Sunday, September 6, 2009

Can't keep a good moss down

Seattle is not known for sunny weather, but the summers are actually quite dry here. Keeping a moss nice and moist and green, much less alive in the summer requires some thinking, in addition to some timing and working with the weather!!! The rains just have returned and are helping out but even in Seattle, you cannot count on the rains.

I have always been impressed with the moist moss in Japanese gardens. I will dive into the Seattle Japanese Garden more in future posts, so stay tuned for them.

In order to cover one of my nicest Japanese lanterns with moss, first I needed some moss. I had read of ways to grow moss from scratch (yes, I do read stuff like that), but that seemed too long a process. It involved chopping up moss in a food processor and mixing it with milk or yogurt to create a paint for surfaces where you want to grow moss. Nope, not going to happen....

Instead I became a moss thief; yes a moss thief. I “harvested” some really nice moss from the sidewalk down the street. I prefer early mornings; it stops having to do the explanations to neighbors…. I used a metal spatula to remove the moss and a cookie tray to store it. The cookie tray works well in retaining the water, keeping the moss moist and healthy. You can almost not over water the moss at this stage. I would recommend storing the resultant “moss cookies” in a shady place in the yard out of sight from your neighbors… For some reason being a moss farmer is not looked on with the esteem that I think it should be…

My goal was to use my moss cookies to cover my Japanese lantern. I first let the moss settle in for a few days in my moss tray. I later pulled pieces out of my moss tray and pieced them together like a puzzle on the top of the lantern in the most natural layout I could think of. I tried to keep the lantern moist and out of direct sunlight for as long as I could. Babying the moss at this time is needed but a Japanese lantern without the top looks, well, looks nothing like a Japanese lantern… So even though I placed it back in the Koi Garden and made sure it stayed moist and in the shade, especially on hot days.

Now once I had spent so much time and effort in covering my Japanese lantern with a delightful head of moss, I had to keep it that way. In addition to the risk of moss drying out, you need to watch out for birds and squirrels. For some reason, they both think that there is something underneath and will sometimes tear up your work in search of gold or something. This is another reason why I always keep some moss in my moss tray. You just never know when you will need some more moss!

After a while, the moss will adhere to the lantern top and you will be the proud owner of a moss topped Japanese lantern. Once the moss is established, it will handle droughts, ice and snow equally well. It goes dormant in the cold of winter, and if dried out in the summer, it will return after some beneficial watering.

Now that is some really good moss!!!

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