Category Archives: Moss Education

Growing a Greener World

In June of 2012 Moss and Stone Gardens became the focus of a fantastic television series, Growing a Greener World. Hosted by Joe Lampl’ and broadcast nationally on PBS stations, GGWTV has become known for it’s appealling coverage of a broad range of interesting and topical green subjects. Beautifully filmed in high definition, it is a treat for the eyes as well as the soul. We were contacted by GGWTV’s co-executive producer and resident canning expert, Theresa Loe, expressing interest in learning more about mosses and the possibility of their inclusion for an upcoming show. After a few communications it was apparent that mosses and our work with them would have enough interest to become a full episode. Naturally we were thrilled with the aspect of another chance to share our message of mossy goodness with a national audience!

We awaited the arrival of Joe Lampl’ and the GGWTV team at our Moss Farm nursery with great anticipation. The visually stunning camera work that has become the trademark of GGWTV series was accomplished for our episode by the work of a very talented team of brothers, Carl Pennington and David Pennington. Together, Joe, Carl and David have traveled extensively to cover so many interesting topics and locations that to sit and talk with them is an adventure all it’s own. The few days that we spent together was an unforgettable experience and eye opening as to the demands of producing a high quality television series. I should mention that GGWTV is also comprised of other very talented personalities and team members which we didn’t have the opportunity to work with in person, such as the uber charming celebrity chef Nathan Lyon.  We did get to know some of the other great folks such as the previously mentioned Co-executive producer and chicken aficionado Theresa Loe as well as the existentially provocative Social media director Christa Hanson, both of which we adore and appreciate tremendously.

We began with a strategy meeting at sunrise – days always begin at sunrise when working with a television crew – and mapped out locations to film the script. We began filming rather quickly and wouldn’t you know it, I’m first up to bat with my close-up shots. Although not my first time on camera, I have to admit it was quite a challenge to condense my words within the framework of the script. Those of you who know me understand that I am not short-winded about my passion for moss! It was also hot as hades and impossible for me to not perspire. We were constantly running fans and wiping my face in between takes. I have to say that the patience of Joe, Carl and David in their determination to get the shot was phenomenal. Dealing with a sweaty, fumbling subject was only part of the ordeal as much of the challenge was constantly changing lighting and background noises.

After meticulous preparations we would be at the finish line of a segment only to have it interrupted by an amazing and seemingly determined variety of audio interlopers;  a plane overhead or a chainsaw or a car horn or a leaf blower or a lawn mower or a -I kid you not- crew of city workers with a bulldozer to clear a right-of-way at the bottom of our property!  Luckily for us they were PBS supporters and agreed to begin their clearing at the other end of the right-of-way.

Interesting to see, was just how seamlessly Joe could move from off-camera to on-camera. I suppose that after so many years of hosting television programs Joe has developed that skill but it is also apparent, watching him work, that  he is a natural talent. The really kind and enthusiastic person you see on the screen is what Joe is like in real life, but for that to be felt and seen by viewers, he also taps into his ease with the camera and keen focus on the subject matter. So what may look casual when edited and shown over a half hour program was really a grueling sun-up to sun-down schedule of scene set-up and shoots over a sweltering three and a half days.  Not once did I see Joe with even a bead of perspiration! That twit! Oh, did I type that out loud?!

Ken and I were fascinated by Carl and David’s expertise with the visual and audio recording of the events.  Obviously they are pros and it shows. Both Ken and I relate very well to the challenges of documenting our work with mosses but these guys were also capturing sound. Their commitment to high quality audio was very rigorous to accomplish and constituted most of the demands of the time needed for the shoot. We became attuned to the ambient sounds during filming but mostly kept an eye on David as he listened through his headphones. By the last day of shooting I could sense an approaching sound violation by the slight cocking of David’s head as the microphone picked up the earliest vibrations detectable to his trained ear.

Needless to say, all the work to make this episode happen was worth it and, thanks to Joe and his crew, we are one step closer to giving mosses their due and taking them off the list of weeds to spray with herbicides. With topics like this being examined on quality programs we can all learn how to work towards growing a greener world.

