Ditch Ground Cover

kallenFebruary 11, 2006

I am looking for a suggestion for a ground cover for my ditch. I am in zone 5. It needs to tolerate the dry condition of the steep incline, but the wetter condition of the bottom of the ditch. (my neighbor's sewer seems to wash down to mine) I have grass there now and need something to crowd it out, or a suggestion to get rid of it. I needs to be fairly inexpensive since I live in the country and have a wide lot. I like flowering plants, but as long as it is neat, and doesn't require to much maintenance I really don't care. Thank You!!!

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the 'fairy' rose blooms for a great part of the year. It seems to spread nicely; as every cane which touches the ground roots at the ground contact point. Once that new rooting establishes nicely, and if one snips the cane-runner between the now double rooted area; one instantly doubles the number of plants.

I have one of these rose plants that has been sitting in a black pot along the east foundation of my home. The thing stayed green and continually bloomed all spring, summer, and fall. It even stayed green and rebloomed after several light freezes. Finally in late winter when the temps down to 24F. degrees the rose dropped it leaves. Just prior to that happening, it was still blooming nicely. Our winter was unseasonably warmer than usual and so the leafbuds again emerged by late winter.

Even though our first week of spring temps have been well below normal: down to the mid 20s at night; even though only 2 days ago we had a 3 inch accumulation of snow which covered that potted rose; even though the temperature rose quickly by that same afternoon to melt the snow and thaw the rose; even though during the following night time the temps again dropped into the mid 20s and low 30s, that rose still is now filled out with green baby leaves.

What an amazingly resiliant rose.

I also have three of these roses I planted last spring in the banks of a ditch. This ditch is on a lot which I only monitor about once a month or less. There is no piped-in water I can access on that property, so the things I plant there are limited to the rain which falls from the sky and occasional, early morning or evening dew. Last summer and winter this area encountered severe drought conditions. Yet those fairy roses I planted in that ditch bank are still surviving.

I can confidently say, that with the way these plants have handled the harsh conditions, I feel confident that if I had access to watering them during their establishment period, they would colonize, stabalize, and completely cover both sides of that ditch's banking within the first two or three growing seasons.

I have seen an example of one planted on a fairly high 6'x 6' wide mound. That 'Fairy' rose bush, in the second year had completely covered and stabilized the mound. The thing continually bloomed for three seasons of the year and could be sheared as easily as a shrub to keep the runners from stretching over and completely covering the adjacent walkway.

But the very best is how the blooms drop their petals in a manner which avoids one having to deadhead the spent blooms. Only in the latter part of this year's winter, when my potted 'Fairy' rose was in full bloom and the night temps dropped to the low 20s, did it not drop its spent flowers.

I do plan on pruning my potted 'Fairy' rose to remove the few branch parts that did not survive this last week's harsh conditons. It appears, that while doing that pruning, I will simply be able to pinch off any remaining dried flower petals.

extreme heat and cold temps rapidly alternating are very hard on most vegatation, but it is my opion that the 'Fairy' rose is very well able to cope with those extremes and much more.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 11:35AM
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Gee, I have a similarly problem ditch. I just responded to a post on clover above yours. I check-out this web occasionaly because I'm not real knowledgeable. It does seem that ditch areas deserve some problem-solving scrutiny.

If I have success with my clover-in-the-ditch experiment, I think I'll come back and post about it.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 9:04PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

I went down to look at my experimental ditch/bank plantings. For the part with standing water in winter and dry in summer, I have a wild mint, really great menthol taste, that is growing now up through the water and later will totally fill the ditch. It seems to die down without leaving a lot of dead material to remove.

For the bank, part has junipers planted by a previous owner that are very large now and spill down to the water, preventing most weeds except a few stray blackberry vines. The most sucessful of ones I planted on the rest of the bank seems to be groundcover Comfrey, Symphytum ibericum, which stays under 1' and has blooms in spring that start out pink, blue, then fade to white. It seems to be very drought tolerant- we get no rain for about 3 months in summer here. Next would be regular St. John's wort spreading groundcover, Hypericum calycinum, which has spread well and has yellow flowers in summer. The Geranium macrorrhizum is tough enough but has spread a little less vigorously than the other 2. It blooms in summer. I think the grass is getting shut out but there is still quite a problem with wild blackberries, which are very hard to eradicate here. The gc comfrey and geranium also do great in dry shade under large cedar trees here, a difficult area for plants. I also have some native sword ferns on the bank, and planted some Cotonester horizontalis along the top of the bank which is slowly cascading downward. It is deciduous but has lots of red berries in fall and seems not to need any supplemental water. I kind of like the mixture and different bloom times.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 7:00PM
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uicricket(z5 IA)

I'll probably get dinged for suggesting this but ... Since you are in the country and you have a large area you could plant native daylilies - aka ditch lilies. They require zero care, they will crowd out the grass and weeds and the roots help keep slopes from eroding. If you put the word out in your area you can usually get them for free.

The only drawback is that once you plant them they are very hard to eliminate. Most gardeners look down their noses at native daylilies but they can serve a very useful purpose and they are pretty when they bloom in masses. They're also tough, surviving draughts, too much rain, harsh soil conditions. You could also put some cattails in the wet area.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 4:27PM
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Ditch lilies are called that for a reason. They perform well in ditches with little care, just like Cricket said.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 1:14PM
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Lysimachium "Copper penny" is a ground hugging perennial that will grow virtually anywhere. It doesn't need much care and is a beautiful vibrant gold color with little round leaves. I have it in my garden and love it because it keeps out the weeds and spreads quickly.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2006 at 4:31PM
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I am in zone 4 and I am looking into Crown Vetch. I see it along roads in OH and PA and it is in ditches. Only problem from what I am hearing is that you have to get rid of your grass with roundup. I'm going to give it a try in about 2 weeks when my grass is dead. I'll repost my hopeful success.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 12:07PM
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