claytoaj
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Seeking your advice on ground covers!

Hello, I'm totally new here. I actually came specifically to ask this question, but as I was reading all of the beginner threads, I was surprised by how many forums there are. Looks like I'll be digging in, a bit, lol.

So on to my question. My husband and I bought our first house this past February, and I now have a yard for the first time. It's all grass with two maple trees that need to come down and one crab apple tree that apparently has something called apple scab.

I spent this past spring / summer putting up some raised beds for vegetable square foot gardening, and plan on doubling that area next year. I also put bed along side the front of the house and the side of the garage for flowers and jerusalem artichokes, respectively. Next year I'll be doing another bed on the side of the house with just a bee buddy mix of flowers and sunflowers, as well as new raised beds for strawberries and garlic.

I love working outside in the garden. However, I *don't* love cutting all the grass! Because I'm a bit of a hippie, I disdained a real lawn mower and instead bought a reel lawn mower. In the summer I was spending like an hour a day cutting a section of the lawn. Plus, I'm not a big fan of this whole monoculture thing with grass, that we do. I'd like to have a lawn full of things beneficial to bees.

So, I would like to replace a good portion of the lawn with ground cover. I've done quite a bit of looking around at options, and I have my favorites, but so few sites tell me everything I want to know about a particular plant. So I thought maybe, instead, I would list the things I'm looking for and see if more experienced gardeners might be able to point me in the right direction.

I will say first, that I quite like the look of the following covers:

English Ivy,
Vinca Vines,
Wild Ginger,
Bishop's Weed,
Creeping Thyme,
Phlox
I actually quite like clover, but it gets a bit shaggy looking. So I'll probably just put that in the back yard.


My plan is to put one or two different ground covers down in a bit of contrasting / complimenting sweep across the front slope of my yard, which has partial shade. Everything else is full sun. So ultimately, I'm looking for two or three different covers, hopefully that compliment each other (say, something variegated next to something solid). I should also note that I'm in south western Ohio, in zone 6a.

Now, on to what I'm looking for:


1) It needs to not die in winter. I'm not looking to reseed or replant every spring.

2) It would also be really nice if it didn't turn brown in winter.

3) The closer to the ground the better.

4) Fast-spreading preferred.

5) I would really like it to be able to be sown from seed, rather than having to buy plants.

6) I would like at least one ground cover that flowers, AND is useful to bees / butterflies. If they all end up having flowers, it'd be awesome if they flowered at different times.

7) Since this is a huge project, I'm not going to be digging up my whole lawn. My plan - and please feel free to tell me if this is a bad plan - is to put down cardboard / newspaper and smother the grass, and put new soil / compost on top of the paper and cardboard, then sow on that. I get free compost from my city, so while it will absolutely be a lot of work, the cost would be low for that part.

8 ) I'm not worried about whether it can handle foot traffic (or invasiveness), as I'll likely eventually put down stones in common path areas, as well has sinking some stones in to separate the ground cover sections from each other.


Okay, that is all I can think of for right now. Thank you so much in advance for taking the time to read this long post, and for any suggestions you may have :)

HoneyBerry
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Re: Seeking your advice on ground covers!

Here is an idea to consider. Not exactly what you are asking for, however. I was on the same track as you are, wanting ground cover instead of lawn and now I'm seriously considering Fleur-de-lawn. I got the idea from a recent post here at helpfulgardener. The following is a snip of that post:
The fleur-de-lawn has strawberry clover, Trifolium fragiferum, and micro clover, Trifolium repens, in it. But it also has dwarf yarrow, english daisy, nemophilia, and several different dwarf grasses. So it is more diverse:

Zoom in (real dimensions: 462 x 346)Image
https://41.media.tumblr.com/cc362ec0bc3f ... 1_1280.jpg

It is all low growing stuff, so it is designed to need infrequent mowing and it is drought tolerant. I used it once as an overseed in an existing lawn. Done that way, the little flowers tended to die out over a period of years, at least the way I did it, which was using the seed pretty sparingly, because it was a big lawn and the seed is a bit pricey. (Just so I don't sound like an f-d-l commercial.)
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HoneyBerry
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Re: Seeking your advice on ground covers!

Sorry didn't pick up the picture. I don't know how to link to that post. It was not too long ago.
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HoneyBerry
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Re: Seeking your advice on ground covers!

image.jpg
Here is the picture of Fleur-de-lawn. The original lawn alternative thread started on Sept 9 2015, in case you want to read all of it.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Seeking your advice on ground covers!

and this is the thread that was from, so you can read about this alternative:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 32&t=65326

the fleur de lawn grass and flowers mixed is designed to need infrequent mowing. So you would still have to mow, but maybe (per their advertising) once a month instead of once a week.
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imafan26
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Re: Seeking your advice on ground covers!

