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Paul’s Garden Journal 3

Gardeners often find odd uses for common plants. Take the lowly moss. Moss is a minor, often overlooked, plant that has been used for flower bouquets, home decoration, packing material, and even used to treat soldiers’ wounds. In Finland moss was even baked into bread during famines. Once decayed, moss has been dug as peat for a garden soil additive, and to smoke malt to make the drink of the gods, Scotch whisky.

Though moss is often considered a weed in grass lawns, it is often purposely grown. In many gardens, especially Japanese style, moss adds a sense of calm, agelessness, and cool quiet to the garden. Moss can be grown on the ground, on trees or even in containers. Moss makes a soothing addition to indoor terrariums.  Naturally found in damp areas and low light, mosses are common in wooded areas and along stream banks. Moss can even be a rudimentary compass, because as any woodsman knows, the north side of trees and rocks usually will have more moss than other sides. But mosses can also be found in cracks in sidewalk cracks and between paving stones, along with the low growing lichens.

In your garden you can give a timelessness by growing moss on rocks. Or if you have enough shade you can grow a moss lawn. Moss lawns need no mowing and are basically care free once established.  Because of their small size and delicate structure mosses need moisture to survive. Choose a proper location for your moss. Mosses do best in medium to fairly dense shade, so avoid direct afternoon sun. If you want to grow moss on the ground remember that mosses prefer growing on firmly packed acidic soils with a pH between 5.0 and 5.5. You can make the soil more acidic with powdered sulfur or rhododendron food.

Now for the fun part. To grow your own moss garden you will need beer or buttermilk and your kitchen blender!  Gather some moss that you find growing naturally on a rock. Remove as much dirt from the moss as you can. Into a kitchen blender put a handful of the moss with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and one can of beer (or substitute buttermilk for the beer.) Blend for just a few seconds, only long enough to mix the ingredients and break down the moss. Take this soupy mixture and apply it with a spatula over the ground or rocks where you want the moss to grow. Keep the moss shaded but try not to water heavily or you will wash away the mixture. After the moss takes hold, mist it often to keep it moist.

Once your moss is up and growing you will as it were have it made in the shade, and you’ll be growing moss and ‘lichen’ it.

Copyright (c) 2008 Paul Barbano
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