Every time I write a story it’s because I’ve been inspired by something I’ve seen or heard. I was inspired recently by a beautiful “moss garden.”
First: Moss is not mildew and doesn’t damage other plants and household surfaces the way mildew does. Although I’d keep it off cedar roof shingles.
The facts: Technically moss is a plant although it doesn’t have true leaves, branches or roots. Since it doesn’t have roots, it must absorb water in other ways. Also, it has no seeds but spreads by spores or division. Typically, it grows in colonies.
The needs: Moisture – just damp not swampy. Shade – keeps it from drying out as quickly. Acidic soil – A pH of about 5.5. Compacted soil – prefers compacted clay soil.
The attitude: If you have the needs met and you have moss growing – stop trying to get rid of it! It’s like having the perfect conditions for roses and killing them because you want a sand lot. Just stop!
Developing a moss garden can start with that bit you already have growing. Keep your new moss garden in that general area since you already know it has the right conditions.
The warnings: Moss harvested in deep shade will not grow as well in an open lightly shaded area. Yes, there are many different moss varieties. If you harvest your own, try to plant in a similar situation. If you buy, ask the seller which is right for your spot.
Transplanting: Best time is spring or fall when there’s the most rainfall to help it quickly establish. Make sure the area is free of other growth (weeds, grass etc.) and simply lay your moss start onto the damp soil, press gently and water. For the first year, don’t allow it to dry out. Once established it will only need water if there’s a drought.
I had a little moss garden in the back yard at my Galva house. I placed a bench, had some old rocks and bricks around for visual depth and it was ever so lovely to walk on with bare feet. I’d “groom” my little spot by sitting and pulling any weeds (there wasn’t many) and picking off any sticks and leaves. It’s an amazingly “garden Zen-like” task.
Moss gardens can be tiny, in little pots or logs, or large as in acres if you develop the right conditions. They may compliment other shade plants such as Hosta, ferns, or impatiens. Moss gardens look lovely with Japanese gardens or even small raked gravel areas.
If you want to add moss to cement statues or rocks, try adding some moss to buttermilk, mix well and brushing on the area of the statue/cement/rock that’s been soaked in water. Keep it moist by misting until established. Never hit moss with the hard jet spray or it will be pulled out and destroyed.
Moss will take some gentle foot traffic but will not hold up to hard traffic or tires. Moss can be used as part of fairy gardens; it lends a mystical look. It doesn’t work for playgrounds.
Moss is a wild plant so don’t take huge amounts from woodland areas and especially if it’s not your woodland. National Forests (and some State and local parks) prohibit harvesting any vegetation.
If you’d like inspiration, check out Dale Sievert’s blog:
If you crave – NEED – serenity and calm, consider a moss garden. It can be a process that enriches you as it enriches your plot of land. You may find you are embracing natural garden things you hadn’t imagined you’d love: fog and dew, lack of lawn grasses, an old world vibe and the textures of green.
If you’re wondering if it a moss garden will hold up to our winters, Mr. Sievert’s gardens are in Wisconsin and do nicely. Mine was in little Galva Illinois and did nicely. If you’re new to moss gardening, start small and learn as you go. A little pot of moss beside your kitchen sink, under the cabinet, in a sweet little saucer could be all you need. Ten acres, landscaped and groomed, well maybe someday – just maybe someday.