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Connecticut Garden Journal: To work with nature, plant more moss

Natural looking, formally planted rockery with azalea and bluebells blooming in spring.
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Try spreading native moss yourself. Make a moss milkshake and “paint” it on rocks, branches, clay pots and bricks.

Most times it's better to work with nature than against it. Take shade for example. I often field questions for what to plant in a mossy, shady spot under trees. My answer is moss.

We are blessed in New England with mostly cool, moist, weather conditions. As we all know, moss grows well in those conditions covering the ground, rocks, stone walls and old tree stumps. So, why work against Mother Nature? Moss makes a perfect no mow ground cover, spreads on its own and looks beautiful 12 months of the year.

Start in a mostly shaded area with a little dappled light, slightly acidic well-drained soil, and good moisture. There's a wide variety of moss types. Sheet or carpet moss is fast growing spreading along the ground and over rocks creating a lawn of moss. Tree moss grows taller at 4- to 6-inches high. Cushion moss likes sandy soil and fern moss grows well on wet slopes. Check with local garden centers or online for the best moss choices.

Once planted, keep it well watered and it will start spreading. For those with more patience, you can try to spread the native mosses yourself. Make a moss milkshake by taking a small handful of native moss, 1 cup of buttermilk and enough water to make a slurry. Blend it up and “paint” this mixture on rocks and branches in the forest and even clay pots and bricks. Water the moss mixture regularly and move the pots and bricks into a shady spot until established. Not everyone has success with moss milkshakes, but it might be fun to try.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.