Ground cover to replace grass

andy_ohio(z6 central OH)August 31, 2006

I'm tired of mowing, and need some kind of living ground cover to replace part of the lawn on a slope. The area is about 100' x 30'. Gravel is unacceptable, and mulch is too expensive. Is there some kind of plant that likes full to partial sun that would fill in the large spaces between evergreen trees and sporadic wildflower clusters. Preferably, the plant would grow no more than 6" or so tall, and would stand up to occassional drought and foot traffic.

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saypoint(6b CT)

Pachysandra? Vinca minor? Epimediums? Sweet Woodruff?

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 6:48PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Not much can really stand up to being walked on, and in some climates - say, where snakes are endemic - you might prefer not to walk on them anyway as you really walk THROUGH things like the ones SayPoint mentioned. I was skimming through a landscaping book today in which it was suggested that if you use non-grass ground covers, you should run pathways wherever you will be walking.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 11:23PM
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uh, ground cover will not be cheaper than mulch unless you planted it so thinly that A. it will take forever to fill in and B. you'd need mulch to keep the weeds from taking over anyway.

Do yourself a favor and do this in 2 stages, kill the grass and get the mulch down... then continue to invest in groundcovers and add over time.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 9:44AM
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The part about withstanding foot traffic is a tough one, as otherwise acceptable choices for sun wouldn't appreciate that (i.e. some sedums, creeping juniper, vinca and ornamental grasses).

If you want something that can take a lot of abuse in stride, consider crown vetch (beloved of highway departments for covering steep banks). I'd keep it well away from wildflowers though as it's pretty aggressive.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 12:32PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Also, understand the most groundcovers can't outcompete grass in sun, so unless regularly weeded, it becomes a mess. Those that can, will overrun everything else in their path, also.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 1:58PM
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This type of question is often asked here. My answer is always the same. Which do you find easier? Mowing or pulling weeds? There is no 'on demand' cultured ground cover presently on the market that will meet your desires and block out weed growth. Somewhere in the agricultural science world there is probably a researcher playing around with plant genes trying to develop a ground cover plant resistant to Round-up making it possible to spray weeds without killing the ground cover. That is all part of the new 'plants on demand' research which is of concern to many of us. In the meantime it does not matter if you mulch, gravel or grow ground cover. Each method will present you with a 100' x 30' weeding problem.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 2:28PM
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Your best bet is white clover(Trifolium repens). Inexpensive, drought resistant, stands up to foot traffic, compliments/competes well with grass, can be mowed very short or left taller, and needs lots of sun. Early sod mixes where highly prized where clover was dominant. Heres a link I found, but there must be others to back up this claim:
Happy planting!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 2:29PM
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Another Possibility is that you could reduce the sun, and break up the space by seting in a small shrub, or tree or two. You said its on a slope, but that shouldnt be a deterant if you found the right plants. I got rid of all my lawn in front, but I did it by getting the area smaller that I expected to keep grass/weed free. If its on a slope how much do you wander accross all of it any way? could you make some paths, or steps or terraces on part of it so the ground covers would not be stepped on? I widened the border planting a little, widened the path that runs between the border and what was the lawn, and even made one end edge of it wide enough for some seating. The expanse was smaller, so the maintenance of it was less. eventually some varieties of violet escaped from another area, and naturalized so let those be the ground cover and love it. I do not walk in the area tho, so dont have to worry about bees etc.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2006 at 12:32PM
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Fori is not pleased

I'm in zone 6 too, and sun or shade, very little outcompetes established English ivy. The occasional weed will pop through, but not as often as other groundcovers I've used. You won't like walking on it, but you won't hurt it. Stepping stones on any groundcover would be a good idea, especially if there is a particular path likely to be walked on.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 1:52PM
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Andy, do you have a photo you can share? It would help us be able to refine our suggestions.

There's a big difference between this sort of slope, where you'd be likely to have foot traffic:

and this sort, where you probably wouldn't so much (unless you had to deal with those utility boxes):

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 2:30PM
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andy_ohio(z6 central OH)

Thanks for the many suggestions. I guess I could make this an off-limits area for the kids, and that would remove the walk-on requirement. And, sometimes my yard is mistaken for the adjacent city-sponsored dog-pooping area.

See the link for an older aerial photo of my lot with some sketching. Yellow area is where the ground cover needs to be. Green X's are mostly small deciduous trees. Pine and spruce were not planted when this photo was taken. Ignore the dirt construction road--it's gone.