Visit Growing a Greener World’s website to see the Moss Gardens episode #319 from season 3 or look up your local listings and find when it airs on your local PBS station. While your there, be sure to check out all the other amazing episodes and connect with the GGWTV team and joe gardeners’ from around the world through their Facebook page.

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

*remember to click on the images to enlarge and enjoy them at higher resolution 

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To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

When is the best time to plant moss?

Mosses are evergreen plants. They will grow year round as long as moisture and sunlight are available at the same time. Photosynthesis is possible even below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Mosses do not have a seasonal growth habit,  instead their dormancy comes anytime they are dry. They return to active growth as soon as moisture fills their tissue.

Mosses can be successfully transplanted anytime of the year. The requirements for their survival are the same no matter the zone or season. The difference in care however will vary depending on what Mother Nature is doing. In general the differences in the time of year come down to moisture. If temperatures are mild then moisture retention is higher than it would be if you were experiencing 100 degree days when evaporative effects are increased. The more rainfall, the less irrigation you will have to provide.

Other seasonal considerations come from other plants. If mosses are newly transplanted in the early fall, removal of leaf litter will be challenging if the moss wasn’t pinned or netted to the substrate. Using a blower to remove leaves from the moss may disturb unanchored or weakly attached colonies. Using artificial attachment like moss pins or netting is an effective way to deal with this issue. Regular blowing before leaf litter becomes deep and heavy with water will also make removal easier. Loose netting laid down over an area and then lifted once leaves have fallen is another low impact option. Transplanting in late winter or early spring usually means rainfall and temperatures are  advantageous but annual weeds may be fighting for the same territory you have cleared for the moss. Mature and thick moss growth is naturally weed resistant but newly formed moss areas may still have exposed soils and minimal moss density. Controlling weeds are a necessary part of developing a moss garden, removal by hand is the best method and least harmful to the mosses. Pre-emergents are an effective control for annual weeds and can be used with moss gardens.

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

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To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

Dividing and Fragmenting Mosses

The best way to propagate moss is by taking a larger piece and dividing it into smaller pieces, then transplanting them apart from one another and encouraging them to grow together. Once moss has covered a surface it will begin adding new growth in the form of thickness, essentially growing on top of itself. While this mature thick growth is ultimately the goal and offers the best weed suppression, it does not maximize their spreading. If you are trying to increase coverage then dividing will speed the process.

To ensure the highest level of survival, larger divisions offer stability and control. These divisions could be as small as the center of your palm. Even smaller divisions are called fragments and offer the greatest expansion but the loose pieces are more difficult to confine. The size of the fragments are best if kept larger than 1/4 inch, the smaller the fragments the longer it will take to establish and fill in. Pinching and pulling to tease apart sections is preferable to using scissors or other instruments. One square foot of moss can be effectively spread to cover up to 20 square feet. Mind you this degree of fragmentation is extreme and may take several years to fill in.

The tearing and shredding to divide or fragment signals the moss to begin new growth. The first order of business for the divisions or fragments is to re-anchor themselves to the substrate. Until new rhizoids have formed, leafy growth will not resume. In order for a rhizoid to develop, the fragment or stem of the moss must be in contact with something. Rhizoids do not reach out to attach themselves by first growing into thin air and then happen upon a surface to connect with. Instead, they form on the stem when in contact with something.

Pleurocarpous mosses will respond to fragmentation techniques much faster than acrocarpous mosses will. By nature of their growth habit and response to moisture, pleurocarps will respond with new growth within 3 months if moisture is sufficient. Their stems will continually branch and lengthen making them superior for carpeting.

Any part of a pleuro is viable for regeneration. The larger the fragment the more quickly it will recover. Very small fragments (less than 1/4 inch) are likely to revert to a younger state of maturity called protonema. This fragile state is where the moss acts like an alga, and grows more like a film on the surface. Protonemal mosses are more likely to perish if they become dry and may take many weeks before developing into a mature gametophyte (fully developed moss with leaves).

