Moss is becoming very popular in garden design, modern art, and even indoor gardens. Moss is also a key ingredient in arrangements such as kokedama, terrariums, fairy gardens, and living centrepieces. Once you know where to find moss, you’ll want to use it in your own decor. Fortunately, moss is easy to forage if you live in an area where moss grows naturally.
Purchased vs. Foraged Moss
Moss can be purchased at floral shops and even at dollar stores, but it’s often preserved. It can be a difficult to work with because it’s so dry. It’s can also be expensive (but doesn’t look it!).
Foraging your own moss is a more affordable (and more fun) option. Collecting your own moss from a known local area also means that you’ll have confidence that the moss hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals (either during the growing process or during the preserving process). You’ll also get to spend some enjoyable time out in nature, getting up close and personal with some sustainably-harvested moss.
Where to Find Moss: General Considerations
Moss is relatively easy to forage in areas with frequent rainfall. We are lucky to have enough rainfall to support healthy quantities of moss in our area (the Pacific Northwest). We have some grassy parts of our yard but also some mossy areas. I’ve let the moss take over where it wants to because it’s easier to take care of than grass and is lovely to walk on.
If you don’t have moss in your own yard (but think it grows it your climate), find a location where you can forage for moss. You’ll need permission from the landowner/organization if you intend to forage on private land, or the right to collect and take home materials if it’s on public or parkland of some sort. Be sure to double check that you’ve got permission to collect moss prior to foraging.
Where to Find Moss: Locating Moss in Nature
Once you’ve found a general location, look for shady, moist areas where moss may grow. Moss can grow on the ground, on fallen logs, on rocks, and even on living trees. Check valleys with water features which tend to have moist, shady environments. The shady side of large rocks can be particularly mossy (the north-facing side here in Canada).
Moss can look yellowish when dry and dormant but generally turns a bright green with some rain and a bit of sunshine. I like the look of the bright green moss so I generally collect moss after a period of rain. It is nice to wait for the ground to drain a little bit after the rain as it’s less messy to collect when it’s not sopping wet.
If you still don’t know where to find moss after checking the moist, shady areas (but think it does grow in your climate), find someone local who knows more about local forests such as a garden mentor.
Foraging for Moss: Supplies and Timing
Moss can be scooped off the ground using your hands, a trowel, or a flat kitchen flipper tool/BBQ tool. In my own yard (which I know well), I just use my hands to scoop up handfuls of moss, but I use gloves and a flat trowel to collect moss in other areas. You’ll also need a basket or other container in which to carry the moss you’ve collected.
To collect moss, wait until after a period of rain so that the moss is moist. Find a nice patch of moss that doesn’t have too much grass or other plants in it. If there is some grass growing in the moss, it’s easiest to pull it out before you collect the moss rather than picking it out afterwards. Also remove any surface debris such as leaves or sticks from on top of the moss.
How to Collect Moss
Use a gloved hand or flat trowel (or kitchen tool) to reach under the moss so it can be pried off the ground (or other substrate) in intact pieces. Try not to just grab the moss with your hands and squish it. The moss is nicer to work with when it comes off in sheets that retain the original configuration of the moss.
Brush off any dirt that comes off on the bottom of the moss sheet. It’s easier to remove the moss without much dirt when the ground isn’t sopping wet. If lots of dirt does come up with the moss, it’s possible to gently wash the dirt off the bottom of the moss. Try not to wash the whole patch of moss though, as this will disturb it’s natural look. Waiting for the dirt to dry and then simply brushing it off will keep your moss intact.
Using Foraged Moss in Crafts
Your foraged moss has many uses, including:
- Use it as a base for a living centrepiece
- Create a kokedama moss ball
- Make an enclosed terrarium
- Use it in a fairy garden
- Place it on some dirt or a stone to start a new moss colony
In the photo above, I’ve used foraged moss from my yard as a base for some eggs died with red cabbage.
What types of moss grow in your area? Do you know where to find moss in your area? Share your stories and observations in the comments section below!
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