Xeriscape ground cover


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Old 04-29-08, 06:22 AM
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Xeriscape ground cover

Hopefully this is the right forum.

I am looking to replace the grass, which doesn't grow very well, in my front yard with a low ground cover that is hardy. The front yard is very small (townhouse), about 100 sf or so. It also has two small trees, crape myrtles I believe. Since it is so small, it is hard to maintain (water,mow) and the grass and it ends up dying in patches every summer. A nice ground cover that is low maintenance and requires little water would be nice. t

The front yard gets full sun in the morning, and is probably fully shaded by 2-3 pm in the afternoon during the summer as the sun moves behind my townhouse. I live in Baltimore, Maryland, so we do get freezing temps in the winter and our hardiness zone is 7 I believe.

I looked at strawberry clover on the web, but not sure it will work in my area since every link I saw talked about it being in California, so quite a different climate. Also not sure I liked the look of it.

Any thoughts are appreciated.

Thank You,
Neil
 
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Old 04-29-08, 06:31 AM
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Pachysandra and periwinkle come to mind. Both are hardy and drought resistant ground covers.


Pachysandra
Photo Credit: Buckingham Nurseries


Traditional Vinca Minor
Photo Credit: Oregon Trail Ground Covers
 
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Old 04-29-08, 07:44 AM
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Hi Neil,

Yes, Baltimore is zone 7. I'm also in Maryland. How about something that can be walked on?

Thymus - Creeping thyme. There are many different cultivars that bloom in different colors. Look for one that is evergreen for a front lawn substitute.
http://www.stepables.com/store/scrip...ist-plants.asp
http://www.taunton.com/finegardening...x?nterms=74924

Here's Elfin thyme aka Thymus praecox 'Elfin'. The leaves are very tiny.
http://z.about.com/d/gardening/1/7/v/K/ThymusElfin3.jpg

Ophiopogon japonicus nana "Dwarf Mondo Grass" isn't quite so drought tolerant, but does just fine in the part sun location I have it in.
http://classygroundcovers.com/item--...-4-in-%7D--329

You can search for more ideas at these sites.
http://www.stepables.com/
http://classygroundcovers.com/

There's some excellent garden centers in the Baltimore area, but if you decide to mail order (you may need a larger quantity then you can find at a local nursery) you can check references here. You can even search by state and plant material.
http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/

Newt
 
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Old 04-29-08, 07:28 PM
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Thanks for the replies guys. I really liked the look of the thyme (I think it was the red thyme). Scotch moss, periwinkle, and brass buttons looked interesting too.

-Neil
 
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Old 04-30-08, 09:50 AM
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Neil, you are so very welcome! I'd love to know what you choose. Of course pics of your project would be great too.

Newt
 
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Old 06-27-08, 05:38 AM
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Alright guys, its been awhile since I posted in here. The same weekend I posted this message I had laid sod down since we were trying to sell our house and we had an open house the following day, so I needed a quick fix for some "curb appeal". With all of the rains we had following that, the sod did really well. I fully expected it to die rather quickly since I literally did no ground prep, but just rolled it out the day before the open house. We ended up pulling our house off the market since we had no offers in 4 months and wait and see how the economy turns out and move later.

Well, now with a dry spell and being gone on vacation for 2 weekends, the center of my lawn is nice and dead looking (same spot as always). Can it be brought back? How do you know when it is too far gone? I was talking to the wife this morning and telling her that I was going to go to a nursery this weekend (Valley View Farms) and see about groundcovers. she brought up a good point in that people EXPECT to see grass in the front yard. I wonder if this could be an issue when we go to put our house back on the market in a few months or a year? I would really like to get rid of the lawn, but I don't want to have to rip something else out and put grass back in just to appeal to buyers in the future. I have already spent enough money on this little area.

Well, just thinking out loud. Any comments/thoughts appreciated.

-Neil
 
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Old 06-27-08, 06:08 AM
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Neil, sorry to read that your home didn't sell. As to people expecting to see grass in the front yard, I think it all depends on who you are trying to appeal to and what the norm is where you live. I live on a street where most of the front yards do NOT have a lawn but are groundcovers. The house across the street from me had been owned by a couple in their 80's (a 3br ranch) and was sold recently to a young couple. The small front yard was nicely landscaped with plantings on the perimeter and groundcover in the center. The new owners tore out the groundcover and planted grass. Had I been buying the house I would have kept the groundcover for it's lower maintneance value. It all depends. I don't think the difference in grass vs. groundcover will make or break a sale on a townhouse if it's neatly and nicely done.

