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Ground Cover instead of Grass - suggestions?

Posted by amck (My Page) on
Wed, May 30, 07 at 21:24

We are building a lakeside home in New Hampshire. It's on a 5 acre lot which we intend to leave mostly wooded. However, the yard area surrounding the house will be finish graded and we are wondering if there is an appropriate ground cover we can cultivate to root the soil instead of planting grass.

We want to keep maintenance low (as little mowing as possible) and because we abut a brook that flows into the lake there are fines for using lawn fertilizers.

We would like to be able to walk in the yard, and we have two dogs who will be taken out to the yard, so the ground cover will need to be something that can be walked on.

Any help or suggestions would be appreciated -


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Ground Cover instead of Grass - suggestions?

personally I would stay away from anything like periwinkle(vinca) or english ivy because of snakes. What about moss?


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RE: Ground Cover instead of Grass - suggestions?

I am big fan of the native Canadian Wild Ginger. Some other natives which form attractive groundcovers are Canadian Anenome, Virginia Waterleaf, Pennsylvania Sedge and Crested Iris. I would do a planting composed of all of the above. You may have to source out a native nursery since these little gems are not typically available at the more mainstream garden centers or big box stores.

What's great about these is unlike the ivy, vinca and euonymous which are very invasive is that the native groundcovers are deciduous so in the fall you can just rake or blow the leaves in the beds. In the spring, the natives will simply push up through the leaf litter - this is what they've evolved do here in our climate provided you have a mostly native deciduous tree cover (think oaks, native maples, hickories, birches etc). This does not work well with the Norway Maples since the leaves are so huge that they mat down - so those would need to be at least partially raked up.

That approach doesn't work the more evergreen invasives since the leaves have the opposite effect and will eventually smother them. They actually need to have the leaf litter blown out of the beds on a yearly basis or they begin to look decrepit over time. And it's nearly impossible to get a rake them without running into snarls.

Hope this helps.


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RE: Ground Cover instead of Grass - suggestions?

I think there is a native type of strawberry that you can use. I also like GoNativeGal's suggestions. A bunch of plugs of a low growing sedge might be easiest.


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RE: Ground Cover instead of Grass - suggestions?

My favorite groundcover is Thyme. Sounds boring, but the lemon-scented variety is wonderful, smells wicked, and can be used for foot traffic. Lily of the Valley is NOT recommended because it is so invasive, and I do believe it is poisonous as well as English Ivy. Scotch and irish moss is really soft, Lamium 'Anne Greenaway' is lime-green with hot pink flowers(beautiful), Bugleweed (Ajuga), creeping juniper, Mother-of-Thyme, Pachysandra, creeping mints (although they can become as invasive as Lily of the Valley. Hope this helps.


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RE: Ground Cover instead of Grass - suggestions?

I like Herniaria glabra, but this place specializes in helping you choose a great groundcover for your area.

The link takes you right to the page where you fill in what you are looking for. To search for the one I mentioned, the website just calls it herniaria. It can take some foot traffic and rarely gets any blooms. It is extremely low, similar to creeping thyme, and has a very fresh green color and fairly fine texture. I don't remember what the zones are for it though.

Here is a link that might be useful: Great ground covers - search page


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RE: Ground Cover instead of Grass - suggestions?

With enough organic matter, wild ginger(asarum canadense) is an excellent ground cover although it does not take much footwear. On less humusy sites pussytoes(antennaria plantaginafolia) and stoncrop(sedum ternatum) work well. I also like goldenseal for a taller "groundcover because by the 4th of July, it has wonderful red berries on 10 inch maple-leaf like plants.


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RE: Ground Cover instead of Grass - suggestions?

There aren't many ground covers that can tolerate foot traffic, especially dogs running around. Can the dogs be trained to keep on pathways? If so, you could design several stone dust pathways through the yard area and plant various groundcovers between. Other than the sedges, most things suggested so far will not take foot traffic. Or consider a gravel or stone dust yard.

The suggestions given to date include full shade and full sun plants, what are your sun and soil conditions as that will determine what can be used. Ginger, goldenseal, barren strawberry, pachysandra need partial to full shade, humus rich soil and not too dry. Some sedges will work in shade, some in sun, some need moist some dry. Thyme, pussytoes, sedum and juniper need full sun and tolerate dry soil. Waterleaf and iris need moisture.

Post your soil/sun or make sure you research the plants well. For foot traffic and dogs, a lawn is the only answer if you want greenery.


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