The thing about ground covers, most of them are invasive. Some of them can be mowed or weed whacked. Most of the ground covers are not for high traffic areas. Because ground covers do spread especially if you want something that is "fast growing", you will need to constantly edge them to keep them in their space. Some ground covers will grow deep like up to your knees so they are not really for walking through. I don't know how much of a problem this will be for you but ground covers here attract a lot of roaches, ants, centipedes and mice. Ground covers do have their uses especially on hillsides and on near beaches where grass does not grow.
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ButterflyLady29
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Re: Seeking your advice on ground covers!

You do not want to plant vinca. No way, no how, never unless the bed is to contain ONLY vinca and it will be surrounded by concrete or asphalt. It will take over the area and secretes a substance which inhibits other plants. Nasty, evil stuff which will absolutely take over your whole yard.

English Ivy doesn't even come close to being as nasty a plant as vinca.

imafan26
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Re: Seeking your advice on ground covers!

I guess that depends on where you live. I have grown vinca before. It did not reseed, but maybe we are not talking about the same plant. Mine has been renamed catharanthus roseus, commonly known as the Madagascar periwinkle. It is a shrub and except for the sap which can be an irritant, it is well behaved.

You might be talking about vinca minor which is a trailing plant. That I have not planted because of its' viny habit.

Most ground covers spread. It is what they are meant to do. The only one that I found that was easy to contain was portulaca. It is good for planting along the curbside because it does not need a lot of water, can stand up to dust and exhaust, can stand people stepping on it, and it does not grow tall. It does not set seed so it won't appear in other places. The concrete sidewalk contains it for the most part and it just needs to be edged when the runners come out. Even grass needs to be edged along the curb or it will run over it.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

ButterflyLady29
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Re: Seeking your advice on ground covers!

Yes, 2 totally different plants. Your vinca (catharanthus) is called annual vinca here. Not invasive and doesn't survive the first fall frost. The horrible, nasty one is vinca minor. It's not really viney, more like runners which root along the stem and especially at the stem tips. It also spreads by root runners and can come up 10 feet or so from the parent plant. And yes, ground covers are supposed to spread but this particular one spreads very aggressively, killing off other plants in the immediate area. And from what I have experienced, there is also a huge reduction in the number of earthworms around the vinca roots. I have never seen any indication that it is the least bit beneficial to wildlife either. Let's just call it my biggest gardening mistake.

There are a few shrubs which can also serve as ground covers. My personal choices would be wintergreen or partridge berry. Both native to the area, both need partially shaded areas, both provide food for wildlife although the partridgeberry berries are not really a preferred bird food. The only possible drawback is that both those plants require slightly acidic soil.

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applestar
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Re: Seeking your advice on ground covers!

Just to add to the variety of ideas -- my DH will accept mixed lawn like clover, dandelion, even buttercups and lyre-leaf sage, which is a pretty aggressively re-seeding native plant, but he wants to have grass as the base for the front yard. So I have been slowly converting the front lawn from the original (whatever-is-common NE-Mid Atlantic landscaping lawn gras mix) to low growing buffalo grass, and scattering white and yellow clover over them. (I tried scarlet clover too, but unfortunately my area is borderline for those). Yellow sweet clover becomes gigantic if allowed to grow in beds but stays compact when mowed and have wonderfully sweet scent when stepped on.

Buffalo grass develops a thatch and sod, and it seems to start growing earlier than crabgrass,so most of the crabgrass have been overcome (except an unexplained large patch in the front yard near the corner of the property bordering the sidewalk -- I suspect *someone* dumped something there and killed the lawn! then the crabgrass took over... But that's another story) and is drought hardy so our lawn is greener I the summer but turns a buff color during winter.

I also have a patch of mother-of-thyme in a section of the front lawn near the driveway that I have been cultivating. I love that patch when in full bloom and when we walk on it, as well as when DH mows through there.

He avoids mowing on sunny days when the lawn flowers are in bloom because they all attract multitude of honeybees and other bees and nectaring insects, and also mows around flowering clumps and sweeps, leaving islands of flowers. :D

In my back yard I allow clumps of sweet vernal grass to grow without cutting them until they go to seed. Absolutely fantastic to brush against and walk on, though it's too coarse to be lawn grass.

I have pennsylvania sedge growing as low growing grass alternative in the back yard as well as some other sedges, and I also let a few other native grasses grow, including blue-eyed grass (which is actually not grass).

I identified all of these by letting the existing grass grow to seed to help in the ID process, so the grasses were all growing here among the mixed lawn grass, but now I know what they are and can encourage some while eradicating others.
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