Ground Covers for Challenging Spots

Keeping your landscape green and serene when the temperature dips.

Green Scene by Geraldine Laufer

Fall is proceeding and winter is just around the corner, but your landscape can stay beautiful with attractive, evergreen, drought-tolerant, perennial or woody groundcovers. This month we’ll look at why ground covers are desirable. Next month we’ll discuss 10 top ground cover choices that will thrive in metro-Atlanta landscape conditions.

Functions of Ground Covers
While ground covers may not enjoy the esteem of well-manicured lawns, they are a practical solution for problem areas. Groundcovers have many purposes:
• Supply a visual design element in the landscape. By repeating the swathes of the same ground cover, the landscape is visually unified. Ground covers make an interesting tapestry and boost curb appeal.
• Reduce maintenance. Maintenance is not eliminated; it is simply lessened.
• Act as a weed block. Weeds spring up in open soil, but the leaf cover provided by dense ground covers reduces weed growth.
• Provide an alternative when turf is not an option. There’s a ground cover sure to thrive in many areas where turf grass won’t grow, such as dense shade, or in soggy or acidic soils.
• Eliminate mowing on awkward slopes.
• Prevent soil erosion. The roots of the ground cover hold the soil.
• Provide an interesting planting ground for spring flowering daffodils.
• Deer resistance. Low-growing or creeping shrubs, like junipers, work well.
• Provide cover for wildlife.
• Filter water. These no-mow areas filter rainwater.
• Need less fertilization than a lawn. Ground covers have about one-quarter the nutrient needs of turf.

Planting Ground Covers
November is a great time of year to plant ground covers. The soil still retains warmth from the summer, encouraging root growth. Prep your area first:
• Remove weeds
• Fork in organic matter like soil conditioner, topsoil or ground pine bark and add lime if your soil tests too acidic or if it’s a new area that hasn’t been tended before.
• Purchase plants wholesale if possible because you will need a lot of them. Investigate Classic Groundcovers, Evergreen Nursery, or Growers Outlet.
• Space individual plants according to their mature spread without crowding. This will save you money since you will need fewer plants.
• Mulch! and keep weeded.
• Water the ground cover area one inch per week during the time they are getting established. This means November at least through March.
• By the time Spring returns your new ground cover areas will leaf out beautifully. Look for Green Scene next month as we cover a number of ground covers well-suited to our North Metro area landscapes. ❍