ground cover for 8-12 inches between chain link fence and wall

Rhuff030610(7a)April 4, 2012

Hello everyone. I am looking for ground cover ideas for the 8-12" space between my chain link fence and the rock wall that runs along my driveway. I am in zone 7a in Nashville, TN. The area runs north to south and is in full sun (in fact, what shade it does get will be eliminated soon when the dead silver maple that allows for dappled sunlight in some areas comes down.) I have between 40' and 50' to cover and realize this may take awhile. I'm open to using one cover continuously or using varying types and would like some winter interest. I'm not particular about a flower or color but I'm not interested in vines or anything that will grow on the fence as I have plenty of garden beds and other fence for that! My neighbor maintains the other side of the fence and can mow right alongside it.

Thanks so much for any suggestions! This area has been puzzling me for some time now!

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I think that, with so very little room to plant and lawn on the other side of the chain link fence already poised to invade, I would save myself a headache and just continue the grass. Even if you were to plant something which could potentially thrive in that area, like thyme or lavender, the need to constantly weed the strip would be a nightmare .

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 7:24PM
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I think grass is probably your best bet too. You might try a ground cover sedum or maybe even hypericum, but either will eventually compete with the grass, and although technically evergreen hypericum is pretty ratty looking in the winter.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 3:44PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

I'd be tempted to look at some prostrate conifers with the idea that they would drape over the wall, and run back a bit behind the fence. Grass is going to be difficult to keep trimmed in that spot, which I imagine is why it isn't the obvious solution.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 4:24PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Mowing there could be very difficult. Although not evergreen, I would plant daylilies. They will be pretty most of the year even when not blooming.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 6:23PM
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An interesting question that tickles the gray matter. Hopefully our OP will return with the answer to several questions.

1. Why no grass encroaching on your side of the fence? What methods are you using to keep your section so perfect and weed free?

2. If your neighbor has an irrigation system does any of the water cross the border onto the stretch of property under discussion?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 8:28AM
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Thanks for the suggestions! Keep 'em coming.

To answer the two questions posed by nandina...

1. I just cleared the area. It was really just weeds - not much grass. I cleared it to prep for eventual planting and because I just couldn't stand to look at the overgrowth anymore!

2. The neighbor doesn't have an irrigation system and there is no run off on to my property.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 9:55AM
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On which side of the fence is the property line? In other words, who owns the fence and the ground its on?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 10:02AM
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Yardvaark, according to my 94 year old neighbor - me.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 11:00AM
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I think the answer depends on how much maintenance you wish to do. The easiest thing to do would be to fill the area with mulch (if it wouldn't wash away). If you choose grass, wouldn't you need something like a a string trimmer to keep it mowed?

If you wanted flowers there, I'd also chose daylilies, properly shorter, reblooming varieties. Their dense growth will help keep the weeds at bay.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 11:16AM
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I just measured one of my Gulf Stream Nandinas, set out maybe 15 years ago. It's 4 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. It hasn't been trimmed in several years. It's height is easily "adjusted." With this much sun, it would require occasional supplemental watering, but probably no more than the adjacent turf grass. It would be quite colorful in these light conditions. Evergreen, of course, and hardy to zone 6. I can see it screening the fence, and extending to the edge of the drive, covering the top of the wall.

Before the "Invasives" posse comes charging over the hill, guns blazing, I will suggest that, if you look into it, you will find little or no credible evidence that this particular cultivar is "invasive." It fruits but sparsely, and doesn't "walk" like its cousin, nandina domestica.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 11:57AM
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Everyone has identified that weeds attacking this little "bed" from the back--no matter what's in it--will be an eternal problem. Planting something capable of "protecting" itself from weeds will create an additional set of problems. Extending the grass will require eternal, regular maintenance. It seems that using a wider cap on the wall (that incorporated the fence) would have been the best way to minimize maintenance. Extending the cap now to do that (by using concrete, possibly) will accomplish the job, but cost more than planting something.

If there is not interest in truly preventing the weed problem, an in-ground root barrier that rises a couple of inches above grade would be helpful. Then, I would consider one of marymd7's recommendations: ground cover Sedum. Not only because the plant looks good, but because it's the easiest to re-do when the weeds get to be too much. All you need to get it going (from a stock you already have) is its leaves. Just dropping them on bare earth (as if you were scattering seeds) is all it takes. They just sprout and survive the harshest conditions (though they appreciate better treatment in the beginning.) I only have experience with Sedum acre but would guess that some of the similar groundcover Sedums behave likewise.

