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Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:02 PM

Need some tips on moisture and shade tolerant ground covers

I have a low area on our property, which is bisected by a stream. The stream bed is about 30" below grade and shaded. The ground is poorly drained for a distance of maybe 30 feet on one side of the stream and 10 feet on the other. Right now the 30 foot piece is planted with a sorry excuse for a lawn. The rest of our lawn area is in excellent form, but down there the grass is thin and clearly not happy. I can't mow it too often because the tractor sinks into the turf leaving deep ruts and compacting the soil. I have a small hand mower that I use, but even at that, it compacts the soil. When things finally dry out, this area is like concrete, but at least the grass recovers a bit.

Is there a ground cover I can plant that will tolerate having its roots wet at times and dry at other times and is shade tolerant? I really just want to cover the dirt. Mulch would work, but I want something growing if I can get it. I have a bridge over the stream to allow the tractor to cross and will probably lay a gravel or stone path to allow the tractor to transit the wet area without causing mud ruts as I now have. The tractor weighs maybe 1500 to 2000 lbs depending on what's on it, so that's a lot to ask of a mud rut!

I am in central Maryland.

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Reply Need some tips on moisture and shade tolerant ground covers (Original post)
Stinky The Clown Jul 2013 OP
The Velveteen Ocelot Jul 2013 #1
Stinky The Clown Jul 2013 #3
The Velveteen Ocelot Jul 2013 #6
femmocrat Jul 2013 #8
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2013 #2
Stinky The Clown Jul 2013 #4
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2013 #5
femmocrat Jul 2013 #7
libodem Jul 2013 #10
femmocrat Jul 2013 #19
Cracklin Charlie Jul 2013 #9
libodem Jul 2013 #11
The Velveteen Ocelot Jul 2013 #13
libodem Jul 2013 #12
Stinky The Clown Jul 2013 #14
mopinko Jul 2013 #17
Stinky The Clown Jul 2013 #18
Stinky The Clown Jul 2013 #15
beac Jul 2013 #16
BlueToTheBone Jul 2013 #20

Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:05 PM

1. Creeping Charlie works everywhere, though it's invasive

and tends to creep into places you don't want it. Moneywort, which is a nice bright chartreuse, is also a good ground cover - I have some in a shady spot in my yard and it seems to be doing well.

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #1)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:10 PM

3. Are they fast growing? How do you propagate?

Will they cover in, say, a season? Is it planted as small plugs, potted plants, cuttings? Seeds?

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Reply #3)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:18 PM

6. I planted my Moneywort from small plants I got at a garden center

but they will also grow from seeds. They send out tendrils form a low, flat mat; they grow quickly and like damp areas. It could be invasive but it is easy to uproot from places you don't want it. It's also called Creeping jenny.

http://www.finegardening.com/plantguide/lysimachia-nummularia-aurea-golden-creeping-jenny.aspx

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #6)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:46 PM

8. I have that.... I didn't know what it was called.

It will grow anywhere even in full sun, especially around trees and shrubs. It can be invasive too.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:07 PM

2. Vinca? Penny Royal? Mazus?

Creeping Charlie is literally taking over our property - beware (it and Japanese Stilt Grass do battle on at least half of our acre and always tries to move from our woods into our yard)

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Response to NRaleighLiberal (Reply #2)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:11 PM

4. Can creeping charlie be controlled by mowing.

We have vinca right in front of our house. It is also in shade, but less shady than my trouble spot. It does well but has allowed wild strawberries to mix in quite heavily. I might consider trying some cuttings down there and see what happens.

Pennyroyal is supposed to be toxic. I would worry about my dogs eating it.

Mazus may need more sun than my spot affords.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Reply #4)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:13 PM

5. not very well, because it is a low creeper and spreads by runners that probably

would escape mowing. We try to hand pull the stuff that makes it into our back yard lawn, and are not all that successful. It draws lots of bees (a plus), and smells quite interesting when stepped on - hard to describe.

Creeping Jenny (not sure if it is considered a ground cover) is really nice looking - that's another option.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:39 PM

7. Periwinkle.

I have it growing on a bank that is in the shade. It gets pretty blue flowers in the spring. It isn't a real fast grower though.




I wouldn't plant creeping charlie because it is so invasive. I pull it out by the wheelbarrow full.

I thought of another one.... violets! They grow wild here (PA) and spread like crazy, sun or shade.



You wouldn't need to mow either violets or periwinkle, but it would take time for them to completely cover an area that large.

