Whether you have a full lawn or a simple patch of dirt along a walkway, a good groundcover can go a long way. Groundcover can fix a multitude of problems, help prevent soil erosion, cover the brown spots on a hillside, aid with drainage and it just looks good. From short, ground-hugging species to plants that grow up to 2 feet tall, homeowners can find groundcovers for just about any need.
Creeping perennials are low foliage, which makes them great for bordering walkways, nestling between steppingstones or incorporating throughout natural pathways. Some versatile creepers include mat-forming New Zealand brass buttons and Scotch or Irish moss. Blue star creeper and creeping Jenny are good ground-huggers that are durable and stand up against heavy foot traffic. Many ground-hugging perennial herbs, such as chamomile, Corsican mint, and various thymes, are tough under foot traffic and spread delightful scents. A clover-grass mix is lush, long-lasting, does well in almost any soil, stays green even during droughts and is low maintenance and fairly inexpensive.
Flowering groundcover that grows from 6 inches to 2 feet is ideal for filling in small areas, edging walkways and adding color to the landscape. The best choices are repeat and long-blooming plants that will reach out and fill in as they grow and are pest and insect repellent. These clumpers can be used to fill in areas between bushes, trees, rocks or small garden areas that often frame doorways. The denser the area the more you need low-maintenance plants. Recommended flowers include "Bath's Pink," "Walker's Low" and ornamental oregano; the fragrant foliage is nature's own air freshener.
Using a pencil and graph paper, start with a simple sketch of your yard, and pre-plan the areas where you want to add groundcover. When choosing plants check the zone they do best in (usually listed on a tag with the plant); you can learn what zone you're in by looking it up on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Note also whether the area is shady or sunny, how much traffic the area normally gets and what the drainage situation is. Using a simple soil test kit, available in most hardware and gardening stores, check the pH level and acidity of your soil, and add necessary nutrients to make the land more hospitable to plants.
Early spring or early summer is the best time to place new groundcover plants into the ' so that they have a chance to root themselves before the winter season. Till the soil and remove plants, roots and weeds from all areas you plan to replace with ground cover; continue tilling to loosen the soil and mix in peat moss; add low nitrogen fertilizer; prepare 3-foot-wide planting strips and edge with bark mulch. Using a trowel, open holes about 10 inches apart in staggered lines for plantings. Water fresh plants two to three times a week while they establish firm roots, and pull out any weeds that sprout. The foliage will soon grow in and fill the area.
A few things to remember as you design your landscaping. Be careful about planting foliage too close to your home's foundation. As the plants mature and spread they may feel choked if they are too close to the building; as the roots take hold it's better to leave some space between them and the foundation and reduce the potential damage to either. Be careful not to choose groundcovers that grow and spread too rapidly, such as ivy. Visualize what the mature plants will look like and mix-and-match and arrange the plants accordingly, keeping in mind the eventual heights, colors and even the size of blooms so that none of the plants are hidden from view. Even though most groundcovers are relatively low maintenance, make sure to leave access points for you to weed and trim the yard. Keep the four seasons in mind when deciding to plant; for instance, plants lining a driveway may be in serious peril during wintertime plowing, and low foliage growing between steppingstones on a major walkway may impede maintenance of the walk when there are ice and snow.
Choose the right plants for the right areas around your home, and enjoy abundant greenery in your own little oasis, which will add value to your home.