardens of Goodwill Grows, and to add food to the local food pantries. This year’s Garden Walk will be held on Saturday, June 20 when the public is invited to tour five select gardens in the Fox Cities. For more information about the times, cost, and addresses, please visit our Facebook page.

Each of the gardens represents a unique look at gardening style and design, and each of the five will be the subject of posts. Today, Columbus Elementary School Learning Garden:

“This is your opportunity to see how the values of gardening and growing are being bestowed upon our most precious resource: our children! Columbus Elementary School has a wonderful learning garden headed by Master Gardener Shirley Martin. She animates garden stories for first- through fourth-graders and delights them with the knowledge of where our food comes from. Look for the Peter Rabbit garden, the Three Sisters garden, as well as herbs, cold frames, and compost bins. This effort does everything to explain why we love to garden. This is a garden gem that serves a core Appleton neighborhood.”

Written by De Dalum / Posted by Vicki

OCMGA 7th Annual Garden Walk – Garden #2

Each summer, the Outagamie County Master Gardener Association hosts a community garden walk to help raise money to further develop the Community gardens of Goodwill Grows, and to add food to the local food pantries. This year’s Garden Walk will be held on Saturday, June 20 when the public is invited to tour five select gardens in the Fox Cities. For more information about the times, cost, and addresses, please visit our Facebook page.

Each of the gardens represents a unique look at gardening style and design, and each of the five will be the subject of posts. Today, Gardens at Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship:

“This five acre property is amazing to see in the middle of a busy retail corridor! The front entrance welcomes everyone with a tranquil water feature. The majority of garden space on the south and west sides of the building is alive with the sound of songbirds. Winding mowed paths and benches offer an opportunity for peaceful reflection. Begun in 1998, this garden oasis is protected by gently sloping berms covered with a variety of native trees and shrubs. You can see a native sumac stand, a demonstration garden, a retention pond and a pollinator garden. Many years of soil restoration helped create a garden with nearly 100 native species of flowers, grasses, bushes and trees. Look for joe pyeweed, turtlehead, cardinal flower, verbena and more. To sustain this landscape, French drains (named after Henry Flagg French in the 1800’s) were installed to prevent a soggy lawn, a wet foundation, and erosion of the berms. Don’t miss this impressive horticultural adventure in an urban setting.”

Written by De Dalum

Posted by Vicki

OCMGA 7th Annual Garden Walk

Each summer, the Outagamie County Master Gardener Association hosts a community garden walk to help raise money to further develop the Community gardens of Goodwill Grows, and to add food to the local food pantries. This year’s Garden Walk will be held on Saturday, June 20 when the public is invited to tour five select gardens in the Fox Cities. For more information about the times, cost, and addresses, please visit our Facebook page.

Each of the gardens represents a unique look at gardening style and design, and each of the five will be the subject of posts. Today, the Anne and Dick VanHandel garden:

“5 Floral Drive, named for the old Geenan Nursery, is an inviting space which honors the legacy of William Geenan, the Kimberly Florist. You will stroll through ample gardens filled with an eclectic mix of perennials, shrubs and trees. This lot is surrounded by history, with mighty oaks keeping the secrets of times gone by. When the VanHandels purchased the property it was overgrown with trees and weeds. They have rehabilitated the property with love, sweat, and maybe a few tears. An uncommon specimen, Seven-son tree or Heptcodium miconiodes, stands as a proud centerpiece in one garden. Vegetables mix with perennials in other gardens. A growing environment designed with both beauty and practical elements tell you this yard is lived in and loved.”

Written by De Dalum

Posted by Vicki