Acrocarpous mosses that have been fragmented may need 6 months or more to anchor themselves and another 12 months to multiply. Since acrocarps spread by the growth of new individual upright stems, the pace of their spreading is slower. Since most acrocarpous mosses require periodic dry periods, they cannot stay in a growth mode everyday like pleurocarps.

The growing tips or outer layers of Acrocarps are more readily regenerated than the older lower parts of the stem. When fragmenting acro’s, be sure to crumble or cut the growing tips with scissors. Simply separating the stems will leave them less able to orient themselves upright and create new rhizoids.

Fragmentation should be done when the moss is dry. In their desiccated state, they have prepared themselves for possible damage, storing a small amount of protein that can be used to repair any cellular damage once moisture returns.

Spread the fragments onto a prepared and lightly scratched soil, water enough to wet the top inch of soil and then press them firmly, re-compacting the soils surface. This will provide good contact with as much surface area of the fragments and promote rhizoid formation. Compacting also acts to trap the fragments between soil particles keeping them from blowing away. Water the fragments 1 to 4 times a day depending on the conditions and occasionally walk on them to keep their contact with the soil.

Divisions can be held in place by netting, toothpicks or greening pins. Toothpicks can be inserted at opposite angles to work in unison with one another. Acrocarps are better held in place with netting. Securing moss divisions in place is useful for areas with water run-off or gusty winds. Securing also prevents unnecessary disturbance which can disrupt rhizome development.

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

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Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

Harvesting Moss from Stone

Dear David, can moss be taken from rocks, even if frozen during the winter?

Thanks for your help, Tom.

 

Dear Tom, your question is not so simple to answer. Mosses have a natural anti-freeze that allows them to survive extreme cold, they can however become encrusted in snow and ice, which would impede collection. In general, mosses can be collected year round, it is only the conditions and presence of ice that will complicate things. There are many species that can grow on stone, some of them may be easy to remove even when temperatures are below freezing.

If the moss growth on a stone is thick and you are able to peel it away from the stone without tearing, it is likely you will meet with success. Some species are specialized and grow only on stone, these species attach themselves firmly to the surface and are difficult at best to collect without shredding. The stone specific species like Grimmia’s are very slow growing and sensitive to changes in their environment. My advice is to collect a small amount and test to see the success of your technique and intended use. Remember to collect responsibly, leaving more behind than you remove. Be sure to have permission from the land owner before collecting and never collect from public property or protected areas.

Best wishes, David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

There are many species that will colonize a stone surface, if the environment is moist, your chances of successful collection and transplanting are high. If the climate is more arid, then tread carefully, mosses adapted to dry conditions can be very specialized and almost impossible to relocate. If the moss is rather easily removed from the stone surface intact, it is a good bet on a successful transplant. If the moss is strongly attached and comes apart when removed it is best to leave it be.

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To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

Help my moss is turning black!

Dear David,

I have had an outdoor waterfall and pond for about 10 years.  The moss is beautiful, growing on the majority of rocks closest to the waterfall.  Each year it seems to increase, with no special care from me, except for pulling any stray water plant growth.   This year it has slowly been turning black, from the bottom up, and some has died altogether.  I haven’t done anything different from the previous years.  No chemicals have been applied, etc.

Do you have any idea what could be causing it to die, and what if anything I can do.  I did remove a lot of it today.  Thanks so much.  Mary

Hello Mary,  It’s difficult to diagnose with so little information and so many parameters. It’s possible that black slime mold is affecting the area if it is wet all the time and if water plants are creeping up the moss they could easily help to spread this type of problem.  Removing the affected moss is a good precaution, monitor it carefully and ensure the water quality isn’t the problem.
If you need further assistance, really good close up photos of the problem will be needed for further diagnosis.

