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How to Make a String Garden or Kokedama

 
 

I have to frank with you.  I have tried many different ways of utilizing my vertical space for my plants.  This includes wooly pockets, hanging frames, hanging baskets, window shelves, and even upside down designed planters.  While I felt I had explored all the possibilities, I discovered a new way of decorating my vertical space with plants and that is through Kokedama.

The term “Kokedama” in Japanese means Japanese Moss Balls.  These balls go beyond displaying moss by allowing you to incorporate a small plant in the design.  Below are the directions for this new planting technique.

String Garden or Kokedama

Supplies

1 small plant that likes partial shade to full shade, example includes ferns, green leafed begonias, and orchids

Bag of peat moss

Bonsai soil (Akedama)

Bag of sphagnum moss

Cotton thread

Bag of sheet moss

Natural twine or string

Scissors

Large basin or bowl

Steps

  1. Take the plant that you have chosen out of its pot and remove as much of the soil from the roots as possible.  Be careful when doing this step.  You can easily damage the roots and kill the plant.  The best approach is to gently “tease” the roots like you would do prior to transplanting.  As you continue to “tease,” the soil will begin to come off.  If you find that the soil is wet, put the plant back into the pot and allow the soil to dry out a bit before trying to “tease” again.      Once the soil has been removed from the roots, sit the little plant aside.
  2.  *Please note:  that one choice of plant that can be used without this step is the spider plant’s plantlets.

  3. Fill a basin with water and add sphagnum moss to the basin.  Continue to add water as needed to completely moisten the sphagnum moss.
  4. While the sphagnum moss is soaking up the water, mix the soil in a container.  You will need a 7 to 3 ratio of peat moss to bonsai soil (Akedama).  Once measured out, make sure to mix it well.  Add enough water to this soil mixture so that it resembles clay.
  5. Next, dip the roots of the little plant in water and then cover the roots with moistened sphagnum moss that has been squeezed to remove excess water.  Secure the sphagnum moss to the plant’s roots with cotton thread.  Do not worry about restricting the roots.  The cotton thread will rot and allow the roots to grow outward.
  6. Take your mixed soil and make a ball that is about the size of a small grapefruit.  If not sure about the size, always make it bigger than what you think it should be. 
  7. Once the “soil ball” has been made, break it in half.  Place the plant’s roots in the middle of one half and then put the other half on top.  What you want to do is to sandwich the roots between the two halves of the “soil ball.”  If you find that the “soil ball” does not want to hold shape, do not worry.  The simplest solution is to just ass more prepared soil.
  8. Take the sheet moss and lay it down on a table.  Put your prepared “soil ball” on top and begin to wrap the sheet moss around the “soil ball.”  Secure the sheet moss to the planted “soil ball” with twine.  Continue to add sheet moss as needed and wrap with twine. 
  9. Once your sheet moss is secure, tie off the twine and create a hanger for your Japanese Moss Ball. 
  10. At this point, you can hang your Japanese Moss Ball from a hook in an appropriate area for the growing requirements of your chosen plant. 

When it comes to the care of your plant, it is very important to mist it daily in the morning.  This will mimic a dewy environment.  To keep plant disease down, only do this task in the morning.

A full fledge watering should occur once a week and starts off with taking down your Japanese Moss Ball.  Once you have it down, place it in a container with two cups of water.  Allow the Japanese Moss Ball remain in the container for 10 to `15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.  Next, remove the Japanese Moss Ball from the container and allow it to drip over the sink.  Hang back up the Japanese Moss Ball in its chosen location.

While this project may sound a little involved, it is doable even for a beginning gardener.  But, I do have a few suggestions.  First, the bonsai soil or Akedama can be hard to find. I have used regular potting soil in this process and it does work as far as forming the “soil ball.”  Second, regardless of what plant you pick, it will need to be fed.  The easiest way of doing this is to place a diluted amount of water soluble fertilizer in the 2 cups of water that you use to soak your plant in once a week.  Only do this during the growing season.

Finally, pick the area by which you hang your Japanese Moss Ball in carefully.  I am not referring to the proper environment, such as sun and temperature.  What I really am talking about is what will be underneath your String Garden.  The first time I created one of these string gardens, I hung the garden over a couch.  Boy, what a mess I had when I would mist the ball.  Sometimes, water droplets would drop off the ball on to the couch or an unsuspecting guest.  I also have hung them in windows.  While the plants in the String Gardens loved the environment, my plants below and my wooden windowsill did not.  I actually had streaks of water running down the wall below the windowsill. 

In the summer, you will not have these issues.  Why?  Well, you can hang your Japanese Moss Ball garden outside.  The key to this though is to water every day.  While there is peat moss in the Moss Ball, it does dry out quickly

The last thing I would like to bring up has to do with the sheet moss.  Do not pick your moss from the wild.  Keep wild things wild, and buy your moss but prior to purchasing make sure that the moss is being harvested in a responsible and sustainable way.


 

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