Here is a link that might be useful: Aerial lot photo

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 4:29PM
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whoa, that's a fairly large space! why not a meadow?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 7:01PM
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andy_ohio(z6 central OH)

If it were a meadow, the city would probably just mow it. Those guys have a little too much fun on those big zero turn industrial mowers. They already mow much of it now. That's awfully nice of them, but then the whole neighborhood thinks that part of my yard is part of the adjacent unofficial Dog Defecation Zone.

I need to "mark it as my territory" somehow, and grass or a meadow just doesn't cut it. A meadow in my yard would exceed city grass length code.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 10:26AM
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ahhh, that's interesting.

But, clump grasses and "wildflowers" are just as much landscape plants as shrubs and trees. The "design" of a meadow equals any other planting bed as far as an aestetic environment. Plus I can't see where a case for tall ornamental grasses would be exempt from the mowing ordinances, otherwise they'd have an issue on their hands... mow everyone's miscanthus clumps down too. Seriously, you could put up a split rail fence to visually create a border to it and even signs about the meadow and what benefits it provides. I think Audobon has a backyard program for wildlife habitats.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 4:53PM
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Is the whole area considered the dog dump zone? YUCK! Sorry you have to deal with bad dog parents.

You need to establish a boundary between your yard and the dog zone. I would plant something thorn-y and spike-y that grows big. If you buy something, get a larger size and use stakes and 'caution' tape so some of the people might notice you meant to plant the shrubs and maybe the town won't mow the area. I doubt the plant would need the stakes, but it shows it was planted on purpose.

Pampas grass maybe? I doubt a dog would pee on it. But you would have to cut it back every year or maybe an eleagnus shrub border.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 1:47PM
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cfmuehling(7b DC/MD burbs)

I have about 300' of roadside I landscape. It ranges from a level area to a hill of about 5', rather steep. Too steep to try to mow. It's very full sun. I've taken anything invasive from MidAtlantic GardenWeb swaps that people don't want for 4 years.

I can tell you that strawberry plants work WELL and fast. They turn a really nice red in the fall, too. Plus, you can eat them while you work on the very few weeds that get through.

Another area has the predictable ditch lilies. They've become so thick that very seldom do I see a weed.

Another area has obedient plant, which covers and spreads well, but in the fall I have to cut the dead sticks.

Another area has (white) loose leaf goose strife. Spreads happily and I see no weeds. Again, I cut the sticks after the freeze.

Everything, up and down the roads, is edged on the bottom of the slopes with Liriope. I have everything from small, nonspreading (for me) mondo grass to long leaved Liriope with purple flowers, medium size with white flowers, chartreuse and white with purple and then the lovely 'silver dragon'. I dig this up and divide it to fill in more and more.

Another area I'm liking a lot is covered with plumbago. Beautiful blue flowers, gorgeous red foliage in the fall. It's pretty aggressive, too.

In the few shady areas I work, I have a little ajuga (too dry, though), chameleon plant, and a lot of snow on the mountain and some of those lovely green and white ground covers that will grow over your feet if you stand still long enough!

Oh!! Another area is covered in hosta 'Invincible.' It really is and once established (plant in the fall) even 18 hours of 104 degree, full sun hasn't killed it in 4 years. This stuff chokes out weeks. Hmm. I don't worry about their sticks because they seem to break off when dry.

I don't know how any of these might help, but they're saving me a heck of a lot of time. This year I put in soaker hoses, though, along the crest of the hills. The water drains down and things did a heck of a lot better in this incessant Maryland heat.

I second the idea of planting a divider from the city. There are legal issues that could come into play. If they "maintain" it, it's easier to claim immanent domain. A friend had to go to court because the city was trying to do that to their childhood neighbor. He had to go to say he mowed it for the guy growing up, because it was HIS land. Have you considered those tall, skinny evergreens? And yes, lots of tape.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 6:36PM
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andy_ohio(z6 central OH)

nicethyme: Thanks, I think I will start with some ornamental grass and wildflower beds as a boundary. If that doesn't work too well, I'll try mclem's "natural barbed wire" suggestion. :-) I still have to locate that elusive corner survey marker though before I go marking off things too clearly.

The city actually mowed around and beyond the 6' spruce/pines once right after I planted them! They must've thought, "Cool! Look! He made us a nice mower slalom course!" I think they realized it was a little too much effort to mow around them after that one time though.

mclem wrote: "Is the whole area considered the dog dump zone? YUCK!"

Not officially of course, but I don't really see any other reason for the city to mow this sloped triangular piece of land. A few years of stares and high visibility poop cleanup projects have helped, but there are still a few who persist. And the ironic thing is, their yards are probably feces-free. Anyone know of any really large canine "friendly" carnivorous plants??? ;)

cfmuehling: Thanks for the many ideas, and the eminent domain caution!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 12:53PM
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