Tip of the Week #12
Welcome to our next installment of "Tips
Of The Week".
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Interested in past articles? There's
a list at the bottom of the page.
| The subject of this edition is Moss.|
If You want to purchase Moss Spores,
Click Here to go to the Moss Spores page.
If you want to learn more about moss, please read on.
Want to gain a much greater respect for moss? Just get some fresh,
green moss and look at it under a strong (15 power or greater) magnifying
glass or better still, a microscope. It's pretty amazing stuff.
What appears to be a blanket of green is actually thousands of individual
little plants. With the proper magnification and lighting, you
can see the liquid inside each little plant. There are hundreds
of varieties of moss scattered around the planet. All grow from
spores rather than seeds, and they have "feet" rather than roots. To
grow, moss must be moist at all times, and if it dries and turns brown,
because it grows from spores, it will grow again when the conditions improve.
"But what does all this have to do with
growing bonsai?" you ask. A lot. The art of bonsai is all about deception.
We try to trick our eyes and brain into thinking that the one or two foot
tree we're looking at is actually a 30 or 40 foot tree viewed from a distance.
The better the bonsai, the more we can see it as such. To enhance the
overall composition, gravel, rocks and moss are arranged in a natural
looking setting in the bonsai pot. A properly maintained blanket of moss
adds tremendously to the appearance of a bonsai, but that's just the beginning.
Moss will slow the evaporation of moisture from the soil(An invaluable
attribute in summer). It will hold water, helping it to soak into the
soil while also preventing soil erosion during rain and watering. It will
insulate the roots from heat in the summer, and cold in the winter. Not
bad for such a simple form of vegetation. If you don't have access to
live moss, or the desire to go out and hunt for it, we have packages of
Moss Spores for sale in the "Supplies" section of our product catalog.
There are a number of reasons that will
prevent moss spores from growing. I'll list a few, and some suggestions,
and maybe you can decide what approach is best. First, the spores should
be spread so that the package covers between one & three square feet of
soil. Too thick a layer of spores will actually slow or prevent germination.
The soil can be on the bonsai or in a tray. The soil surface should be
as fine as you can make it. The spores should be evenly spread over MOIST
soil. Placing a layer of cheesecloth over the surface, and fastening it
at the four corners with toothpicks or something similar will help prevent
erosion from water, wind etc. The cheesecloth will biodegrade as the moss
grows. Try to keep the new moss in a humid area. If it's indoors, it is
important to try to raise the humidity around the new moss. Use a fine
mist to water. Avoid wetting the tree to avoid drops of water falling
from the foliage and/or branches. The surface should be kept moist at
all times. Light is VERY important. You should expose the new moss to
as much light as possible, while avoiding too much direct sun, which will
dry the surface. As long as the spores are in place, they will begin to
grow as soon as the conditions are right. It takes a few weeks for a good
growth. Many bonsai novices hesitate to pick up moss growing outside for
fear that it will have insects in it. Successful bonsai hobbyists keep
their collection outside most, if not all the time. They are exposed to
the same insects as naturally growing moss is.
If you're concerned, spray the moss lightly
with Schultz insect spray or any other mild pesticide. Before collecting moss
outside, make sure you are not on private or municipal property without
permission. Moss can usually be found in wooded areas where there is plenty
of moisture consistently present. The best moss seems to grow in areas
where the soil has a heavy clay content. The shorter or "tighter" the
moss is, the better it will look, and grow. I use my hands to pick up
moss. Some people prefer to use a putty knife or paint scraper. The moss
will have anywhere from 1/8 inch to an inch or more of earth, mud, or
clay on the bottom. If the layer is thick, you can cut, scrape or shave
it down to a thinner size. Take only what you plan to use right away.
It takes years to grow. If you strip an area clean today, where do you
go tomorrow? I have been gathering moss for my bonsai from the same place
for over 15 years. I go as often as once a month, but by taking only what
I need, there's always plenty when I need more.
best way to put moss on a bonsai is as follows. First, you'll need a meat
tenderizer and a paint scraper or putty knife. Second, soak a piece of moss
(about 1/2 to 2/3 the size of the pot you want to cover) in water. Third, place
the moss on a hard, flat surface (green side up). Fourth, pound the moss
with the meat tenderizer using the side with the little spikes. This will
not only make it thinner and easier to work with, but it will also increase
in area by up to double. Be careful, the harder you pound, the more mud
will fly. When the moss is about 1/8 to 1/4 thick it's ready to use. It
is now "tenderized" and will take the contours of the soil beneath it.
Arrange whatever rocks you plan to use on the soil. Slide the putty knife
under the moss and hold it over the soil. Place the palm of your other
hand on the moss, and slide the putty knife out. Continue until the pot
is covered, being careful to "butt" the pieces together, not overlap them.
Finally, if you have a bonsai tweezer, that flat spoon-like thing on the
end is for working moss. If you don't have a bonsai tweezer, grab a butter
knife. With the edge of your tool, tap gently around the seams. This will
join the pieces together. When it looks pretty even, use the edge of the
tool to tuck the moss down all around the edge of the bonsai pot. This
will give a neat apperance, and help retain moisture. You'll find that
each one you do looks a little better than the one before.
Interested in past articles? Click for your choice
#1-Things to do in the spring
#3-Planning a trimming schedule
#4-Trimming Japanese Maples
(And other trees with opposing Buds)
#5-Trimming Chinese Elms
(And other trees with alternating Buds)
#6-Trimming Conifers (Such
as Pine, Juniper and Cypress)
#7-Improving Your Bonsai
#8-Things to Remember During
the Winter Months
#9-Some Thoughts About Tree
Roots. Their Strengths & Weaknesses
#10-Potting Medium: The
Foundation of a Bonsai
#11-Growing Bonsai Under
About Bonsai of Brooklyn
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