Best regards,

David Spain
Moss and Stone Gardens

Dear David, Thanks so much for your reply. I have looked at it and taken some pictures. It looks like whatever it is, it is totally “consuming” it. First it turns black and then it just disappears, with a black thin layer of slimey stuff. Is that what black slime mold looks like? And, is there anything I can do. I read about that problem in aquariums, but not in outdoor ponds. Thanks. mary

Hey Mary, the photos certainly do help with the diagnosis. It appears as though you have not only black slime mold affecting your moss but judging from the photos, grey mold as well. Molds are one of the few enemies of mosses and often occur in closed terrariums. Molds are partial to the same conditions that many mosses are. Constant moisture and shade can be a recipe for the slimy and fuzzy stuff to invade. The molds are however temperature dependent and you will likely not find them growing in cooler seasons. I have found that once the thermometer reaches 75 degrees Fahrenheit or above, and the moisture is constant, you should keep an eye out for the attack of the molds. Most of these attacks are easily remedied by removing the moisture, but if the problem is at the edge of your artificial water system, then removing moisture is tricky. You have already taken a good step by removing the moss that is affected. Trimming or thinning mosses that are growing into the water can also be a preventative. Mosses may reach for and grow into the water but that doesn’t mean that it’s good for them. Our artificial water gardens have a constant water level that natural streams or ponds do not, this consistent water line is not as forgiving as the rising and falling water lines of a natural body of water. When mosses have direct contact with a body of water, they wick the water into the moss mat. This can help feed the mosses growth but in certain situations can also lead to problems. One of these problems can actually be to drain the water system quicker than evaporation does alone, another is soggy soils and slime molds. Eventually these problems will find an equilibrium and take care of themselves, but the results may not be the desired lush moss growth right to the waters edge you envisioned. A little moss maintenance and trimming will help in this case to stop the wicking and soothe the soul.

Best of luck,

David Spain, a.k.a Moss Rock

 

Order your Moss Rocks!  online today.  Moss is grand.  Moss is green.  Moss is good. Make the most of it; order Moss Rocks! today.

By: Helen Yoest

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To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

 

 

Transplanting Polytrichum and Atrichum mosses

Hi David,

I recently discovered your site and have been grateful for all the information. I’ve been having some trouble growing moss in my garden and was hoping you might have some advice.

A month ago I discovered a large patch of an upright-growing moss (fairly sure it’s haircap moss) in a neglected corner of my garden. I cut it into several largish sections and transplanted beneath the umbrella of a weeping cherry tree, where I’ve had trouble growing much of anything except for hosta. I raked the bed, leveled the surface and have been watering fairly regularly, however the moss doesn’t appear to be thriving; it’s wilting around the edges and appears, not brown, but just generally unhealthy.

Although I trim the weeping cherry branches several feet above the ground, the area is in heavy shade and gets virtually no direct sunlight. Can haircap moss grow in such extreme shade or should I transplant (again) to a more lightly shaded area? Any other suggestions?

Thanks so much in advance for any tips and for providing such a clearinghouse of moss-related information.

All best,
Bennett

Hello Bennett, I am glad you have found our posts helpful. It isn’t unusual for acrocarps to suffer at the edges of a harvested colony. The colony itself provides protection from drying by being tightly packed together, when you cut the patch and transplant it, the edges are more expose than before and will dry out faster causing the leaves around the edges to close (appress). Making sure the edges of the colony are tucked into the soil and level with the soil around it will help, some edge damage may occur but eventually will heal.

When collecting acrocarps like Polytrichum or Atrichum, often called hair-cap or star-cap moss, it is necessary to scoop soil along with the moss colony, to prevent damage and to prevent them from falling apart. The soil ball should be accommodated with an equal depression when placed into it’s new location. Acrocarps are slow to grow, so be patient and don’t compensate by trying to add more water and perk up the edges, just follow an appropriate acrocarp watering schedule and let happen what will happen. The conditions under the weeping cherry should be just fine for the haircap moss.

Best wishes,

David Spain aka Moss Rock

 

Order your Moss Rocks!  online today.  Moss is grand.  Moss is green.  Moss is good. Make the most of it; order Moss Rocks! today.

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Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook Like page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photo are credited to Ken Gergle.

