Help! Large steep slope, can I plant ground covering from seeds?

lizatgarOctober 17, 2012

There is a large steep bank at the back of my new house (sloped to the house), it takes more than half of the backyard and is about 100X15. We are a busy family with two small children and do not have a lot of time for gardening... I want to do a ground cover but it seems too big to cover! It is a new construction, so I'm wondering if we can just spread seeds of some sort of ground covering just like how you start a lawn? That will be so much easier than planting them one by one! Any suggestions? I'm pulling my hair when I think about it... I've had quite some sleepless nights. Help please!

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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Yes you can. How steep is the slope and what zone are you in.

You may want to consider planting some ground cover shrubs that have a large spread along with some seed. You can plant a few small groundcover containers and fill in the spaces with seed. Over time, the larger shrubs will take over.

However, sowing seed on a hillside is not exactly a low work endeavor. I prefer to use plugs and a preemergent to minimize the weeding requirement.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 11:14AM
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I agree that we need more information. Where are you, is this full sun, how steep is the bank (you have to consider erosion). Most "groundcovers" can be invasive, so what will you have in place to keep it from creeping into unwanted areas?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 12:38PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

I had a catalog of grass seed that sold a ''binder''. One spread the grass seed and then covered with a mulch like stuff containing the binder then misted the whole thing and the water set the binder.

I've no recollection of the names of the vendor or the grass. I recall the binder did not have a trade name on the package. I'm guessing there is a chance that the people over at GW's Ornamental Grasses might have given me the idea in the first place.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 12:58PM
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I'm in zone 5, northern WV. The slope is quite steep, I'll say about a 40% slope and will be very difficult to mow if we put grass there. It faces the North and it's behind a house, so I'll say partial sun.

The reason I'm thinking about seeding is it is such a large area, it will be too labor intensive to plant plugs (I've never done this so I have no idea). I'm also thinking about doing a retaining wall at the bottom but it is very expensive.

I will plant shrubs and let them grow to cover most of the space, but before that I need something to cover the whole bank to prevent erosion (now it is bare, the builder will put top soil there in a couple months). Is there any practical solution? Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 1:27PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

40% isn't that bad. I work on a lot of 100% slopes which can prove very problematic to seed and plant. I would plant the shrubs and lay down about 6" of bark mulch and a preemergent herbicide (actually, i would reverse that order). 15'x100' could be easily planted by a couple guys in 2 days.

Plugs are easy. One guy spikes holes with mattock and the other guy goes behind with the plugs.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 2:39AM
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Thank you nil13! My bank is about 8-10 feet tall, and the run of the hill is 15-20 feet. 100% slopes would be completely vertical - can't imagine that! Thanks for your suggestion, I'm wondering if the mulch is easy to maintain. Do I need to add mulch every year, and keep weeding? Since it is a large area, it will cost a lot of money and work to mulch and weed. That is why I was thinking about an "aggressive" ground cover to control weeds.

Also, do you have any idea how much the mulch and plugs will cost including labor? I'm totally new to gardening and have no idea...

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 9:23AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

A 100% slope is actually 1:1 or a 45deg slope, but I have donned my rappelling gear and planted on vertical faces.

Yes, the mulch will have to be replenished from time to time. I wish I could tell you how often but there are some variables. I also can't tell you costs because I don't know about either your plant or labor market. You can also get mulch for cheap or free from tree trimmers and some municipalities offer free composted mulch from green bins. You will also have to weed regardless, but the mulch makes it easier.

Aggressive groundcover can itself become a weed, especially if it self sows. Plus, weeds are by their nature aggressive and can compete with a lot of aggressive groundcovers, at least for a little while. When I say shrubs, they can be groundcovers as well. They are just low growing shrubs. You can also mulch heavily (8-12") and sow perennial shrub seed. That is a proven restoration technique, although weeds will still come up.
Since you are new to gardening, I will recommend this site, The Informed Gardener, especialy the bits about mulch.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 12:04PM
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