Moss – Growing

More than a few gardeners have decided to switch rather than fight. They’re purposely growing moss rather than trying to eliminate it from their landscape.

There are hundreds of lawn lovers who can demonstrate how easy it is to grow moss. They have it in patches across their lawns where they want grass to grow. As with any plant, the secret is to give it what it wants. The common mosses in Atlanta crave dense, clay soil, plenty of moisture and shady conditions. All you need to do for moss maintenance season is blowing fallen leaves off the patch and pulling out small weeds as they appear. Since moss does not grow rapidly, it usually does not require fertilizer beyond what Mother Nature provides naturally. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different mosses in the world. If the moss bug has bitten, you might enjoy reading “Moss Gardening” by George Schenk (Timber Press,$34.95).

Q: I have heard that it is possible to propagate moss by blending it with buttermilk in a blender and pouring it on an area. Is this true?

A: You’ve decided to encourage the moss rather than fight it in your lawn, haven’t you? Several shade gardeners in Atlanta have done the same thing, with interesting results. You can propagate moss simply by digging clumps and “planting” them in the area where you want more. If you want to experiment, there are several descriptions in recent magazine articles of blending moss with buttermilk or beer or sugar water. The resulting puree of stem parts and spores can then be poured in the new moss garden. The key to moss gardening in Atlanta, of course, is watering it in the summer. Moss doesn’t die when it dries out, it just goes dormant, but it is unattractive. Look for “micro-sprayers” in the drip irrigation components at your local nursery. Combined with an inexpensive water timer, regular watering would be easy to accomplish.

Q: I listen to your Saturday show often and heard you speak about how a person could get moss to grow. I recently visited the Japanese Garden in Portland and was amazed at the amount of moss used in this peaceful garden. I heard you say to use moss, buttermilk and I believe something else, and blend it , but what proportions of each should I use? Also do you know of any other sources I could go to for different types of moss?

A: You can “propagate” moss by taking a handful of moss adding about one cup of buttermilk and one cup of water and mixing it in the blender. Take the concoction and pour or paint it onto the surfaces that you want to grow moss. Don’t make the mistake I did and forget to clean the blender before your significant other finds out. Remember that moss likes moist shady conditions. If the area that you are planning your moss garden has these conditions, it should grow fine. Moss Acres sells spores online. There are many moss species native to Georgia which can be found in the local forests. Just take a short hike into these areas and you should find plenty of different moss species growing on rocks, rotting logs and along creeks. It is very easy to scoop some up and put it into a plastic bag for home. It transplants very easily.

For more information, contact the Georgia Native Plant Society.

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