Moss Man speaks–lawn bad, moss good–moss rocks

The most common question I receive about moss gardening is from people who have decided to give up on their grass lawn in shady areas where naturally occurring mosses have crept in. They ask, “How do I eliminate the remaining grass?”

After attempting to grow a lawn in shade, only to fail in producing a satisfying amount of coverage to fulfill the ideal, frustration leads to an alternative–moss. Converting a grass lawn to moss where traditional attempts of growing turf were used; annual seeding, adding lime, selective herbicides, and watering are one of the most difficult scenarios to work with.

The mosses move in forming verdant green islands and showcasing their evergreen appeal. The homeowner begins to realize Mother Nature may be revealing a better plant for this location. At this point, the homeowner is typically pleased. Even if they can’t grow the grass they hoped for, the fascination that moss wants to grow offers them salvation.

Soon the moss is anointed and all the efforts to coax the grass is removed from the homeowners list of chores. The moss however proves stubborn and seems unwilling to hold up to the occupation of its newly bequeathed territory.

Then the question comes, “How do I remove the existing grass and get the moss to take over?” My standard answer underwhelms as I explain that it’s best to remove the grass by hand and water regularly. This is then followed by a plea, “Isn’t there some kind of chemical that I can apply?”

Many of us have become accustomed to gardening and cultivating our landscapes with the help of sprays and chemical controls. It’s a hard habit to break, potions line up like soldiers at the local stores to do the job once held by our sweaty hands. We want and expect to have an easy remedy in the form of a spray to rid dandelions, crabgrass, nut sedge, broad leaf weeds, and even moss (ouch). Pulling grasses and digging with a weeding tool seems like an impossible task for large areas, but tackled systematically it is manageable, and the least disturbing method that capitalizes on any gains the mosses have made.

Here are a few suggestions to create a moss lawn and to deal with a grass to moss conversion.

1.   Where there is nothing–a clean slate

If you have an area where there is no vegetation, you are beginning with a clean slate. This is usually due to leaves and debris that have been allowed to cover the ground and prevent any plants from accessing the soil. The leaf litter can be removed and the area prepared soils for mosses.

You can also create a clean slate by applying a thick layer of leaf litter and allowing it to do the work of clearing any vegetation for you over several months. For a quicker approach, vegetation can be removed manually using a flat shovel.

Beginning with a clean slate is often the best way to promote a self-sustaining and weed resistant moss lawn.

After the area is prepared for moss,  locate and transplant from your surrounding area placing patches of colonies directly on the prepared soil. Fragmenting the colonies will increase the coverage but also the time needed for establishment. After installation be sure to water deeply and step on the mosses to ensure direct contact between the mosses and the soil.

Begin a structured watering regiment  and keep the area debris free. A pre-emergent such as Preen Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer can be used to prohibit weeds from geminating.

Alternatively you can follow these steps but not introduce mosses and allow airborne spores to develop into a selection of mosses that suit the conditions. In about 3 months you will begin to see what looks like a green coloring on the surface of the compacted soil. This is the early stage of moss growth and it will develop into a moss lawn in 12 to 24 months.

2.  Where there are equal amounts of weeds and moss–join Team Moss

Join team moss and say goodbye to team grass. Every advantage given your new team will help turn the tide from grass (and weeds) to moss.

Capitalize on established patches of moss, encouraging their domination by removing competition (grass, weeds and debris) and using appropriate  watering techniquesCarefully hand pull grasses and weeds, ensuring to get the roots.

If your weeds overwhelmingly outnumber the moss, place leaf litter or black plastic over the area. This will block sunlight and starve the vascular grasses and weeds. The mosses will tolerate this for a longer period of time than the grass and weeds, thus killing the unwanted growth while maintaining most of the moss.  Check the progress every couple of weeks until the vascular plants have died.

3.  Temporarily remove and store the moss–divide and conquer

Create a clean slate by temporarily removing the mosses. Think of it as taking your new moss buddies for a vacation while you do some spring cleaning. Collect all the mosses and store them off to the side for a couple of weeks.

