Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, offers tips on when and how to transplant houseplants; grow Broccoli raab and yes, grow moss.
Q: A reader recently asked you how to rid the lawn of moss. I have the opposite problem: I want the lawn moss to take over and get rid of the lawn! How can I encourage the growth of the moss while discouraging the remaining grass?
A: If you can’t beat it, grow it! The problem is that even in a shady area where your lawn tends to thin out, the grass won’t give up without a fight. Since moss could be susceptible to weed killers, I recommend that you either dig the grass out or cover thick-growing areas of turf with newspaper covered with compost.
To kill the grass, the layer of newspaper should be at least ¼-inch thick and then covered with a 4-inch layer of compost. Then look for areas of moss growing in shady areas of your garden and transplant it directly into the compost. Chunk out plenty of soil when you dig the moss and leave it attached when you plant it.
The key to success is to water the living tweedle out of the newly transplanted moss to keep it evenly moist for the first three weeks, and to feed it once a week with a mixture of one-third buttermilk, two-thirds water.
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Once established in shade, moss will thrive with little water or fertilizer. Just don’t let kids or pets play on it. Moss is so shallowly rooted, it can’t take foot traffic, and even walking on it regularly will do it in.
Q: How do I know if my houseplant needs to be transplanted?
A: Most houseplants prefer to be a little root bound; however, if the water runs right into the saucer when you give it a drink and your plant wilts between waterings, it’s definitely too root bound and needs to be transplanted into a bigger pot.
The best time to transplant a houseplant is when it’s actively growing in spring. Begin by gently washing the soil off the roots in a tub of warm water, and transplant into a container that is only 1 inch bigger than the last one. If you transplant it into an overly large pot, the plant won’t be able to use up the water quickly enough and could develop root rot.
Some people put pebbles and broken crockery in the bottom of a pot to improve drainage. It actually does the opposite.
Water the transplant well and leave the plant in partial shade for a few days before sticking it back in that bright window. The only problem is that your plant will be so happy and healthy, it will grow like a wild banshee and you’ll probably have to go through the whole process again next spring!
Q: Is it possible to grow raab broccoli in the Seattle area?
A: Fortunately, broccoli raab is easier to grow than to figure out what to call it. It’s also known as rabe, rapini, broccoli turnip, spring broccoli, cima di rapa, taitcat and Italian turnip, among several other aliases.
Interestingly, raab isn’t actually broccoli. It’s more closely related to turnip and, unlike broccoli, doesn’t produce big florets. Instead it produces leafy flower stalks topped by small, broccoli-like buds. Raab has a slightly bitter flavor often featured in dishes at gourmet restaurants, so it’s not surprising that home gardeners are getting interested in trying this veggie.
Raab is a cool-season crop. Sow the seed directly into the garden from the time the soil dries up enough to be worked until about mid-April. Work a cup of organic vegetable food and a handful of bone meal into the soil before sowing the seeds ¼-inch deep in rows 8 inches apart.
As soon as the plants reach 2 inches tall, thin to 4 inches between plants. Harvest the tender stems by snipping the entire plant off at the soil line before the flower buds open or the stalks will get tough and fibrous.
Ciscoe Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org; “Gardening with Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING5.