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Moss Gardening

Updated on January 11, 2014

The Continuing Saga Of A Backyard Moss Farm

In case you've found this lens first, I moved to Seattle and started Moss Farming in the light well outside my bedroom window.  That lens covers my first year and initial moss learning and this one will fill you in on all my discoveries and progress since then.

If you are just beginning to grow moss, I really recommned that first lens as it goes into more detail of how I got started from scratch with my moss garden. If you've got some moss already and are trying to increase it, or learn more about how to maintain it, this lens will do you just fine!

This is a mossy stone bridge wall in winter. Moss grows like crazy here in the cold damp of the Pacific Northwest.

Hail on moss, photo by Relache
Hail on moss, photo by Relache

Moss In Winter

Can you see those little white specks all over the place in this picture? What sort of looks like moss in bloom is in fact moss with a layer of fresh hail on it. This picture was taken the second week of January 2007. We've had freezing temps and we got hit with a good snowstorm and some flurries this week.

This picture was taken out my window just as it was all starting. Now, days later, there are little patches of snow sitting on top of the moss, and the snow that was sitting on just rock has all melted away.

Moss Advice

Moss Gardening: Including Lichens, Liverworts and Other Miniatures
Moss Gardening: Including Lichens, Liverworts and Other Miniatures

The only moss book I use is Schenk's. His experiences and research into moss span the world, and there is great advice in this volume for moss gardeners anywhere! Good info and easy to read for the beginning moss farmer.


How Does Moss Do In Snow?

I guess this year, I'm gonna find out. This is only about a week after the hail picture. This is the goddess statue that sits meditating in the moss garden.

She looks rather pleased with her snowy hat and blanket, don't you think?

A lot of the time, the daytime temps get warm enough to melt off a lot of the snow when we get it. Often, it will linger longer on my patches of moss, so I guess the moss is insulating them somewhat against the rising temps.

A Moss Gardening Poll

Are you a Moss Gardener?

See results
photo by Relache
photo by Relache

Seeing An Example Of Seasonal Changes

Remember the moss on my friend's truck from last April? I got down to the Bay Area in February this year, and not only was the moss back again this year, but it's much more robust due to being earlier in the year.

It's getting a lot more moisture and less sunlight than it will get in April and you can see how it's not only a thicker and more plush clump, the color is darker too.

This is a great example of how moss goes in cycles and also illustrates that it's not supposed to look the same year-round.

And the moss goes Marching on...

Here is a brick that I pulled out of the patio section above the light well and moved down into the hole. During the off-season (the summer) it had the faintest sheen of green that seemed to cling to it. It was in the shade, under the edge of a bush and a few of its neighbors were starting to get really crumbly edges.

I had a hunch that with a change of location, this would prove itself to be a nice old brick just swarming with moss. Now that it's in a spot with more shade that retains a higher level of moisture, the whole thing has furred-over very nicely. When I see where it used to live, the moss on those bricks is much more sparse and a lighter green, as they get direct light and even a touch of sun if we get a really clear day.

This light well can get some pretty bright light in summer, but it's always indirect. No sun ever falls directly into the light well.

Give Your Moss A Drink Of Buttermilk

an organic moss growing tip!

In the fall, when the early winter rains and cooler temps wake up fall mosses and induce a phase of growing, you can give your moss a little drink of buttermilk to help it along! Get a small empty spray bottle and mix up your moss mist at a ratio of 2/3 C. buttermilk to 1/3 C. water. Spritz this around the edges of growing moss and on nearby rock or concrete surfaces. The acidity of the buttermilk and the proteins in it will encourage new moss growth.

photo by Relache
photo by Relache

How Moss Makes More Moss

the reproductive processes of moss

See the little growths coming up out of the moss? That's part of how moss reproduces. It's called a sporophyte and that's the part of the moss that puts out spores. The moss produces these once the male and female parts of the moss have successfully pollinated.

The capsules at the ends will release their spores and those will land elsewhere and, if the conditions are right, form more moss.

I've moved a few sporing clumps from the yard down into the light well to help encourage the spores to spread around the space.

Growing Moss on a Statue

giving some old yard art new life

I got this statue of the Egyptian cat goddess Bast over 20 years ago, when I lived in Santa Cruz. I did an Easter job at a garden/yard center where a girl I'd gone to college with worked after we got done with school. We'd done theater together and she hired me to do kids face painting while she had two high school students act out scenes from "Alice in Wonderland." The idea was that we entertained the kids and the parents got to shop without interruption. Apparently it worked really well and they had a great day of business.