Larger patches can be collected as a whole and sparsely covered areas raked out. Set the mosses aside in a shady location, laying out the patches and piling up the loose bits that were raked in a shady location. You should water the stored mosses daily and they will keep this way for a couple of weeks, if needed.

4.  Apply herbicides—give in to temptation

If your volunteering mosses are  pleurocarps, applying herbicides has fair odds of working.  If they are acrocarps it is not advisable. On a dry warm sunny day, lightly mist the mosses with water, do this slowly on one area then another and repeat. Give the mosses time to absorb as much water as possible. Then allow the leaves of the grasses and weeds to air dry. The mosses will retain the moisture but the waxy leaves of the weeds and grasses will not. Apply a rainproof glyphosate, carefully aiming for the intended targets but avoiding a heavy application. A half strength mixture may even be enough to kill most invaders and reduce moss damage.

After the required drying time for the glyphosate, water the mosses again. After any damage to the mosses has healed, you can repeat the application. By watering the mosses and fully hydrating their cells before applying the glyphosate, the absorption rate is minimized. Watering afterwards will help further dilute any remaining chemicals.

Even though the herbicides may be easier, don’t try to accomplish this too quickly or in one application. It is also wise to test this technique on a small area first to check for success.

Let’s hope more of us change our perspective and go from saying, “There’s moss growing in my grass” to “There’s grass growing in my moss!”

 

David Spain aka Moss Rock

 

Order your Moss Rocks!  online today.  Moss is grand.  Moss is green.  Moss is good. Make the most of it; order Moss Rocks! today.

By: David Spain

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Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook Like page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photo are credited to Ken Gergle.

When and how-to water moss

Pre-script:  Over the last month, Moss and Stone Gardens Moss and Stone Gardens; has been sharing information about moss–understanding growth rates, preparing soils, how-to collect mosses, and this post about watering moss.  This series are actually steps in the process of creating a moss lawn. Each step leads up to presenting a thorough understanding for our ultimate goal of writing a how-to on creating a moss lawn.

The first step was Understanding Growth Rates.

The second step was Preparing Soils for Moss

The third step was How to Collect Moss.

WHEN AND HOW-TO WATER MOSS

Transplanted mosses to a new location need a period of time for the moss to acclimate and become established.

Acclimation is the process of the moss adjusting to the new location’s elements such as altitude, sunlight, water, wind, as well as the substrate the moss will be growing on.

Each of these will effect different mosses to greater or lesser degrees depending on the species, their growth rate and habit, which may increase or decrease depending on those changes.

Establishment occurs after acclimation to environmental differences and when new rhizomes have re-attached the colony to it’s new substrate.

To help with the establishment, the wisdom is to provide water frequently after the transplant, but how often and for how long is the question. This will be different depending on the the type of moss being transplanted. An acrocarp has different requirements than a pleurocarp.

ACROCARPS

Acrocarpous mosses are slower growing and will not tolerate constant moisture for periods longer than 2 or 3 months, if moisture persists they will begin to rot and eventually fail. They can benefit from a rainy season or regular irrigation once a year, but after that they will need regular dry spells.

If you are unsure whether your moss is an acrocarp, monitor its condition carefully. Look for signs of the moss turning dark and if there is a reduction in height. These signs will indicate that it’s getting too much water, and a break from frequent moisture is needed.

Below is a helpful watering chart for establishing acrocarps.

Months 1 and 2–-water daily for up to two months to promote growth.

Month 3–-water every three days for one month.

Month 4–-water once a week for one month.

Month 5–-water twice a month then until the area is fully covered in moss.

After that, water only when rain has been absent for three weeks or more.

PLEUROCARPS

Pleurocarpous mosses can be watered daily, and even up to 6 times a day in small volumes. This consistent moisture will keep pleurocarps growing year round, if the conditions are right.

The caveat for a frequent watering schedule is to be careful and not create the conditions for problems to form. Too much volume can create soggy conditions that may cause root rot for other plants. Be sure the delivery and timing of the water moistens the moss but does not soak the soil.

