Gardening with Moss

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Lush, woodsy, musky, earthy green moss. It’s hard to believe that some folks actually try to rid nature’s living carpet from around their homes and gardens. Being a moss lover, I do the exact opposite. I incorporate mosses throughout my gardens and gardening projects.

Moss plants require nothing more than shade, acidic soil, and adequate moisture to flourish. The moss anatomy differs from most plants as mosses have “stems” and “leaves” but no flowers, seeds or roots to supply nourishment to the plant. Moss spores grow tiny brown filaments called rhizoids that then anchor to fallen logs, rocks or the forest floor. After anchoring, rainwater fortified by nutrients washed from forest trees feeds the plant. Often times the moisture and nutrients from the rain water run off become stored in rotting fallen trees that mosses tend to blanket. These “blankets” of moss can be easily removed in sheets. Because active rhizoids are still present on the fallen log, more moss will soon grow and replenish the area.

Tapletop Moss GardenReadily available and renewable, mosses have a multitude of uses. I line garden baskets with moss, use it as a soil cover, and to support delicate stems in potted plants (not to mention the added charm it gives potted plant arrangements) I even cultivate moss in my rock walls and surrounding the rocks around my water garden. One of my favorite way to use moss is to “age” my own garden ornaments and plant pots using a simple recipe for moss propagation (See below).

Moss growing wild in the forest.Mosses are particularly plentiful in New England. Even though there is an abundance of it, I practice and encourage “thoughtful gathering” of moss, and any other planting for that matter. “Thoughtful” or “Respectful” gathering is simply taking only what one needs at the time and waiting for more to grow to replace what was taken before removing any more moss from that area.

Most landscapes have at least a few species of common mosses growing freely. A rule of thumb is “If it’s shady and damp, there will be moss.” If for some reason this is not the case at your home, it’s essential to always obtain permission before removing mosses from sources other than your own; particularly in New England where nature trails and wildlife refuges are abundant.

Tried and True Moss Recipe to Age Clay and Terra Cotta Plant Pots:

  • One cup of moss, free of dirt and broken into small pieces.
  • One cup of buttermilk.
  • ¼ cup of beer.
  • One cup of plain yogurt.

Pulverize this mixture until it is of soupy consistency. An old blender no longer used for food is the easiest way. Brush the mixture lightly on areas of the ornaments you intend to age. Place outside (Spring and Summer only) in a shady, moist area. Allow rain fall and natural outdoor elements to take over. Check in two weeks. Tiny green areas will be present. For more aging, simply leave the pots in the same damp area for a longer period of time.

Learn more about moss gardens.


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