Attractive options are available even in gardens in shady conditions. Mosses are easy to grow and are low maintenance. Proper preparation will ensure planting success.
Gardeners often consider moss in their lawns as weeds. Rather than scorn their presence, embrace it. Mosses add interest and dimension to a garden and provide texture. Mosses are non-vascular plants, that are often featured in Japanese-style gardens.
Rather than roots and stems, mosses depend upon a moist, shady environment for moisture. Mosses are found throughout the world, with over 14,000 known species.
Planning the Garden
Location is the important consideration. Shady, moist areas are essential. Because they do not have extensive root networks to anchor them in place, they are easily disturbed. Choose a suitable area with low traffic. The presence of existing moss determines the next steps.
If mosses are present, encourage their growth. Mosses are relatively low maintenance. Periodic weeding is necessary to reduce competition from other plants such as grasses.
To discourage mold, remove any debris covering the moss that may trap moisture. Mist occasionally, especially during dry conditions.
If mosses are not present, test soils prior to planting. Test kits are readily available at home improvement and garden centers. Like rhododendrons, mosses prefer acidic soils.
Collecting and Planting Mosses
Collect moss for transplanting. Look for moss growing in other places in the yard first. Friends and neighbors are other possible sources. Public areas can present another possibility, but always check local regulations before collecting.
Prepare the soil. Rake the area thoroughly to remove weeds and other competing plants. If testing showed a non-acidic environment, powdered sulfur or rhododendron fertilizer can be added to increase soil acidity. A pH of 5.0 to 6.0 is ideal. Lightly water the area to allow the additives to percolate into the soil.
If using moss carpets as starters, first, lightly mist the bottom of the carpet. Roll the moss sheets onto the prepared ground. Tap the carpet firmly into place. Follow with a light watering to rehydrate stressed plants.
For larger areas, use pre-ground moss rather than moss carpets. While moss carpets add instant color to the garden, they can be quite costly, especially where there are large areas to cover. Pre-ground mosses available online offer a cost-effective alternative.
Periodically water the moss garden. Watering is especially critical in the first few weeks following planting. Afterward, only a light misting may be necessary during dry spells. Until the moss has become established, limit traffic to the planting area to watering and weeding.
Once established, mosses add color and aesthetic appeal to any garden, with the added bonus of low maintenance. Mosses will thrive with a proper location with the ideal conditions.