For flowers, the daylily idea is good, too... specially the Stella de Oro type. But it would be harder to redo than Sedum when overtaken by weeds.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 12:38PM
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Perhaps "Nana" nandina would be a better fit. It wouldn't get nearly as tall, but would give you some nice rust/gold coloration in full sun.

I can't see Stella de Oro taking this much sun without frequent supplemental watering.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 3:16PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I wouldn't mind having a better look at that wall before suggesting something with a lot of root mass, like daylilies or shrubs. There is not much lean on that wall and pressure from within is the last thing you want.

I've been poking around my rock walls and garden lately and have noted how much root mass is tending to migrate to areas of consistent dampness. For example, I have a pot standing next to a plant that has a bulky root mass, and although the plant can grow best where there is light, the woody base has pushed itself under the pot. Quite intriguing.

In your situation, this tendency is aggravated by the downhill slope, which is where water, and thus roots, will go. Therefore a plant that spreads by stolons would probably not grow uphill, but you may not want to risk it - so none of your Houttuynias or St. John's wort, for example. Something that mats, in contrast, could easily by mowed by the neighbour (or their mowing people). A couple of matting plants that I have had good success with are a spreading veronica (note to self and others: do NOT google "spreading veronica") and a matting dianthus with bright pink flowers. Not sure how they would handle full sun in your climate, but the moisture retention of the rock would help. I think the thymes would be OK too. Which way they spread would partly be determined by the sun - they would grow primarily toward it.

I agree that the sedums are not as weed-suppressing as you might think. One that might be would be Sedum 'Angelique', and there are others. Sedum acre would probably also work - but as Yardvaark's description of how to root it suggests, it is rather easy to propagate and so your neighbour's mowing might get it all over her yard - so easy to miss a bit that falls. 'Angelique' will also root where it drops, but because it's bigger and not as fragile it is easier to control the bits.

All ground covers need periodic haircuts to avoid getting leggy, woody, and sparse.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 5:02PM
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lol @Karin - I had to think a bit before understanding why we shouldn't google "spreading veronica". Now I'm thinking of all those other plants I need to be careful about doing an image search on....

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 5:34PM
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I would plant candytuft there.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 10:01PM
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An additional 2 questions for the OP.
1. How much time do you wish to dedicate to hand weeding this 'hell strip' per week?
2. Before removing the weed growth tangle did you try running a weed eater down the space mowing all back to about an inch in height for several weeks to see if you could live with that 'look'?

This situation is unique. Years of experience and observation have brought me to the conclusion that there is no ground cover plant that completely stops weed growth. I could provide a limited plant list but then we are back to my #1 question about hand weeding because it will be necessary.

The easy solution here is to remove the fence and continue the lawn to the concrete edge. Probably not a viable answer for a number of reasons. Doubtful for this to happen.

Anything that is done to this strip of land such as planting, mulching, watering, fertilizing will encourage more weed growth, more hand weeding, more frustration.

Bottom line if this were my problem would be working with my #2 question above and learning to live with it until such time as you have new neighbors which may require planting a high, closely trimmed hedge along the fence.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 9:26AM
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I guess no one wants to suggest the most obvious solution, which would be liriope. It does bloom, for the observant.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 11:30AM
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Hey folks. I appreciate the suggestions! The fence must stay and the addition of concrete isn't an option at the moment. I don't mind hand weeding - I would just like some pay-off and something attractive to look at when doing so. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 12:42PM
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Any ornamental/native/prairie grasses that grow well in your area?
But no matter what you plant there, your neighbour is going to have to keep his side of that lawn edged away from the fence....

Here is a link that might be useful: Local Native Plants

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 9:14AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I keep thinking of an idea I didn't mention, partly because it may work too well. It is Anthriscus sylvestris "Ravenswing" and in looking it up quickly before posting I see the green form is actually considered invasive in some places... so check first.

Even the black form self-seeds generously so I cut back the flowers quickly once it blooms, but the leaves really do look good and are present for a good part of the year.

Even if this plant does not work for one reason or another, it generates the thought that similar types of plant might work. Say, other self-seeding near-weeds such as corydalis or Chelidonium majus, or another ground-covering perennial with a taproot like oriental poppies.

I think if you wander the nurseries looking for plants with certain qualities, you will find these and others.

Finally, I got the name of the sedum I mentioned wrong - it's Angelina.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 7:35PM
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