It is remarkable how rapidly weedy grasses will spread, given the opportunity and the right growing conditions–which at this point I am going to guess are very wet soil, partial sun, and light overhead protection from the coldest weather. At least, that describes my clearing through this past winter (seemingly not over yet). The clumping and running weedy grasses that concerned the City inspectors and the Mitigation Planner last fall romped through the open space and roughly quintupled in area by February, and I am gradually eradicating them by pulling them out and mostly resisting the urge to follow the suggestion that I chemically assist their death. Hand pulling grasses in an area of about 14,000 square feet is an onerous task. Fortunately I have a great tool for the job. Rather like a circle hoe, it has an extra long handle and a deeper blade set at an acute angle. I can put the point of the blade behind the weed, give a light tug, and pop the weed from the ground. Quick, light on the back, and surprisingly precise (I can even remove weeds in close proximity to ferns and mosses and other desirable plants without damaging them). I tried to find a photo of the exact tool and where to buy it, as I have had mine so long I can no longer recall, but put ‘hoe’ in your image search, and you will shortly feel like a disgusting perv for the photos of young ‘ladies’ squirreling up their mouths and contorting their fingers.
I spent about an hour last evening ‘picking weeds,’ as my daughter calls it, a fairly Zen-like blanking of the mind. So far I have collected about a dozen bushels of grasses which I am placing into piles, smothering with moist newspaper, and covering with compost. They ought to moulder into piles of rich soil by summer’s end. I am particularly enjoying the discoveries I make as the grasses are removed: native bleeding heart, hidden western columbine, vancouveria and many other tiny wildflowers I am just learning to recognize, struggling against the unwanted competition. Maybe I have improved their chances.
Eradicating the grasses and keeping the soil bare is important because I intend to cultivate and encourage native forest mosses to grow throughout the clearing. My moss bible says that is the best way to encourage spores to alight and grow; however, in the deepest reaches of my property I have found some moss fields that seem to have affinty to areas of heavy duff and fallen leaves, and I have transplanted several pads of this to similar areas of my clearing.