Believe it or not, there is a certain subset of the population that enjoys
weeding. Many cite its therapeutic benefits like quiet time in the sunshine,
listening to the bees and the birds, and the rustle of the wind in the leaves of
But let’s face it, having to weed constantly, especially at the peak of a hot
rainy Northeast Georgia summer, can become wearisome.
So what is a good solution?
Surprisingly, it is ground cover. The premise is simple. Once the ground is
covered with plants, there is very little room for weeds to grow.
Clients often ask for low maintenance gardens. Low maintenance means
different things to different people but for many it means less weeding and
less pruning. In other words, you don’t need to do much work in the
garden unless you want to.
Once a garden is established, it should be more or less self sufficient
requiring very light weeding and pruning. The key to this is to cover the
ground with plants. Once the ground is covered in plants there is
very little room for weeds to grow. However, this technique takes some
While it sounds simple, you can’t just run out and buy a bunch of ground
cover and hope it will take over.
For example, I have tried to plant creeping raspberry on a client’s steep,
weedy hillside. At first it looked great. But then the plants got a shock last
December and some them are now looking pretty ratty and brown.
The first thing I did wrong was not buy enough plants. Buying enough
plants is a little counterintuitive to me. My instincts, when it comes
to planting, are to give plants plenty of room to grow.
However, in the battle with weeds, covering the ground is crucial.
The second thing to consider is to not put all your eggs in one basket.
Planting only one kind of ground cover and then having it fail can be
extremely frustrating. If possible, try a few different ground cover plants
and see which one works best in your environment.
Which brings us to the other most important consideration — know your
site. Is it full sun, full shade, partial shade, wet, dry, rocky, windy? All of
these factors will inform what ground cover will work best.
Back to the client I chose creeping raspberry for — I did so because the
hillside is rocky and steep and sits in full sun. Creeping raspberry should
have been perfect.
However, it was burned by the cold and now looks pretty bedraggled.
According to sources, creeping raspberry is supposed to be hardy in zone 7,
but the hillside where we planted is windy. Although the plant is still
alive, it is not as attractive as it should be because the wind exacerbated the
Some of my favorite groundcovers:
In the shade with moisture I love Creeping Jenny. It spreads fast and is really easy to keep in bounds. I just pull up some of the extra and replant it someplace else.
Another shade winner is, of course, ferns. There are so many native ferns that will spread and cover the open spaces.
In the sun where everything grows like crazy, I like trying low growing
grasses, such as Panicum virgatum.
Sedums are good for covering large areas but their stems are delicate, and in places where deer like to run, they get trampled.
For example, I couldn’t use Sedum on my clients’ full-sun hillside because it has lots of deer activity.
Finally, of course I always encourage clients to plant native, and a native plant like Phlox subulata often works well. It is a tough plant but it doesn’t like wet sites.
So you see, considering all the environmental factors and perhaps choosing several different ground cover options is best for a weed-free, low maintenance garden spot. Give Art of Stone Gardening a call if you need help choosing the right ground cover for you!