My other thought here is if grass won't grow in a certain spot and groundcover will, I'd go with what gives a better appearance. Have you asked your realtor?

If the grass won't grow in one spot then there could be a problem with the soil. First check to see if the grass roots extended into the soil in that area. If not, then the soil could be compacted so check for that. If that's not the problem then I suspect some type of fungal or bacterial problem. Have you considered a soil test? Your local extension service is the best and least expensive place for that. In your case I would just take samples from that one area.
http://extension.umd.edu/

Newt
 
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Old 06-27-08, 06:30 AM
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Newt,
Thanks for the reply. You would be surprised in this market what causes people to not buy a house, as we found out over the 4 months. I haven't talked to our realtor, but we weren't real happy with them, so won't be using them next time.

Since we live in a townhome community, most of the yards are small and I think most people have left them as grass with the tree that the builder originally planted. I might drive around and look since I honestly have never really noticed.

The area that typically dies is the middle area right in between my tree and my neighbors tree. Now remember that the total front yard (mine and my neighbors) is roughly 12'x12' at the most, with 2 trees planted in it. I think the trees might be the typical crape myrtle, but I am not positive on that.

A couple of years ago, my neighbor had said that he thought we had grubs and had been putting down stuff. Unfortunately, him and his long-term girlfriend have split and he no longer lives there. He was much more into the landscape than she is. I had thought about getting milky spore for the grubs, but I understand it take a couple of years to be effective? I try to avoid pesticides, etc. since I have a dog and a 19-month old son. I try to go all-natural when I can, both for them and the environment in general. I had thought about beneficial nematodes, but they are EXPENSIVE (the shipping cost almost doubles the price since they are living and it has to be next day or two day delivery). So I haven't done anything in front to determine the issue. A soil test might be a good place to start, even though I don't plan on being here long (hopefully, if the economy doesn't get any worse). I'll check the grass roots tonight when I get home from work. I have kept the dog (female toy poodle) off the front since the new sod except for a couple of times, so I don't think she has harmed it.

Thanks for the response.

-Neil
 
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Old 06-27-08, 06:44 AM
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Neil, you are very welcome! I do understand the market as I used to sell real estate and have friends in the business. It's been tough out there. Houses like mine used to sell in 3 days and now it can take 4 months. Prices, as ridiculously high as they have been, have also come down. It's no longer a sellers market.

I too garden organically and have dogs and cats that roam the garden. If your neighbor was treating for grubs and doing it at the proper time, I suspect that isn't the problem. With grubs it's 'treat in the fall - if at all'. You can check here to see if they are a problem in that spot. Click on 'Got grubs? Count to 10'. There are several other helpful links there.
http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/publications/grubs/

You are also correct about milky spore as it takes time to work and is best if all the neighbors use it.

I wonder if the problem could be the tree roots. How large is the area that keeps dying?

Newt
 
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Old 06-27-08, 07:58 AM
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Newt,
The market is indeed very different from what it was just a couple of years ago. We had dropped our price $20k and still no offers, even with including agent incentives and a home warranty!

Anyway, back to the topic on hand. I'll try to explain the dead spot as best I can. It is approximately oval in shape, about 2 feet across and 5 feet long. It is centered roughly in between the trees (the 2' dimension), but it is a little closer to the house (i.e. not centered in the 5' dimension with the trees). The house faces roughly north east, so I think this makes sense as the dead spot is shady as the sun moves since it is blocked by the tree leaves.

Not sure if this will work, but here is an aerial of the front from Zillow:

http://www.zillow.com/aerial/DualMap...?zpid=36371581

My house is the second one in on the left side of the street. you can see the small front yard, a thin white line inthe corner which is my neighbor's planted area. You can also see that it is shady, although in the summer it is probably sunny in the front until 1-2 pm. Unfortunately the aerial won't zoom in any closer.

As far as when my neighbor was treating, I think he was just treating when he saw them.

