The idea came to me in Spain. Walking in the old quarter of Barcelona, I came upon a charming courtyard streaked with mossy cobbles. Like my own patio back home, the pavers in this courtyard were set in a circle, but here moss was growing between the stones, lending the scene a verdant, picturesque feel amid the stone buildings that had stood there for hundreds of years.
There was no doubt about it! I had to learn how to grow moss between my patio pavers and recreate this charming scene in my private retreat.
Fortunately, my patio pavers were set in stone dust and not in cement. Although until now this had earned me nothing but a constant battle with weeds, I could now purposefully grow moss between my patio pavers and do away with weeds forever. That is, if I could figure out how to do it.
Preparing the Soil Between My Patio Pavers
I discovered excellent advice for growing moss in Martha Stewart’s Living Magazine, one of my favorite Saturday afternoon reads. Following this advice, I began by pouring cheap beer into the cracks between my patio pavers. I worked slowly to allow the beer to absorb in the stone dust rather than pour over the stones.
Moss requires a slightly acidic soil to grow (a pH of 5.5), and the pH of beer in addition to its nourishing content creates a fertile environment for growing moss. With this step out of the way, I was now ready to start hunting for moss.
If I was going to invest all this time and effort in growing moss between my patio pavers, I wanted to find lush, beautiful moss. Visiting a local nursery I quickly learned that all moss will look lush and green if allowed to grow in a moist, shady environment. Good news! But unfortunately, nurseries rarely carry moss. If I wanted patio moss, I would have to find it growing in nature.
I searched the moist, shady nooks of my garden: in the yard beneath the eaves, around my garden hose, near my waterspouts. Nothing! I thought of asking my neighbor, but he took such pride in his perfect lawn, I didn’t think he would admit to finding moss even if by some miracle there was such a blasphemous patch in his garden.
So I went for a hike in the beautiful Cascade mountains, and there, by a picturesque water fountain, I found lush green moss growing on the stones. Victory at last!
Creating a Fertile Moss Blend
Following Martha Stewart’s recipe, I created a special blend for growing moss between patio pavers, which offer a very narrow area of soil. I mixed an equal amount of moss and buttermilk in a blender, turning the blades on a low setting for a few seconds until the moss was mixed thoroughly with the rich buttermilk. And that’s it! I was ready to make my dream come true.
Planting Moss Between My Patio Pavers
After all this hard work, planting the moss was child’s play. Slowly, I poured the fertile moss blend between my patio pavers. When I ran out of mixture, I made some more and then continued pouring until my whole patio was ready for growing moss between every single crack.
I later realized how brilliant this method of growing moss was. Because moss uses rhyzoids instead of roots, you can blend it freely without destroying it. And by pouring the blend into the cracks between my patio pavers I could distribute the moss evenly.
Watering the Moss Regularly
At first, I watered my patio pavers and cracks three times a day on a rain-shower setting. In less than a week, I could see the first signs of moss. Since then, the moss lines continue to grace my backyard patio. In winter, I don’t even have to water the moss. But in summer I always do.
Once when I was away and no one watered the moss for 2 weeks, it turned brown and seemed dead. To my amazement, however, it revived perfectly when I started watering it again. You see, moss is super-resilient. An elfish presence in my garden that has banished all weeds from my patio forever.
To see another of my backyard ideas, here’s my mulch garden makeover.
1. Martha Stewart’s Home & Garden: Ask Martha, March 2007.
2. Porch and Patio Ideas: Decorating with Moss.