It is shocking how dry the native soil in my clearing can get, and how rapidly it dries out,
considering I have a Class One wetland right over there. Early on in the Mitigation process, I asked the Planner why she wanted to fill in the clearing–did she even know WHY it was a clearing? The answer, at least in part, is because of the nature of the soil. When the rains are heavy and constant, the earth at the center of the clearing is dense, clayey hardpan with a shallow skin of surface muck. Barely friable, it does not absorb much rainfall; noting the performance of plants the Mitigation Planner directed to be planted in it, it may even be nearly sterile. The “hardpanniest” hardpan areas are the deer track. The animals appear to be largely habitual, and as there is a family group of three, a pair of immature bucks, and one (very) large alpha buck that all visit the property daily, it is as though I have the Venison Interstate Highway System running through the clearing.
It was in some of these unplantable, inhospitible areas that I transplanted my moss plugs. With their native soil intact, I laid them on ground bark and peat, and side-dressed them with compost. I took the pads before spring had sprung entirely, so I knew that the mosses were accustomed to fairly open sky. All of them were ground mosses of one sort or another. With very few exceptions they seem to have taken to their new homes, where I water them about every other day. While mostly dormant, they green up and inflate with the moisture.
What is very interesting–and exciting, to a moss-o-phile–is that the bare and anemic soil around the moss transplants is growing moss too. A different kind, but it is occuring on its own and will fill in those spaces that the plugs themselves are working to fill in also: it is a kind of moss mosaic, and also the site of a future battle for supremacy as the mosses decide among themselves who’s ‘got juice.’
I water the clearing regularly as the plants are young and their root systems still developing. In a
perfect world I would have drip irrigation or soaker hoses, but my clearing is so sensitive I have to water with an oscillating sprinkler–a miserably inefficient (and wasteful) method, to be sure. HOWEVER! All runoff goes to the wetland, so anyone who participates in the
water cycle can thank me (I am looking at you, EVERYONE), plus I am watering numerous patches of bare earth, chalk-dry clay, compost, peat, planting mix, forest duff, leaf mold, rotting wood, stumps, and tree bark. I’ve got more moss going than cupcakes have TV shows. A couple months after I began my project, my family visited the Moss Garden at the Bloedel Reserve. It seemed very much like something we could do at home, given the necessary raw materials were on hand–literally just lying around. Three months after that, it seems to be working out.