I took the offer of some yard art and some cash for my pay, and picked the large Bast because she has ear piercings and a nose ring. She was blank white when I first got her, and I painted her black and did detailing with enamel in magenta, electric blue and vibrant purple.

Now that I live in Seattle, the rain is a lot heavier than anywhere else I lived previously. Bast has been peeling slowly but surely and now most of her head is bare of paint. I've noticed a slight but growing green tinge in the pits and crevices: yes, she's starting to grow moss. She was formally moved down into the moss garden just before the winter solstice 2007, and was misted down with buttermilk as part of her relocation.

Spring Transplanting

another mossy infusion in March 2008

We really seem to have two mossy seasons in Seattle. One is in springtime when we start to get warmer weather and the overnight frosts have really stopped and the other is in the fall once the temps start to cool off and we get a few rains.

That big planter where I grew moss for transplanting before was replanted with summer flowers after I removed the layer of moss and moved it down into the light well. Those flowers died off when winter came and the pot was just left to do its own thing over the winter. Now that it's March, I decided it would be nice to have it colorful again and got some primroses to plant in it.

Even though it had been left idle, a lot of moss had grown back over the dirt surface. Here is all that moss harvested out of the planter so that it can be moved down to the light well. I've been concentrating most of my moss transplanting into the left end of the light well (as you look out the window at it) so this moss will be placed over at the right end.

Mossy Movies

Moss Progress - March 2010

Moss Progress - March 2010
Moss Progress - March 2010

Moss Mauraders - critters love moss too!

raccoon damage, photo by Relache
raccoon damage, photo by Relache

When you get squirrels digging in your moss garden, they tend to leave chunky divets, not unlike what happens on a golf course. But a full "carpet peel" like you see here is most often the result of raccoons looking for tasty bugs and worms to eat. Once your moss is well-established it actually holds up okay to this sort of thing. All you need to do it roll it back into place. If the roots seem to have gotten really dry during their air exposure, just water lightly.

Garden Notes - comments, feedback, questions

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    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 4 years ago from Virginia

      Very cool lens! Look for it on "The Green Thumb: A Place For Gardeners To Gather" Facebook page later today! Please like/share it with your friends!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @RyanBlock: I just harvested about 3 sq ft of moss on my friends retaining wall because the dirt from her garden escaped on to the wall starting the growth, really nice furry moss.

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @GardenIdeasHub LM: I should have some new pictures soon, as the fall rain has greened up the moss and gotten it growing.

    • GardenIdeasHub LM profile image

      GardenIdeasHub LM 5 years ago

      I was very interested in moss gardening and will be back to read more.

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @RyanBlock: Actually, I have some moss in my yard which does really well on the concrete. The slightly pitted surface is just the acidic-stone surface it likes. Of course, that will vary depending on your moss and what's in your yard.

    • RyanBlock profile image

      RyanBlock 5 years ago

      Pam - moss would not do great on concrete, it needs be wet the majority of the time and have easy access to nutrients without having to develop roots. I like the lens dedicated to moss, I think moss is really under appreciated.

    • Allison Whitehead profile image

      Allison Whitehead 5 years ago

      Funny - we have moss in our lawn and we're trying to get rid of it! Just goes to show it can thrive and look wonderful in the right place. Great lens.

    • PeacefieldFarm LM profile image

      PeacefieldFarm LM 5 years ago

      Interesting lens. I like it.

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @anonymous: Not all moss is going to cling to concrete. I found some in my yard that was on a cinder block and have successfully gotten it to grow on other blocks. A different type of moss likes the bricks. You're going to have to find a moss in your area that 1) likes concrete surfaces and 2) likes the intense sun that can come with being in a western-facing location.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I am trying to grow moss on the west side of my house on the concrete over the window wells where I keep my plants in the winter. Can you tell me how I can attach any moss that I buy to the concrete?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Something is digging up my moss - squirrels perhaps? What can I do to stop these pests?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I like the idea of making it grow on existing sculptures. Clever!

