More than one “expert” opinion about watering mosses! 0Good Morning Mossers! As this blog gets up and running, I want to encourage each of you to join in discussions and provide your own moss experiences. I hope this platform will be embraced as an opportunity to learn and share with each other. Although mosses have been around for 450 million years, we still have few actual protocols, beyond generalizations, about incorporating mosses in landscapes. My mossy advice is based upon my own successes since I began introducing mosses intentionally into my own garden over ten years ago. When I started Mountain Moss Enterprises, I researched, networked, observed and experimented, sometimes pushed the envelope of my expectations. It is my desire to share the knowledge I've gained with others. With that said, please realize that, at this point, we have almost no documented research regarding moss cultivation, including optimal watering regimes. There are so many variables that could impact the success of your moss garden. Eventually, this blog will examine the implications for further research required to build our common body of knowledge within the scientific community and available to the general public. As with any gardening methods, there might be more than one way to achieve successful results and experienced moss gardeners may not always agree. Although I strongly recommend watering frequently for short sessions, there are other moss gardeners who do not share this philosophy. I've been told the Japanese grand masters do not provide supplemental watering, relying upon rainfall as the only source. Another moss gardener in the American Midwest promotes this perspective and warns that if supplemental watering occurs, then you should only use collected rainwater or distilled water. His advice is sensible since it is possible that city water sources might include additional harmful chemicals and an undesirable pH. I happen to be located in an ideal climate for mosses – a topic that will be covered another time. Yet, I do supplement natural rainfall. I encourage harvesting rain and using it as your best back-up bartender for thirsty mosses. In my opinion, lack of watering can be detrimental to the aesthetic appeal of green mosses. However, overwatering is not recommended either. My home water source is a community well which is fed by a natural mountain spring. The water from the tap is a pH of around 7. Although I suggest misting, I usually spray with a variety of aerial patterns – quick, rapid movements in horizontal and vertical arrays. Please note that I've watered at all times of the day and night for the last decade without any negative repercussions. As interest grows in mosses as viable horticultural choices and we learn which bryophyte types respond to which variables, we'll have a better chance for overall success. Remember, moss is not just moss. There are many types with different requirements for optimum growth. Learning the right moss for the right place is the real key for a sustainable moss landscape. To Water or Not to Water – our mossy question of the day. What do you think?
FAQ #1 Watering your moss garden 0
Since I just finished watering my moss garden, I'll address one of the top FAQs – how much and how often should you water your mosses? First, bryophytes are unique in the plant world for a variety of botanical reasons. No bryophyte or true moss has roots, only rhizoids; therefore, you do not need to drench the soil or other substrate to reach any roots. Mosses have no cuticle – the waxy substance that covers other leaves (good visual image is a rhododendron leaf). The leaf is able to absorb moisture immediately because of this feature. Most mosses absorb 10 times their weight in a matter of minutes. Given these factors, water frequently but not too much.
Mosses will change their appearance as they become rehydrated. Some dramatic differences in color saturation occur as with Leucobryum (pincushion moss) where it can shift from almost white to a “moss” green. Other mosses have more subtle clues but an attentive eye will learn the nuances of recognizing when your mosses have absorbed all the water they can at the moment.
On dry, hot days (even in spring), you may need to water more than once a day. You can water at any time of the day or night. However, the best time to water is in the late afternoon, not the morning. Mosses don't seem to burn or ever mold from an erratic watering time frame. For years, I've watered my moss garden when it looks thirsty, sometimes at high noon on a lunch break or even at midnight under the moonlight.
Of course, you can always use your tactile senses and if the moss feels really dry, most likely, it's time to water again. With all that said, some mosses NEED to dry out like Bryums (sidewalk moss). And, the majority of soil-type mosses (with the exception Sphagnums and Bartramia) will not tolerate constant, soggy conditions or “wet feet.”
Beware of overwatering your mosses!
So, if it doesn't rain, it is important to consistently water mosses. Even if it rains the day before, your mosses may want a drink the next day. Watering and walking on your moss garden are my main recommendations for establishing a successful moss garden.