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There are many ways to cover the space underneath trees, bushes, and plants. Both mulch and ground cover plants have their good and not-so-good points. So, which to use? Compare the benefits of both and see which one is best for you.
Here we’re talking about tree bark chips or shredded bark mulch that comes in bags sold by garden centers. Towns and cities often have a mulch program where you can pick up your own or have it delivered to your driveway.
Mulch is such a great finish for landscapes. It helps the soil retain moisture and makes the flowers, bushes, and trees stand out on the landscape. The eye can see each and every plant specimen. Everything looks nice and tidy. It says "well cared for."
What about ground cover? Choosing low-growing plants that complement the plantings that are already there give the landscape a certain flow. The eye travels over the whole composition. Everything blends together. Ground covers add to the plant palette.
Its height, width, and how crowded it likes to be determine whether or not a plant can be used as ground cover. The height of ground cover plants, in general, can be anywhere from one to six inches. Some are shorter of course and some taller. Some grow like a mat. Some individual plants, like Lily of the Valley, grow close together.
A solution for the time it takes a ground cover to grow is to partner it with mulch! After planting a ground cover, scatter mulch around it. The new ground cover gains from mulch’s moisture and weed protection. When grown, the ground cover feeds from the mulch-enriched soil. Both work together to benefit the garden.
Looks nice and tidy.
Repeat labor: have to fluff or add to existing mulch every year.
Makes individual plants stand out.
Repeat cost of buying more.
Helps retain moisture. Traps rainwater, keeping the soil beneath wet a little longer.
Heavy rain or melting snow washes it away.
Decomposes to add nutrients.
Cuts down on weeds.
Keeps ground cool.
Complements other plants.
Can be more expensive.
Retains rainwater in the soil.
Some plants may die, leaving a hole in the design.
Once established, it grows and spreads.
Variety of plants to choose from.
Helps clear air.
Keeps ground cool.
Question: Which is better: english ivy or running myrtle??
Answer: Neither one. Both are invasive in many parts of the country. Both require high maintenance to keep under control. Before buying a ground cover check with a site like the U.S. Forest Service's invasive plants list.
Question: Will ground cover take over grassy areas?
Answer: Ground cover will continue to grow wherever the conditions are right. It's low maintenance but still needs attention including where you want it to grow. Two ways to keep it in check: trim it back with an edge trimmer or place border edging a couple of inches into the ground to stop root spread. If they're too close to the edge you may have to dig them out. Best to buy slow growers and avoid those listed as invasive.
Question: Leaves are difficult to rake up with ground covers. Any suggestions?
Answer: Ideas you might try: 1) Before leaves fall, anchor plastic netting over the area and remove netting when full of leaves. 2) Use a narrow lightweight rake to pull gently over the ground cover. 3) Use a pair of hand rakes (look like giant salad tongs) to gently pick up leaves or wear waterproof garden gloves to do the same by hand.
Question: What can I do to plant flowers under a tree in my yard where I have mulch?
Answer: If you're planting the entire area: rake the mulch into a pile or several piles to the edge of the area, plant your flowers and use the mulch to cover the ground between plants. The remainder can be used in another area. If adding a few flowers: choose the spots you want to plant, brush the mulch aside using gloved hands or a hand rake or small shovel, plant your flowers and move the mulch to cover the ground around the plants.
© 2017 Juli Seyfried