Okay, let's get into some more nuts and bolts. You're here to learn, aren't you? Or are you here for my stunningly handsome persona? What's that? you say it's just to learn something? Well, fine, then:
How to Plant & Plan for a Mixed Carpet
So you've got your layout and you've decided on what plants you want to use, and you know basically what you want to achieve (because you've done some visualization right? if you still haven't, refer back to the end of the first post).
For this Mini M, I had a laundry list prepared, but only ended up using the following plants:
Before you begin to plant, you're going to have to decide on where and how to plant things. In other words you need a basic plan as to how you want the aquarium to look and grow out.
In order for you to successfully pull this off you need to have a knowledge of what pattern the plants grow in, how fast they grow and where to place them.
If you don't have much experience with growing the individual species you use, I highly recommend you practice on growing individual carpets of plants.
Because it is difficult to truly pull off a mixed carpet (due to the trimming methods and growth patterns) I highly recommend you focus on just growing a single carpet plant at a time before you dive into a full-fledged mixed carpet that involves multiple plants you've never worked with before, then start combining carpet plants you've worked with in the past to create a synthesis of the types.
Anyway, so first let's subdivide our plants to work with into categories, for this layout I divided them as such:
Background Primary: E. Acicularis, Mini Microsword (touch)
Foreground & right side: HC, Riccia
Midground, focal point left: Willow Moss (primary), E. Tenellus (touch)
Preparing the Plants
The easiest part of setting up the layout is the actual planting, the hardest part is the preparation. Once the plants are prepped, it takes the little time to actually finish the planting (comparatively).
I start with the most PITA plants first: in this case, tying Riccia to stones (because it floats otherwise), and Willow Moss to porous stones (for attachment).
Plant #1: Pre-prep and Riccia
Healthy Riccia, if your riccia looks any different (unless in emmersed form), don't use it. Riccia spoils easy, so only use green riccia, and remove all brown or decaying riccia, otherwise your plants will suffer later (follow through with this for every plant).
Tools: Riccia Line, Trimming Scissors, Riccia Stones (flat stones)
Before you start, use a spray bottle to wet the stones, this makes it easier for Riccia to "stick" to the stones, consequently making it easier for you to tie the Riccia to the stone.
Riccia never attaches to stone, so it's important to use wire / line that will never disattach. When you are tying the line to the stone, make horizontal patterns across, then corresponding vertical patterns (creating a checkerboard of string tying it to the stone), and knot at the bottom of the stone. Use a thin layer of Riccia on the stone for best growth and do your best to get riccia to cover all four corners.
I couldn't get any pictures of tying the stones, as it takes both hands to do the tying and couldn't use the phone camera. But here's what the finished product should look like:
Next up: Willow Moss. Moss will eventually attach itself to surfaces, so for tying moss, use a type of cotton (Moss Cotton), which will dissolve over time.
Tools: Porous Stones, Trimming Scissors, Moss Cotton
Healthy Willow Moss (again,don't use any browned out plant matter) :
You'll just quickly tie together as much moss as you can. Moss grows slowly, so for a carpet of any means, to out compete riccia and hc, etc. Start out with much more than you think you need.
Wrap firmly around the stone, and tie your knot underneath the stone like the riccia stone.
Next: Hemianthus Callicthroides
Divide the pots HC come into like so:
Make sure you use pincettes to remove any excess cotton wool from the plant roots.
Make sure to wash the plants in water (even moss and riccia) before planting and tying, this removes dirt, debris and dead leaves from the plants, look at the cup of water and see the built up dirt!
Divide HC evenly into clumps:
Repeat this pattern for Hair Grass (Eleocharis Acicularis), Microsword and E. Tenellus.
Now, Planting the Tank:
Tools: Fine-tipped Pincettes
Before you begin planting, mist down the soil with a spray bottle for ease, and raise the water level to even with the lower substrate line (this makes it much easier for you to plant.
First things first, lay down Riccia stones. Position them around main stones and in areas where you want the most growth. Here I'm emphasizing the back right and front and right corners most, so that's where the Riccia goes.
Next, lay down the Moss Stones, these are situated for me at the left for the primary focal point, behind the secondary stones.
You should lay these plants down first because they will act as a guideline for the rest of the plants for proper mixing.
After the moss and the Riccia, I went ahead and planted the hair grass evenly spaced in the back. For hair grass like this, you only need to plant a little bit, because of how fast it grows.
The Final planting step is to plant HC between all the riccia stones, and across the main panel as it's the primary carpet plant to grow between riccia.
Adding a touch of Tennellus between the moss stones will ensure they grow together with a pleasant contrast, and planting the microsword behind the main stone and as a touch around the right focal point and the left adds an extra layer of texture to the layout.
P.S. if you've found these techniques valuable, help share the information with new comers by linking back here in your own journals when you use my techniques!