    • wolfie10 profile image

      wolfie10 6 years ago

      nice follow up lens on the first moss lens

    • EmmaCooper LM profile image

      EmmaCooper LM 7 years ago

      I've always wanted a moss garden :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Fantastic collection of info! Thanks so much. I have a mossy area in my little townhouse yard that I'm going to encourage and weed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      On your original lens, you mentioned the use of powdered milk. Could you elaborate on that please? After dusting an area with the powder milk, do you then spread the creamy moss mixture? Been wanting to do a moss garden for many years, even had the buttermilk recipe and just never got around to it. Thanks

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 8 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @anonymous: I really just let my moss do its natural thing with the seasons. Moss has its own active and dormant cycles and they often don't seem to match with the seasons. Keeping other weeds and grasses from growing where you want the moss to get established is the best thing to encourage it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      We have wild moss starting to grow all over our yard and would like to get it established for good. What should we do to protect it in the winter months and haw can we protect it in the summer heat?

    • WritingforYourW profile image

      WritingforYourW 9 years ago

      Thanks for the information. I have moss growing in my yard even in places where there is direct sunlight all day. I hate mowing so I definitely dig the idea of replacing that pesky grass with moss. ;)

    • NatureMaven profile image

      NatureMaven 9 years ago

      I never knew about moss gardeners. I thought moss just happened. *****

    • profile image

      darlkay52 9 years ago

      Really neat lens. When I can find it (here on the prairie!) I like to place it around my water features and in my shade garden.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 9 years ago

      our huge shaded backyard is noting but moss where the grass use to grow...I love it, but can't find anything to spray for the dandilions husband weedwacks them and it takes all day...funny my indoor Bonsais can't seem to keep the moss, yet my whole yard grows wild...5*

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      [in reply to bob] Bob, you'll do much better getting moss from a garden center in your local area. That way you can get moss that is acclimated to the weather and conditions where you live.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      i love moss and want to start a garden

      can you sell moss?

    • profile image

      seegreen 9 years ago

      I've always loved moss, I had no idea there were others out there! I don't moss garden in any conscious way, but I do leave it alone when I see it. Beautiful stuff!

    • profile image

      Beas 9 years ago


      Moss seems to be one of the most successful organisms.

      I have always respected moss,

      also because, despite of all the success they have had,

      moss always stayed very normal, just moss..

      (free to the Dutch stand up comedian Theo Maassen)

      Like your lenses both! I have moss in my livingroom, in pots that is.. :)

    • Squidaddle profile image

      Squidaddle 9 years ago

      Who ever heard of such a thing? Apparently, I've been hiding under a moss-covered rock somewhere. Thanks for the lens!

    • Clairwil LM profile image

      Clairwil LM 9 years ago

      The buttermilk thing sounds like a great idea. I'm going to try it on my moss today.

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Gina, the only way to get rid of weeds without kiling the moss is to pull them up. Take it in small little rounds of weed-pulling so it doesn't overwhelm you. Use a skinny week tool to help get the weed roots out of the ground when you do it. That way, once the weeds are pulled, the moss will really discourage their regrowth.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      My yard is predominantly shaded with a lot of moss. Is there a way I can discourage weeds without killing my moss. The yard is WAY too big to pluck the weeds out.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 10 years ago from Royalton

      I love having a moss garden in the The bathroom to make a more natural feel.I think the moisture amd indirect sunlight help the moss to stay healthy.

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 11 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Dorothy, the crazy quilt method and pinching out weeds has just been working great for me. Slow and steady is a good technique for moss growing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 11 years ago

      Great site! I have taken seminars at the local public garden on moss that had less interesting information than you have here! Am growing a moss garden myself (by the crazy quilt method) and pinching out weeds with my fingers.

    • profile image

      anonymous 11 years ago

      Excellent coverage (tee hee) of the moss topic!! I am trying to transplant some of mine between my brick walkways. Wish me luck!!

      Thanks so all the advice and motivating pictures.

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 11 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Yay, Carlos! I've definitely been surprised by how many people like moss... and now I'm up to two lenses about the topic too. I guess moss interest is really like moss... it just sort of creeps up and grows on you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 11 years ago

      Hi! I'm from Spain and i've just begin my own little moss garden in my house. I find your page fantastic. There are many more people that like moss that i figured! I will visit your space in the net often

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 11 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks! I was just outside weeding the moss farm this AM and things are looking great for this year. Be sure to come back and see how it goes!

    • profile image

      SmartWeb 11 years ago

      Your Moss Saga has been added to the Squidbook Directory! Come by and see it there... and be sure to add any other works you have going. We love these lenses. Very interesting!


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