Making a Moss

Forget about fussing over grass—go for the carpet effect

On Saturday mornings, instead of gardening, I stay in bed and listen to Garden Talk radio. Inevitably, a caller asks the green expert how to get rid of moss in the lawn, and I yell at the radio, "No! No! No!"

I remember when I hated moss. Moss intruded on my lawn, which was struggling to survive under a stand of firs. At the time, I ignored the furry tendrils, knowing I'd have to buy something to kill them. "Buy" and "kill" had dropped from my gardening repertoire.

One day I was converted to moss as I traveled the garden paths of Bainbridge Island's Bloedel Reserve. I came upon an Empress tree, from whose regal limbs hung strings of lichen. Moss descended its trunk heavily, formed mounds over its roots, and filtered into the attendant grass. Lichen and moss combined to robe the Empress in a soft, richly textured tapestry. I hiked to the Reserve's Japanese Moss Garden, where moss glowed green underfoot, covering every twig, rock, and bump with verdant grace.

When I got home, I made my own moss—two batches. I got out my blender, mixed together liquid fish fertilizer and fistfuls of moss from around the yard and house (this already grows in most lawns or on the pathways and gutters of anybody's environs). I ladled this slurry over my lawn in the places that already looked mossy, being seasonally wet and partially shady.

In my second batch I added corn syrup (for added nutrients as well as for its adhesive quality) to the moss/fertilizer cocktail. I poured this mixture into a bowl and slathered the sticky stuff up tree trunks and over rocks in my garden.

When you pluck your moss starter, note the growing conditions where you found it. Introduce your blended moss into similar growing conditions. Mosses vary in their need for shade and water; however, moss is drought resistant and, like a sponge, expands and contracts depending on how much water is available. If you need to buy moss, Scotch and Irish varieties can be purchased from any garden store. If you rely on these mosses, then space them, plug by plug, across an area; they will eventually fill in.

Why go mossy? Moss demands fewer chemicals and less maintenance and support of its environment than other plants, making it a considerably more leisurely option for those who desire green expanses circling our houses. Now when I do finally get out of bed on Saturday mornings, I have no need to kill moss. I go outside and curl my toes in nature's easy ground cover.

Ann Spiers is a freelancer writer and poet living on Vashon Island.

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