Molds, mildews and fungus can also cause problems for Pleurocarps.  When temperatures rise above 75 degrees, constant moisture can cause the development of molds, mildews or fungus. These may grow on the bare soils surrounding the mosses or directly on the moss itself. If any of these problems occur, allow the area to dry out completely and resume with a lower volume application of water.

After pleurocarpous mosses have filled in, and have become a thick and lush growth, watering can be reduced over time and allow rain to provide for the moss’s watering needs. If you are in an area with low rainfall levels, you may need to supplement during drought. Avoid creating a wet then dry cycle multiple times a day. The effect of drying out several times a day can produce a net loss in energy production.

HOW TO WATER MOSS

Watering using a hose and fine spray head is the most economical and accurate method for irrigation. Irrigation systems can also be used if they have the proper fine spray heads and are allowed to be scheduled. This usually requires a dedicated zone and programming. Hose end sprinklers are another possibility and can even be operated by a battery powered programable timer that attaches directly to the spigot.

If your water supply is from a well or a municipal system, you may want to have your water tested for chloramine or sulfur. High levels of each can have a negative impact on moss growth. You can also just water over a two month period to see if there is any negative effects. Using collected rain water will provide the best results over any other water source.

Since mosses must have sunlight in order to metabolize, the best time of day to water is early in the morning. Avoid watering your mosses close to dusk, so that they have time to accumulate net gains in their energy production.

Our next post will pull all this information together to learn how to Create a Moss Lawn.

 

 

Order your Moss Rocks!  online today.  Moss is grand.  Moss is green.  Moss is good. Make the most of it; order Moss Rocks! today.

By: Helen Yoest

Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook Like page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photo are credited to Ken Gergle.

Understanding the growth rate of pleurocarps versus acrocarps

 

Pleurocarp habit

 

Anyone who has tried to start a moss lawn knows mosses are slow growing. Most people understand this, but many don’t understand why or just how slow is slow.

Mosses are very primitive plants without a higher evolved vascular system. They are limited to energy production by three factors: moisture, sunlight, and temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If these three conditions are met, photosynthesis will produce the energy needed for growth. The energy produced is consumed but not stored for future growth. The only reserves that mosses have is a protein that allows for the repair of any cellular damage that may occur during desiccation. Upon hydration, the stored protein can repair the cell wall so that photosynthesis is again possible.

Mosses differ from vascular plants in that vascular ones may produce or consume energy under any number of different conditions–beyond the three factors limiting moss growth. Unlike mosses, vascular plants can store energy in their tissues, and continue to extract moisture and nutrients through their roots at night. You can water your wilted tomato plants after the sun has set and still have the benefit of that water perking her up. Mosses do not have this benefit; instead they have a simple on/off switch that allows their metabolism to produce and consume energy. If they are not producing or consuming energy, they become dormant.

While having the ability to be dormant or active within such a short period of time is an advantage, the disadvantage is not being able to extend your active period beyond the three strict factors. (We can, of course, provide the moisture if the other two factors are present and allow for growth. Learn about this in the next post.)

To obtain maximum growth from your moss, it should be moist as long as the sun is shining and the temperature is close to or above freezing, but, as always, we mustn’t generalize too much about such a large group of plants.

Now that we understand what it takes for mosses to grow, it is important to know about the different potential growth rates between the two types of mosses: pleurocarpous and acrocarpous. In general, pleurocarps can tolerate constant moisture, some even submerged, while most acrocarps must periodically dry out to prevent rotting.

Many carpeting pleurocarp mosses can be watered several times a day year-round, promoting growth that is on par with most evergreens. Their ever-branching and creeping horizontal habit will keep them expanding over new territory indefinitely. Under ideal conditions it is possible for the pleurocarps to double their size in 6 months.

Acrocarp habit

Acrocarps, however, cannot be accelerated past a certain point.  They are limited by their need to periodically dry out and their upright growth habit. You are more likely to have acrocarps spread over an area by their spores or fragments before the colony enlarges enough to double in size. Spores and broken leaf tips usually take 2 years under ideal circumstances to mature enough to be considered as “a carpet of moss.”

