Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Establishing a Groundcover
Groundcovers are dependable plants that gardeners everywhere count on to blanket the soil with a fairly uniform canopy of dense foliage. They thus suppress most weed growth from below. Groundcovers offer solutions to a number of landscaping dilemmas. Some flourish in the shade cast by large trees, while others thrive on hot, steep banks. Most species are easier to maintain than lawns, and many are water-thrifty as well. The plants are available in a variety of leaf shapes and textures, with some featuring flowers and even berries. Gardeners in cold-winter areas should plant in spring, so the groundcover has an entire season to get established. Those in areas with hot, dry summers and mild winters may want to wait for fall, when winter rains will help get the plants off to a strong start. Even a groundcover with a reputation for being tough can’t compete or thrive in weedy soil. Use a sharp hoe to cut shallow-rooted annual weeds, or till the soil and rake out plant remains. Carefully dig out any deep-rooted perennial weeds, such as Bermuda grass and dandelions, removing the roots as well as the tops. Small areas of turf can be sliced off in sections with a sharp, flat spade; you’ll need to rent a sod cutter to get rid of larger lawns. Roughly dig over the site, hauling away rocks and other debris. When you’re finished, rake the surface to even it out. On very weedy sites it is a good idea to irrigate at this point and wait a couple of weeks for weed seeds to germinate; the tiny seedlings will be easy to eliminate then, saving you extensive weeding later. To decide which groundcover to plant, consider your climate, and the amount of sun the area will receive. You can also be on the lookout for successful plantings in your neighborhood. Be wary of invasive species that travel quickly beyond their allotted area. If you choose a taller-growing one, keep in mind that it may require shearing every year or so to maintain a leafy, nonwoody appearance.