Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I Just Want A Moss Rock! Trying Both Slurry and Transplanting

I'm dreaming of a moss rock to make my rocky north walk look very zen and peaceful, and to make it look like my rock has been there forever and not just plopped there last summer after finding it in a construction site. Is that too much to ask? After reading a few moss graffiti posts, I got SUPER pumped and excited, and knew this would be my answer! (Spoiler alert: It wasn't).

Have you noticed that there are never any progress photos that really show the moss growing into a lush graffiti word? Everyone starts a post the same way, with the instructions for moss graffiti and a picture of them painting muck on a wall - but nothing showing the actual process of the moss growing in. This post I can definitely relate to after misting my moss twice a day for about 5 weeks straight and getting nothing to grow.

The cynic in my wonders if all those great moss graffiti photos aren't just transplanted moss stuck to the walls and cut into shape!! Either that, or I started my project too late in the fall on October 25.

close up of moss
My moss slurry attempt, starting with this huge bowl full of moss gathered from north slopes in a field.
moss in bowl
I mixed it all up in a bowl with water and plain yogurt according to some directions online.

yogurt moss slurry
Looks like a chunky milkshake. The egg beater didn't really pulverize the moss, but it broke it down quite a bit.
yogurt moss slurry on rock
I started spreading it onto my nice porous rock with a spatula, end switched to just gobbing it on with my hands.

yogurt moss slurry on rock
The yogurt helped the slurry stick to the rock, even on the vertical sides. I packed it on good and thick with chunks of moss in it, hoping some would start growing right away.

moss slurry rock looks like mud
After a couple days of misting constantly to keep it damp, the contours of the rock started to show through again. It stayed cool and shaded on the north side, and I kept misting it twice a day. It started to smell like rotting yogurt after a couple days.
My "moss rock" looks like a big turd. I found this amazing video explaining the life cycle and reproduction of moss, and I convinced myself that any day I would see a green slime of protonema spreading over the rock. It looked so good in my head!

I even kept my yogurt moss slurry safe from the rain with a little rain coat! I didn't see any results, and I lost hope. I'm not the only one, check out this episode of Man vs. Pin. All of those posts and videos you see about moss graffiti never show the progress photos, they only show these yahoos mixing it up and promising to check back later. Does moss graffiti even work?? In theory yes, you can use slurry to propagate moss in your yard, but it certainly doesn't seem to grow in the perfectly cut out designs you see online.

I decided to pull a Mythbusters and "replicate the results" rather than following the ideal process. I just wanted moss on a rock!

Giving my slurry some TLC to keep it safe from the rain. You can't say I didn't give it my all!

Giving the Transplant Method a Try

I went home to Ohio for Christmas - a lot of time had passed since I started my moss rock project in October. My dad told me about a huge patch of moss on a public pedestrian path between two roads. I went to check it out and saw a huge carpet of very shallow leafy spreading moss apparently growing on just an asphalt path. 

moss on asphalt path
Outline of moss patch I scraped up with my dog to scale. I'd say about 3 square feet of moss. I rolled it up like miniature sod, it had a thin layer of scum on the bottom that was sitting on top of the asphalt. The biggest chunk I got was about 12 inches long on its own!
two freezer bags of moss
I brought two freezer bags full of moss back to Indiana with me.
dark green fuzzy moss rock
I put it on the rock that night, I couldn't wait. I wet the rock and the moss and pressed the thin layer of scum into the pours of the rock, wetting it and pressing it into the crevices to form to the shape of the rock.
moss in front yard rock garden
It only took 1 bag to completely cover the rock. I was happy it stayed on, even on the vertical sides. The thin layer of scum was holding it to the rock, hopefully letting it grow into place and hold on.
moss on rock
After a light rain I was optimistic that this moss transplant would hold in place, even though it was already late December! I figured it was winter hardy moss since I found it bright green on the path in the middle of winter.
moss and rock garden
I had enough left over in bag number 2 to add moss to my backyard rock feature. If I can keep this alive I can use it to patch the rock, or let it grow in the shadow of these rocks looking all cool! I'm a little worried it won't grow on mulch since I found it on a solid path. It might prefer a more solid surface.

Hopefully this takes, it definitely has the look that I've always (for a few months) wanted. It looks like it grew right on the rock, so maybe if it holds tight and grows into place it will be convincing! If it takes off and grows a lot this spring I might take some extra moss and start some other rocks. I really like this look!

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