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Kokedama, or Moss balls are a Japanese Bonsai tree art form. The original Kokedama use Bonsai soil – Akadama soil (red granular clay-like mineral) with peat (partially decayed organic matter) wrapped in sphagnum moss, and tied with string.
Due to environmental reasons we should leave peat and sphagnum moss in the peat bogs, which are as fragile as the rainforest. When peat is dug up it releases CO2 into the atmosphere, and changes the water table which leads to problems with drainage and flooding further downstream. Each peat bog has its own unique biodiversity and wildlife habitat, which we should not be destroying, when there are alternatives that can be used in gardening. Most modern peat bogs formed 12,000 years ago after the last ice age, and take a long time to re-form. We should not be importing peat or sphagnum moss from other countries to meet our needs.
Image copyright Beckhusan
The good news is, there are alternatives to use. Coir is a brilliant waste product for using in horticulture. Coconut fibres have high water retention, good aeration and anti-fungal benefits, which are perfect for the Kokedama. Coir is readily available nowadays. Composted sawdust or composted bark could also be used. The medium you choose can be mixed with peat-free compost.
For more information on Coir visit: https://www.fertilefibre.com/blog/peat-free-environment/coir-composts/ Image copyright fertilefibre.com
To make your Kokedama you will need, 2 parts sharp sand, 4 parts of your compost mixture (above), 1 part soil from your garden – you could use John Innes number 3 – but this has peat in it, as do most multi-purpose composts so beware…
Add water and mix everything together until it resembles a wet cake mix. Take your chosen plant out of its pot and loosen the roots from its potting soil, trim the roots if necessary. Make a ball with your wet mixture and divide it in two. Place the roots of your plant between the two halves and firmly but carefully push together. Next wrap a layer of sheet moss (forest carpet moss, widespread Hypnum cupressiforme) around the ball and tie twine around it to hold it all together. Leave a long end of string to use for hanging.
The best plants to choose when making your Kokedama should be varieties that require medium to full shade. They will scorch if left in the sun. Ivy, Asparagus Ferns and Hart’s Tongue Ferns, String of Pearls, or a Peace Lily would all be suitable but you could even use Orchids, Jade plants or Bonsai trees like Chinese Elm.
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Kokedama should be watered regularly – one method is to feel the weight of it. If it feels very light submerge it in water until you see the bubbles stop and allow to drain for a few minutes before rehanging. You don’t want your Kokedama to sit in water as it will rot. Kokedama can also be misted with water every few days to keep them moist. The amount of water your Kokedama requires will depend on the type of plant and location it is situated in. Tap water is fine to use.
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Kokedama can also be indoor, provided you use suitable plants and don’t let them dry out. These can purify the air in your home or office which is a plus point for sure. If you don’t fancy making a Kokedama you could always buy one online but do check the ‘ingredients!’