How To Grow Your Own Moss
Would you like your garden to have that natural, aged look that only a velvety carpet of mass can give it? You may be fortunate, of course, and already have moss growing around the edge of rocks, or down a garden path, or beneath trees. But if not, and since you can't buy moss from a nursery, here's how to go about growing your own.
The following instructions are drawn from a Sunset book called "Ideas for Japanese Gardens," page 34. First you will need a shallow box or nursery flat; two pieces of cheesecloth slightly bigger than the box; insect screening or newspaper; a good, fast-draining soil; and something called starter moss.
Look for moss already growing on stones, eavestroughs, roofs, or in shaded areas. (It is probably a good idea to duplicate, as closely as possible, the habitat where you find your starter moss and where you plan to transplant it.) Lift some pieces of moss and let them dry inside until crumbly. Then remove as much of the soil from the moss as you can, and pulverize the moss by rubbing between your fingers. The fine, dry moss that is left is your starter moss.
Next, cover any holes or openings in your shallow box with bits of insect screening or newspaper. If you use newspaper, cut slits in it for drainage. Fill the box with about one inch of the fast-draining soil. You can also use a prepared mix of 50% fine sand, 50% peat moss or sawdust, but if you do, soak it first with a mildly acidic solution of 1 part skim milk to 7 parts water.
Then place one piece of cheesecloth over the soil and tuck in the edges. Sprinkle the starter moss evenly over the cheesecloth, and lay the second piece of cheesecloth on top, again tucking in the edges. Water well, but make sure no pools of water are lying on the surface. Then place the box in a shaded area free from wind, and keep checking to make sure the soil is moist but not saturated. Early morning or late afternoon sun is enough for most mosses. If the white cheesecloth bothers you, you can dye it in a strong coffee solution; the cheesecloth will eventually rot away when you transplant your moss.
How to use your new moss
In about eight weeks, you will begin to see the moss growing through the cheesecloth. In another month, the moss should totally cover it. Now you can lift this "mossy sandwich" out of the box, cut it into strips and roll. It is ready to be transferred to its new home.
For the moss to adhere to a rock, you will need to prepare a growing medium. Mix equal amounts of dry clay soil and sifted peat moss with enough water to make a mixture the consistency of putty. Knead the mixture till it handles easily, then plaster it on the rock about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Then fasten the strips of starter moss to it with short bits of bent wire. And, with a little bit of luck, that's it!
Try to provide the right amount of light and water. Filtered shade, or the early or late sun, is sufficient for most mosses, although some will thrive in full sun provided there is adequate rain. If you want your moss to stay green, it is important to keep it fairly moist. If it dries out, however, a good watering should revive its fresh colour.