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If you are planting a groundcover under trees with a root system close to the surface, add about 15 centimeters of topsoil along with your 10 centimeters of organic matter. Then spread bone meal at a rate of two kilograms per 10 square meters to promote root development. Turn the bed to a depth of about 20 centimeters (the depth of a garden fork); mix thoroughly, then rake smooth.
When planting on a slope, dig holes at varying heights along the length of the planting area, and wedge a stone deeply into the hole. Then cover with a good rich soil and plant the ground cover. The stones will help anchor the young plants' roots and keep them from washing away during a heavy rain.
Grass, particularly the warm season grass St. Augustine, can grow as much as 3/4" a day in shade. The reason is that the grass needs leaf material exposed to light in order to photosynthesize. Freshly mowed grass planted in shady locations grows faster than the same grass planted in sunny locations, because the grass' response to the reduced surface area in such locations is to increase it. However, this can come at the expense of spreading, so grass grown in shade is almost always more sparse. Mow your shady lawn very high and let the grass have the light it needs.
A good idea is to test the soil for pH and nutrient levels before planting a groundcover. The amendments recommended on the soil test results should be added and worked into the soil. This is especially important if phosphorus is low, since it does not move readily through the soil.
If you are planting a groundcover, it is important that you remove all turf grass, weeds, and other vegetation to eliminate competition. The grass may be killed using an herbicide, by covering it with a sheet of dark plastic for a few months, or if the area is manageable, you can remove the sod by hand or with a sod cutter. Once dead, most vegetation can be turned into the soil, adding organic matter.
You should not think of groundcovers as just a solution for problem areas. They can be used to visually unify divergent components of a landscape. They can be used to soften the edges of borders, pathways, steps and drives. Groundcovers that weave around trees and shrubs and garden sculptures are an effective design element and provide a unified look. As a foreground, a ground cover can be the unifying factor in a collection of plants.
Plants need three things to grow: Moisture, nutrients and sunlight. If your grass isn't growing up to your expectations, one or more of these three needs is probably not being met. If it's growing TOO FAST, one or more of these factors is being provided in too high a quantity.
One method to stop weeds from growing through your groundcover is to use landscape fabric. This is a type of cloth that checks the weeds but allows rain to percolate into the soil. The fabric should be spread out, cut to size, and placed on the bed before you begin planting. Then cut small holes in the cloth and insert your plants. This method works best with groundcover types that spread by offsets or vines above the surface soil.
The soil should be tilled to a depth of 6 inches or more, except in areas where tree roots are growing. Here, you may only be able to dig down 3–4 inches. If you have heavy clay and sandy soil, it should be improved by adding as much as 30% organic matter, such as compost, leaf mold, peat moss or well rotted manure or a combination of these. This will improve aeration, water penetration and infiltration.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|