Ground cover - high shade, high traffic, low water

cjra(TX)September 16, 2011

This is for a school. Right now it's just dirt.

Lots of wonderful shade, and while it's not an area kids play, it's where parents/families congregate during pick-up, so it does have a fair amount of traffic. Being South Texas, of course it needs to be drought tolerant.

So, what would work best?

1. Hardscape - probably quite expensive unless it's just concrete, but that's not only ugly, would be hot and depressing.

2. Asiatic jasmine or similar - except that doesn't work so well with foot traffic

3. Grass - shadowturf would be ideal but far too expensive and take too long to fill in. Does that leave zoysia as the only option? Zoysia seems to take more water than I'd like.

Definitely won't plant anything before Spring at the earliest, just trying to plan now.

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Here's a link and a photo. It just rained so it's all muddy.

Here is a link that might be useful: school yard

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 12:51PM
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ExoticRGVNativesTy(10a TX)

I can't think of a better groundcover than Straggler Daisy for this type of site. It is tolerant of shade, drought, and foot traffic. It might start growing naturally there before you begin planting in the spring. If not, some nurseries offer it for sale.


Here is a link that might be useful: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 1:32PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Horseherb might really work there if you don't mind that it's not evergreen. In my yard it prefers shade to sun. There's no care involved because it doesn't get too tall and dies back most years in the winter. It has done well in most summers without any irrigation but this year it did die back except in a few shady spots. It looks best in fall and spring and that's when you probably need it most.

Horseherb seems to grow well in my thin rocky clay soil so it should do well there too. It has the added advantage of being practically free because it grows everywhere in SA.

There is an Asian Jasmine 'Salsa' with great color that seems pretty drought tolerant and not as invasive as the green versions. It's a bit expensive for your situation and harder to find too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blog post on horseherb.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 1:40PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Both of the above posts are about the same plant by different names.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 1:43PM
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Thanks for the suggestion, I've never heard of it. It looks lovely. One concern, given the flowers does it attract bees? That could be a problem at a school.

I doubt anything will colonize on its own in this spot, it's been all dirt for a long time now. Before I propose doing something with this space, I want to have some concrete plans to present, so this is most helpful. Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 2:46PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Haven't noticed a problem with bees on horseherb, but then we don't have many bees here. A search didn't turn up any complaints about bees on it that I could find.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 4:09PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

I'm wondering if anything green and growing would do well over that large area. I love horseherb, but my neighbor has horseherb that volunteered in the gravel along her drive way and it just looks weedy since stuff like wild carrots, dandelions, dallis grass, and other kinds of weeds come up with it and nobody (except for me occasionally) pulls them up.

An alternate idea might be covering the dirt with crushed granite and work on livening up the brick planter with more plants and finishing off the edges of the area with small drought tolerant shrubs such as dwarf pomgranite, drarf nandina, youpon holly, etc.. If the budget would allow some large (heavy so they wouldn't easily 'walk off') concrete planters around the benches would look nice planted with something evergreen and drought tolerant like rosemary or giant lirope.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 4:37PM
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That could be why it's just dirt - nothing will grow, but this is an inner city school in a district with major budget issues, and until a few years ago, was pretty neglected over all, so it's also possible there's been no one to care for it properly.

I'm just now getting involved. We have an outdoor education program funded mainly by donation and PTA help and sales (herb sales, plant sales), so funds are indeed sparse although we can get man/kidpower and I'm working hard on donations of materials.

We do have a few large planters for veg/herbs

and another raised bed on one end .

We'll be working on that over the next couple of weeks.

hmmm, crushed granite. That may be an option. I'll need to see if there's any reason why not. I know some parents have complained about it at another non-school location. Finishing off the edges is definitely a good idea. I'd like to fill it in a bit so it's not so ugly/muddy/dirty, but it also needs to be usable space.

I have shadowturf (I think it's the same as turffalo) at my house, just around the corner, and it is AMAZING in heavy shade. but, it's super expensive and spreads far too slowly - if we waited til school's out to plant, it's too hot/dry, but if we plant in March, the plugs would be a mess with school in. And even if we took plugs from my yard to save money, it'd take years to fill in. :(

I'm afraid to ask too many questions of the admin in advance, for fear they'll just put me off saying "no, not possible" to general ideas. So I want to plan it out with estimated costs/funding sources and longer term expenses (like watering, altho there is a sprinkler running once per week, no idea why since it's dirt!) before I even bring it up. My short experience has already taught me that "ideas" get shot down immediately, "plans" get consideration. Ideally I'll let the kids do some research into various options, but I'll have to steer them in the right direction ;)

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 5:25PM
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I'd also suggest crushed granite or mulch. The mulch might be a short term affordable option until more money is raised. You might even get a local company to sponsor one of them.

Just about any ground cover will have trouble surviving foot traffic around schools. And after having my own kids run over plants after being told don't!, I'd definitely put plants in large heavy pots.

Love the colorful planters you have!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 7:13PM
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debndal(8a DFW, TX)

Don't know if this would be appropriate for a middle school or high school, but if this is an elementary school, how about volunteers helping the kids make stepping stones using molds of the same size that they can put their handprints in, or carve their names on, or an approved short "school friendly phrase", that you can lay where you would want parents etc to walk or congregate. Then you could plant some small shrubs in groupings around the stones as your funds allow. Might be fun for the kids to come back in 10 years and beyond to find "their" stone. Some plants you might consider are the dwarf fountain grasses like Little Bunny or Hameln, dwarf abelias, zexmenia, Harbour Bell nandina, dwarf yaupon holly (which can get big after many years), pigeonberry (not a shrub, but a very pretty groundcovery plant), dwarf barberry (away from the traffic area-thorns on these, but they are pretty). This could be a pretty low maintenance plan if you select the right shrubs, and wouldn't get that weedy look like horseherb will. I hate raking fallen leaves and other litter out of my horseherb.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 8:32AM
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I love the idea of the stepping stones! it's an elementary so that would work well, and we can do a lot of that with volunteer/donations.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 10:52PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

clover, frog's fruit, horseherb
free mulch from the city
all four

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 10:55PM
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