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Ground-Covering Plants for Your Lawn

Revive the bare spots in your lawn and garden by investing in several ground-covering plants suited to your region.

| March 2013

  • Moss garden
    A moss garden never needs mowing and only light watering.
    Photo Courtesy Moss and Stone Gardens
  • Blue chalk sticks
    A wide ribbon of blue chalk sticks (Senecio mandraliscae) adds color and texture to a dry slope in a frost-free climate.
    Photo By Billy Goodnick
  • Gravel courtyard garden
    Aromatic herbs sprout between pavers in this gravel courtyard garden.
    Photo By Pam Penick
  • Lawn Gone by Pam Penick, Ten Speed Press
    “Lawn Gone!” provides a basic introduction to low-water, easy-care lawn alternatives for beginning gardeners.
    Cover Courtesy Ten Speed Press

  • Moss garden
  • Blue chalk sticks
  • Gravel courtyard garden
  • Lawn Gone by Pam Penick, Ten Speed Press

Homeowners pour 300 million gallons of gas and 1 billion hours of time every year into mowing their lawns. No wonder why the anti-lawn movement is sweeping the nation, as more and more homeowners look for eco-friendly alternatives that are as easy on the wallet as they are on the eye. Lawn Gone! (Ten Speed Press, 2013) guides readers through the process of redesigning a traditional lawn into a beautiful, sustainable and satisfying alternative. This excerpt is taken from chapter 3, “Ground-Covering Plants.”

You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Lawn Gone!

Ground-covering plants are perfect for cloaking expanses of bare soil, as a lawn does, and the best ones require less water than lawn grass and little maintenance—often just a yearly cutback or occasional trimming.

What is a groundcover? It’s any plant that grows close to the ground, forms a dense mat that helps choke out weeds, and spreads easily by means of rooting stems or underground shoots.

Because they spread easily, choose a groundcover with care, making sure you don’t plant one that will try to annex your entire yard. Oftentimes, aggressive plants are the ones given away at plant swaps and by gardening friends, simply because they have so much of it. Do a little research before planting, keeping in mind that a plant that’s invasive in one part of the country may be perfectly well behaved in another, and that properly edging a plant may go a long way toward keeping it in bounds.

Ground-Covering Plants: Creeping Vines

Creeping vines are probably the best-known groundcovers. Not coincidentally, they tend to scare people a little. English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, vinca—to some these names are synonymous with Godzilla. Ever heard of kudzu? Planted for erosion control, it quickly became “the vine that ate the South,” smothering trees, telephone poles, old houses, and anything else in its path.

3/10/2015 9:20:25 AM

I live in the south east.We are a humid place,with hills,and vales.What seems to work well here since we mow a type of vine called Johnson Grass{it's really a low ground running vine.} Is to plant sweet Williams,tea roses,flocks,mint,and rosemary.They can handle any type of area and drought Mother Nature can throw at them. As for the Kudzu........ ..........It's our new state plant in any part of the Deep South.

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