Leaving your soil uncovered in the garden is a bit like walking around in the hot sun with no hat – you’re asking for trouble. Bare soil is a magnet for weeds, their seeds blown into your garden by the wind or dropped by birds. Topsoil or potted plants can also contain weed seeds.
However, weeds are only part of the problem with exposed ground in the garden. The soil can also dry out very quickly creating drought issues for plants, and will erode easily in windy conditions. Covering the soil with a mulch, such as bark, shredded pine and pea straw, is a good interim solution, but these have to be replaced eventually. I think it’s far better to go for a living mulch, in other words a ground cover.
Planting ground covers will help to insulate soil when temperatures get very hot or cold. They also help build up humus levels in the soil and provide habitat for beneficial insects. Unlike bark and pebble mulches, ground covers can also add colour to the garden with attractive leaves or flowers. There are many to choose from – basically any plant that will hug the soil leaving very little bare soil exposed can be classed as a ground cover, whether it’s a herb, perennial or a low-growing shrub. Take a look at our top 5 best all-round ground covers and think about adding some of these very useful plants to your garden this summer.
1. Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
Mondo grass is a strappy leafed evergreen clump-forming perennial that is tolerant of sun and shade, as well as drought. Dwarf mondo grass (O. japonicus ‘Nana’) grows to about 30cm in height and will spread slowly to cover large areas. To speed up the process, break up clumps every couple of years. Black mondo grass (O. planiscapus‘Nigrescens‘) has a similar form but prefers full sun.
2. Low-growing succulents
For hot, sunny, bare areas in the garden, why not plant a selection of mat-forming succulents? They look ideal planted with taller showcase plants such as dracaena, yucca and aloe. Most have attractive foliage and are very low maintenance, needing little water, pruning or feeding.
Succulents that make good ground covers include low-growing varieties of Senecio serpens, which has stunning blue leaves, kalanchoe, Sempervivum, sedum and Echeveria.
3. Kidney Weed (Dichondra repens)
This evergreen spreading perennial is native to Australiaand New Zealand (where it is known as Mercury Bay Weed). Kidney Weed has shiny green heart-shaped leaves and inconspicuous green flowers, and is often used as a substitute lawn in low-traffic areas of the garden. It will grow in full sun or part shade as long as it has plenty of moisture. When conditions are ideal it will grow quite fast and has subsequently naturalised in parts of California.
4. Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecox)
This low-growing form of the common herb only grows 1cm high but can spread over large areas. It is used as a ground cover or a substitute lawn in many gardens. Its leaves are tiny and aromatic and its flowers are normally purple, mauve or white in summer. The plant is frost hardy, preferring moist, well-drained soil and a sunny position. There are many varieties of Creeping Thyme with different coloured leaves and width of spread, so choose one that suits the space you have available.
5. Star Jasmine(Trachelospermum jasminoides)
Usually grown as a climber, versatile Star Jasmine is now being grown as a ground cover and clipped shrub. Its popularity is due to a number of factors including its stunning scented white flowers, attractive dark green foliage that looks good all year and its ability to tolerate sun, shade and some frost.
This article is thanks to Houzz
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