Dixie Gardening: Planting and caring for ground covers

Written by Charlotte West

Out west, it is best to plant ground covers in autumn. This gives plants time to establish their roots over the winter. In the coldest areas, it is best to wait until spring.

Most ground covers grow best in well-prepared soil. Adding plenty of organic matter will help as well, but it’s not always needed if you choose a ground cover that is native to your area. This usually includes more shrubby ground covers. If you want to help control weeds, you can install landscape fabric, if desired.

When planting ground covers purchased in small pots or flats, set them in holes the same depth as and slightly wider than the root ball. Check with your local nursery about spacing, as this can vary greatly from plant to plant. Water thoroughly after planting, and keep plants moist but not soggy as they settle in. You may want to apply a mulch to help conserve moisture and for added weed control.

Depending on the type of ground cover you choose, the watering needs will vary as well. Do your research, depending on the kind you choose. But here is a helpful tip. As a rule of thumb, most woody, shrubby ground covers, especially those that are drought-tolerant, have fairly low nutrient needs, and many get along with little or no fertilizing. Perennial ground covers with softer, lusher growth have higher nutrient needs and should receive an annual feeding in spring. Or, you can try my carefree method, which I personally tested last fall. I took clippings from succulent ground covers and simply tossed them into the area in which I wanted ground cover. Slowly but surely, they grew, and now I have some pretty awesome ground cover in a formerly barren spot. This is the lazy method and does not take off really quickly, but it works.

So why discuss ground cover in the heat of summer? Well, if you struggle with weeds, ground cover can help you to get rid this problem with the right preparation. So now is the time to prepare your ground in anticipation of autumn. And if you want to have a more green pasture to look out at, ground covers can be a replacement for grasses and can be less needy, water-wise, if you choose the correct ground cover. Or, you just might have a bare spot that could use a facelift. Whatever the reason you may choose, ground covers can provide beauty virtually care-free for years to come.

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