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Gardening with Moss

The Martha Stewart Show, Episode 5128

The oldest living terrestrial plant, moss filters the air, purifies rainfall, and adds a touch of tranquility to any garden. Expert Al Benner of Moss Acres shares these tips for how you can plant, propagate, and enjoy beautiful moss in your own yard.

Where to Plant
Shade and moisture are key requirements for a moss garden. Shade-loving mosses can tolerate partial sun, but not prolonged afternoon sun. They are drought-tolerant once established, but require watering, misting, or sprinkling for the first two to four months.

Moss has no true roots and obtains all of its nutrients from the air, so it requires nothing more than shade and adequate moisture to flourish. All moss plants need is a firm soil bed in a location with enough shade. Many mosses also seem to prefer poorer quality, compacted soils. A mixture of compost manure, sand, and topsoil raked into the soil can be helpful.

How to Plant
Prepare the planting site by removing all leaves, weeds, and debris. Then, scratch up the soil to loosen it slightly. Rake in water-absorbent gel powders, and moisten the soil.

Relocating entire sheets or clumps of moss to a new spot has a high success rate, provided that the new home for the moss is shady and kept moist for the first few weeks following transplanting. Mist or sprinkle the moss thoroughly for three to four weeks, at which point the moss should bond to the soil. Be sure to remove any leaves or debris as they fall on the moss so that your new plants can breathe.

Moss Milkshake
The moss milkshake, or fragmentation method of planting, takes a bit more patience. To create a moss milkshake, mix together pre-shredded moss, gel powder, and buttermilk powder or beer with a few cups of room temperature, non-chlorinated water in a pail. Keep in mind that this mixture is not a perfect science, and you should play with the ingredient amounts. Let stand for five to 10 minutes, and then smear the mixture over soil. Mist regularly for two to three months or until the moss fragments begin growing together. Fragments of the moss may turn tan, but don't give up: keep the moss moist until new growth appears.

What to Plant
Twenty-two thousand species of moss thrive in locations around the world; here are four easy-to-plant varieties.

Sheet Moss
One of the most popular types of moss, sheet moss is easily transplanted and handles foot traffic well. A low-growing plant, sheet moss highlights small wildflowers and is ideal as a low-maintenance ground cover between paving stones on shady patios and walkways.

Cushion Moss
Cushion moss has an interesting, humped growth pattern and changes color from silvery-green when dry to a lush, vibrant green when moist.

Haircap Moss
A very tall plant, haircap moss grows much like a miniature tree and provides excellent contrast to lower-growing varieties. This particular type of moss can tolerate more sun than most once established.

Known for its vivid green color, rockcap moss has a swirly growth habit and thrives on top of rocks or soil.

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