So there you have it, mosses take their sweet ole time to fill in. We can however give them a helping hand and significantly increase their growth rate and our goal of creating a moss garden by ensuring that the combination of their needs are met.

By: David Spain

 

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Photo credited to David Spain.

Preparing soils for moss–a clean slate

 


At Moss and Stone Gardens we are often asked how to start a moss lawn where there is nothing but dirt covered with leaves and other debris.  Below, David Spain, provide a clear understanding on what is needed to begin creating your emerald carpet of moss.

David Spain, says, To develop an area of moss, you will need to start from the ground up. First remove any existing plants that you do not want, especially grasses and weeds. A pre-emergent like Preen Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer can be applied to discourage germination of any existing seeds.

Mosses are not particular about the type of soil they grow on in terms of soil composition. Loam, clay or richly amended soils will all work fine. The exception would be soils with a high sand content preventing a stable surface; ever-shifting loose sandy soils make attachment difficult, but not impossible. The more important aspect to encouraging mosses to establish is texture and particle size. If you imagine yourself to be less than an inch tall and had to move across the soils surface, you would understand the importance of smoothness.

Grade and contour the area if needed, remember that moss will follow the small undulations that are normally not noticeable until a smooth carpet of green is hugging the ground. Watch also for small depressions that will end up collecting debris and water. This includes depressions up to three feet in diameter.

Be aware of any water run-off paths that you may create or that already exist.  Mosses are great soil stabilizers and will filter water run off, but first they need to be established to withstand flowing water. If you have these areas, pre-filter run off from sediment and debris that may deposit onto newly installed areas. One way to do this is by placing stones and gravel as a barrier upstream or temporarily diverting the run-off. Mosses laid in the path of run-off can be pinned or netted in place until established.

Smoothing the surface will also aid in rhizome attachment which will speed up establishment and then growth. Keep in mind that mosses will first need some rhizome attachment at their growing edge before they will send out new branching. Mosses do not like being unattached nor do they like being exposed to air without some surface below them. Preparing really smooth soil speeds up rhizome attachment and encourages faster branching. Even though mosses may overcome almost any obstacle in their path such as a fallen tree, they don’t do this quickly nor do they simply just run up the side and over. Pebbles, leaves, or any loose material will need removing and also ensure that the soil leading up to any trees, roots, or hardscaping is slightly ramped up to meet the obstruction. This will prevent a debris zone or dead zone where mosses resist meeting vertical surfaces and attaching to them.

With regards to soil pH, moss will grow in most pH conditions.  Adjusting the pH is usually not needed. If you suspect your soils are alkaline (greater than 7 on the logarithmic scale,) you should get the soil tested . And if it is above 7.0, you may consider adding aluminum sulfate or elemental sulphur to bring it down somewhat. Alkaline  conditions like this may have been created by years of lime applications in an attempt to sustain grasses in the shade. In our experience, mosses will grow on soils of a wide range of pH. The common practice has been to adjust soil pH to 5.0 or 5.5 for the benefit of the moss, but since mosses don’t have roots that feed from the soil, pH is not a major criterial.

Plant any companion plants before introducing mosses. If you want to add any foundation plants, perennials, or hardscaping, it is best to do that first and add the mosses last. Prepare the soils to suit the vascular plants and then smooth the surface for the mosses to create a living mulch around them.

Even though you have smoothed the soils before introducing the mosses, you may need to very lightly scratch the surface to create some loosened soil to aid in making good contact.

This is helpful when transplanting mosses that have been collected by scraping or raking. After the mosses have been placed on top of this loosened soil, they will be watered deeply and then walked on. This will re-compress the fluffed soil and act as an temporary mortar to hold the moss down. If transplanting scooped moss colonies, scratching can be done to create a slight depression to keep the soils level. All areas under and around the transplants will need to be tamped down by hand or by walking on them after installation.

With David’s clear explaination to the needs to preparing a moss lawn from a clean slate, making a moss lawn will increase you chances of success.

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Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.