Gardening With Groundcovers
There are always those spots in your garden where grass just doesn't seem to grow or that are either too rocky or rooty for shrubs. Groundcovers can solve all kinds of gardening problems and are often well suited to these areas. Groundcover also demands much less maintenance than a lawn as the they need only water and don't need mowing. Groundcovers, along with being a great aesthetic plant, are often used as erosion control. Steep slopes, where rain water can wash away the soil, are often successfully planted with groundcovers. Their roots will hold the soil in place and prevent runoff.
Where mowing is difficult groundcovers are a useful alternative. Reducing the size of lawn space in your garden will make for easier maintenance while allowing you to add a variety of interesting textures and colors. Vinca, pachysandra, ajuga and English ivy all do well in the shade and provide a thick and lush green carpet. In the case of vinca and ajuga there's the added feature of purple flowers in the spring. A spot that seems too rocky might benefit from being planted with thyme or sedum. Both of these flowering groundcovers are very hardy and can withstand little or poor soil.
Although they vary in amount of upkeep and care required, all groundcover should be considered low maintenance. Keeping them from creeping into areas that you don't want them, such as lawns or perennial beds is one thing that needs to be done about once a month during the growing season. In the case of sedum there are flowers during the summer which you may choose to cut back in the fall along with your other perennials.
English ivy is very popular groundcover which can vigorously spread into your lawn. It also can climb stone walls and rock outcroppings. Though it can be attractive as a climber, you should prevent it from climbing into your trees. Ajuga is another wonderful groundcover which is hardy and can even tolerate being walked on. Its purple and green foliage contrasts nicely with lawn areas and the yellow or purple flowers in the spring are beautiful. Creeping and spreading shrubs such as rambling roses, juniper and cotoneaster are great for use as groundcovers on steep slopes.
Other groundcovers worth trying are sweet woodruff, ginger & lily of the valley all of which do well in deep shade. Before planting, prepare the area as you would a perennial bed by tilling the soil and adding compost or peat moss. Don't skimp when planting, the closer you place each plant to each other the quicker the area will fill in. Until the groundcover establishes itself, be sure to pull weeds as they emerge.
Ignoring them can reduce the ability of the groundcover to spread and take hold. Once the groundcover forms a dense carpet-like layer, weeds tend to be less of a problem. At this point you will have a beautiful, low maintenance and self sustaining landscape.
Tim Birch is the publisher of GardenListings.com, a Garden Resource site for the gardening enthusiast.
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