This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
For want of a better name we have given this to a practice that we have recently introduced into our greenhouse department. Sometime about the first of January of this year, one of our young men suggested mulching with Moss (Sphagnum) a lot of Roses, grown in 7-in. pots that had become somewhat exhausted by being forced for flowers for the holidays. Believing the idea to be a good one I at once had a lot of nearly 3,000 plants so mulched, mixing, however, with the moss a good portion of bone dust, perhaps one part weight of bone dust to thirty parts of Moss. In two weeks the effect began to be easily perceived on all the Roses that had been so mulched, and without shifting they were carried through until May with the most satisfactory results, many of the plants having by that time attained a height of four and five feet, and though they had bloomed profusely during a a period for nearly six months, were in the most perfect health and vigor. Believing that if this system proved so satisfactory in a plant refusing such careful handling as the Rose, that doubtless it would do well with many other plants, we at once, almost, without exception, adopted the moss and bone mulch on nearly every plant cultivated, whether planted out in borders or grown in pots, and the result without a single exception has been in the highest degree satisfactory.
Among the plants so treated are Azaleas, Begonias, Caladiums, Carnations, Crotons, Dracenas, Eucharis, Gloxinias, Palms, Pandanus, Poin-settas, Primulas, Roses, Hot house Grapevines, and hundreds of other genera. All plants are mulched as soon as we can reach them, from 3-inch pots upwards. In strong growing plants the roots can be seen striking upwards into the mulch in four or five days after it is put on, and in nearly all cases within two weeks.
One great advantage is that by this system plants can be grown as large and fine in a 4-inch pot as in a 6-inch pot without the mulch, for the reason that the plant is now fed by the Moss and bone from the surface of the pot - the best feeding point as most cultivators of experience now believe Another advantage of the mulching system is its great saving of labor, for it just takes about one fourth of the time to mulch the surface of a pot as it does to shift it. Another, its saving of watering - the Moss acts as a sponge, retaining and giving out the moisture to the plant just as it is wanted. Another that it crowds down all weeds, and does away with the necessity of stirring the soil in the pots or borders. Another and most important advantage to us who are shippers is, that it lightens the weight of our goods by one-half, that is, we get as large a plant with half the weight of soil. In my practice of thirty years, I have never seen a method of culture that I believe to be of such importance; hundreds who have visited us this season have been equally impressed with its value, for the "proof of the pudding" is most apparent in its results.
We have used already over twenty team loads of moss and about one ton of bone dust, but never before have we made an investment that has been so satisfactory. If any think we are too sanguine in this matter, we cordially invite them to come and examine.
It may be that this moss and bone mulching is nothing new in the culture of plants, as it is an idea, from its simplicity that may very likely before have occurred to others, and may have been long ago practiced; but it is new with us and new to us, and if any one has before done so and withheld the knowledge from the public, more shame to him, if the result with him has been as gratifying as it has been to us.
Mr. Henderson handed us the following note, in addition to his article, but too late to go with it.
" Whether for large specimen plants in private collections or for the window plants of the more humble amateur, this plan of mulching will be found to be exceedingly useful, as plants, even when to some extent pot-bound, may be carried forward in health and vigor for three or six months longer without the necessity of re-potting".