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Response to femmocrat (Reply #7)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:59 PM

10. I like that periwinkle

I think I've been calling my plant that looks like that vinca?
I believe I've been wrong. Hmmm?

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Response to libodem (Reply #10)

Sun Jul 7, 2013, 10:02 PM

19. You're right, it does look like vinca.

They sell vinca here as an annual. It comes mostly in shades of pink and purple. Periwinkle is a perennial. They could be in the same family though!

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 12:52 PM

9. Does it have to be a ground cover?

The spot you're describing sounds perfect for hosta.

My hosta bed is very shady, has soil like concrete, and tends to be fairly dry. Now long established, the size and number of plants discourage much weed germination. The number of varieties is endless, and the clumping nature looks neat and tidy pretty much all the time. I make a couple of passes every summer to pull weeds, and sometimes remove spent flower heads. The plants quickly multiply, and you could cover a large area, using sports from a few plants, in a fairly short time. I have given away hundreds of hosta over the years. I think I saw a seller on ebay earlier in the season selling 100 hosta sports for 9.99. You could have a very impressive display on both sides of the stream. Mix in a few ferns, ornamental grasses (Japanese forest grass, my fave), and you're set.

Disclosure: I tend to not like creeping groundcovers, due to their ground level habit (hard to see), and their creeping nature means they tend to creep into places that they're not wanted.

If you want to go really crazy, turn the area into a fairy garden (my latest gardening obsession).

Okay, I'll shut up now, and go out and work in the yard. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 01:18 PM

11. This stuff seems to grow

Anywhere. It's in my front flower bed.

[img][/img]

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Response to libodem (Reply #11)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 03:14 PM

13. That's lamium, and it will grow just about anywhere.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 01:28 PM

12. The hostas like the shade

Here is a hosta and a rhododendron, in my shady spot.

[img][/img]

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Response to libodem (Reply #12)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 03:37 PM

14. Hostas will play a part in the reclamation of the area!

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Reply #14)

Sun Jul 7, 2013, 12:35 PM

17. if you put hosta in a wet area

it is a glaring, glowing neon invitation to snails. (i confess i hate the stuff with a passion.)

look into rain garden plants for the wet side. siberian iris, ferns, hibiscus.

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Response to mopinko (Reply #17)

Sun Jul 7, 2013, 12:42 PM

18. The nursery lady suggested the hostas as but one option. Since I can get a bunch for free . . . .

. . . . it seems a reasonable consideration. That said, until the tree dries the area out (in a year or so), it stays as it is now. I may stop mowing that area and let it go to weeds, which tend to fill in and be hardy based on actual conditions. Green, healthy weeds, in that area, may well be preferable to a weak, thin, muddy lawn on sodden turf compacted by a tractor.

My landscape jury is still out.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Jul 6, 2013, 03:59 PM

15. I spent a little time at a small local nursery. Talk about thinking outside the box . . . . . !!

She suggested the first thing we do is dry out the soil in a natural way with a weeping willow tree. Then she gave me a tree!! No charge!

It seems she had this tree that was damaged and was ready to toss. She gave it to me since, give the location, looks would be a non issue. The tree will absolutely recover, but the whole top/leader will need to regrow, so there will be a few years before it looks right. Meanwhile, true to the trait of a willow, it will start draining/drying the soil by gallons per day. This particular tree will only contribute dappled shade, not a dense cover. Next year, after the soil is more dry, we'll plant hostas as a ground cover. They resemble the local skunk cabbage that grows along streams so it will have a more natural/indigenous look about it.

We have several friends and neighbors who have offered us hosta sports in the past. I'll take them up on it next year.

This isn't a quick fix, but it sounds like a good plan, given the area.

Thanks everyone, for your suggestions!

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Reply #15)

Sun Jul 7, 2013, 07:32 AM

16. Free weeping willow, lucky you!

I love weeping willows. My grandparents had one at their house and it always seemed like a magic tree to me as a child. Never knew they were such thirsty things.

Sounds like your ugly duckling corner is on the way to being a real garden swan.

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Response to Stinky The Clown (Original post)

Sat Jul 27, 2013, 11:33 PM

20. My suggestion is native ground covers...here

are a few links and choices. When we introduce non-native invasive plants, we push out what grows there naturally.
http://nativeplantwildlifegarden.com/plant-this-not-that-native-groundcover-edition/

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Habitat/WildAcres/wagroundcovers.asp

I think that we should plant things that will feed birds and wildlife. Enjoy. Planting natives will also keep the deer at bay.

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