How to Create a Moss Garden
If you have a shady area in your garden where no flowers or shrubs will thrive, then you may have the perfect spot for a moss garden! Or maybe you already struggle to get rid of it in your lawn in some places? Stop that and make your garden life easier by following nature.
Consider constructing a moss garden (or let the area be a mat)! A moss mat is wonderfully soft to walk on, requires no lawnmowers, no fertilizer, no need to rake grass clippings, etc. And even if I know that some people think of it as a weed, I think moss is beautiful in the right place. So, instead of trying to get rid of the moss, you should start to take care of it and nurture it. I will show you how beautiful it can be!
The Art of Artlessness
A moss garden can be the opening to a brand new world in your garden. The thing with a moss garden is that it is supposed to be soothing without so many startling colours. It is an area where you can sit down and enjoy the calm and stress-free environment. It doesn’t need so much work and maintenance either, so you will have time to sit down. And since there are many different kinds, you will get several colours anyway even if moss comes in green shades.
It doesn’t matter what size your garden is, you just adapt your moss garden to the area available and create a small one in a limited place, or you can create a bigger one with moss mat, moss beds and trees. It all depends on the climate and the sun conditions in your garden.
The most famous one can be seen in Japan where the monk Musō Soseki's famous moss garden is located outside of Kyoto. It is also called Kokedera and was built in the 1300s. It is a pure moss garden and consists of hundreds different mosses with trees as the only accent. It can provide stillness and a view of eternal life.
Japanese gardens are made for relaxation and meditation, and such places are something we all need now and then. A moss garden should resemble a creation done by nature itself, even if is created by man. This practice is sometimes called “The art of artlessness”.
Find the Right Spot for a Moss Garden
If you want to know if a moss garden is possible in your area, look at the surrounding nature. Moss grows in many places of the world. In addition to humidity, bedrock and soil also affect which moss grows in a certain place. It grows where it is a bit damp, and some varieties require very humid climate. Consequently, where there are mountains and forests, there is always a lot of moss.
Moss requires also some light in order to grow. It can’t grow in full sunlight, and it cannot grow where it is too dark. What it needs is a partly shady area beneath a tree or shade from a wall. If you live in a place that has seasons, remember that conifers shade the entire year, while deciduous trees transmit sunlight during winter months.
Most mosses require slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6–6.5, and they can endure drought better than grass. In a drought, it just stops growing and waits for the water to come.
What Type of Moss Is Best Suited for a Garden?
The species of moss that are suitable for use in a garden are the kinds that thrive in acidic soil, because then they won't have to compete as much with weeds.
For best results, you should use a native moss. But do not just fetch it from the forest, at least not without asking the landowner. Instead, ask your good friends if they have sites with moss—maybe they will be glad to get rid of it! Or you can purchase tufts from a local nursery or garden store.
How Moss Is Spreading
Moss spread spontaneously on many substrates, such as soil, peat, decayed wood and on stones. Propagation is made by airborne spores. So if you buy peat blocks, there are already moss spores in the blocks. In good growing conditions, you can take any kind of moss, crush it and spread it over the surface you have planned for a garden, and you have a seed bed of moss! But if you use this method, be aware that you may have an area full with weeds instead, since you can’t control the area.
Another way, if you like to use crushed dry moss, is to sow it in boxes, watered with a mix of low-fat milk and water and covered with a cloth. In this way, you have control over the moss and can plant it out to the right spot when they have grown a little. Then you just have to take care of the small moss plants and give them the right conditions, like damp moisture and light.
How to Nurture a Moss Garden
- The best time for planting a moss garden is at times when evaporation is small—usually in the spring or fall in areas with seasons.
- Carefully remove all weeds before planting.
- Lay out a layer of suited substrates if the soil isn’t right for mosses.
- Unfertilised peat mixed with sand and some clay can be a good mix that provides an acidic layer.
- When the moss carpet has become dense, it is fairly competitive, especially in poorer soils in shady locations since other plants may have difficulty thriving there. Moss can endure extreme nutrient conditions, but they are sensitive to air pollution, as they take all their nutrients and water directly from rain and deposition. One exception is Polytrichum commune, which produces high pillows in moist woodland and can be used in areas with more air pollution.
- If you want moss to grow on peat block or stones, one way to speed up the growth is to brush the places where you want it to grow with buttermilk. That will speed up the natural process in places with the right conditions.
- When it covers the desired area, nurture the garden by constantly cleaning the moss from leaves and debris that shouldn’t be allowed to remain. Brush off any leaves and needles when the moss is dry, and pick grass and plants off the area constantly.
- Do not walk on the moss! A famous Finnish writer, Tove Jansson, wrote: “Only farmers and summer guests walk on moss!” When you walk on a moss once, it recovers the next time it rains, but if you walk on it a second time, it may not recover. The third time you walk on the same spot, the moss is dead and has to be replaced.
Other Features in a Moss Garden and Some Inspiration!
You can also plant a few perennials or shrubs as a complement to the moss if you like. In that case, choose shrubs or perennials that like the same environment, such as rhododendrons, ferns, hostas and trillium. But remember that for the special feeling in this garden, you need to be sure not to overdo it. It is the moss that should be a prominent feature—shrubs and perennials are only adjunct plants.
Stones are common in moss gardens, and the ones that are best suited are natural stones that should be carefully chosen. You can use the stones as step stones or only for decoration.
Another common feature in a moss garden is water. It can be added in a simple way by water in a bowl or as a prominent feature, like a stream or a pond.
You can also try and make moss grow on things like chairs or sofas, for example.
I hope you got some inspiration and tips on how to use moss in your garden from this article.
Do you have a shady area in your garden?
Would you consider nurturing moss as part of your garden?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.