Thanks,
Neil
 
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Old 06-27-08, 08:09 AM
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Neil, the picture is just a townhouse development. Zooming in doesn't help as I have no clue which street it is. Better yet would be a picture from your camera of the front of the house where the problem is.

Newt
 
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Old 06-27-08, 08:35 AM
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Sorry Newt. When I got your reply and clicked on the link, it didn't hold the setting I had when I copied the link. It is actually showing my backyard now, which is the default direction I guess.

I'll snap a pic tonight and post it. Can you paste pics directly in the message? I have never been able to, so I usually have to go to Photobucket or something and paste a link to that picture.

Thanks,
Neil
 
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Old 06-27-08, 09:01 AM
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Neil, yes you can post pics from your computer. Click on 'Reply' and then click on 'Manage Attachments' under the reply box.

You also have a private message.

Newt
 
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Old 06-27-08, 09:50 AM
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Newt,
That's just it. There is no "manage attachments" button. It actually says at the bottom, in the Posting Rules box, that I can do everything except post attachemnts. I don't know why it is set that way, but I have not found a way to change the setting.

-Neil
 
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Old 06-27-08, 10:05 AM
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Neil, I'm sorry I didn't realize that I can see that because I'm a moderator. You will have to post your pictures on a free site like photobucket and link to here.

Newt
 
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Old 06-27-08, 05:58 PM
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The link does not work for me. But, that's o.k. You are trying to grow grass under trees where grass competes with tree roots for moisture and nutrients, you are likely not going to win the battle. Too, if grass does not get enough sun it will not do well. It is best under areas where there are trees to mulch in to eliminate the grass problems. You can create beds of drought and shade tolerant plants in these areas.
 
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Old 06-28-08, 07:06 AM
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Here's pics of the front yard. Sorry about the first pic, I was trying to get an aerial from our 2nd floor and the window screen messed it up more than I thought it would.








Hope the links work.

-Neil
 
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Old 07-28-08, 11:58 AM
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Neil, please forgive me for not getting back to you sooner. I don't know how I missed the notification of your reply.

I'm not sure what is going on between the trees, but they are surely planted too close together. It could be a low spot, or just too much shade. I would suggest, if your neighbor is willing, to have an oval mulch ring that encompasses both trees.

I did notice that both trees are planted too deep and the soil and mulch need to be removed so the rootflare is visible. The trees are suffocating and it could be that some of the roots are dying in that area. Have you noticed any bare branches in the tree(s), especially in the top and center of the crown? Take a look at these sites and maybe you can share this info with your neighbor.
http://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/trees_turf.aspx
http://www.mortonarb.org/deeptreeroots/index.html
http://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/mulching.aspx

Newt
 
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Old 07-29-08, 10:26 AM
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Newt,
No problem on the looooong response time

I ended up doing just what you said. I now have a nice oval of bricks with mulch in that area. Less to mow and water! The grass was starting to (sort of) come back, but it was a lot of watering and still not very lush.

The trees actually seem to do ok even though they are fairly close together. I actually end up having to prune the tree along the driveway since they grow low and my wife is always hitting them with her car doors trying to get my son out of his car seat.

I agree that they were probably planted low when the houses were built, but I really have no way of digging them out and put the dirt being a small townhouse lot. Plus then they would probably be in a sump since the root flare is below the level of the rest of the yard. They seem to do ok now, so I am going to leave well enough alone. I would love to have only one nice tree instead of two kinda ok trees, but taking down a tree (especially one that is still living) is not something I can easily do and I would hate to take down a good tree anyway.

Since I plan on moving when I get the chance, I think I am going to consider the project done (except for 1 more bag of mulch). I *may* plant a ground cover in there, but I think the wife is getting tired of me obsessing over the front yard

I'll try to take and post pics tonight.

Thanks,
Neil
 
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Old 07-29-08, 02:54 PM
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Neil, I'm so glad this is working out for you. I'd love to see pics. This is what it would look like if you removed the dirt to show the rootflare. It will extend the life of the tree. If both you and your neighbor did the same thing, it would look more cohesive and probably not look odd. This pic doesn't have mulch added yet, and that would give it a neater look.
http://www.mortonarb.org/deeptreeroo...os/lands30.jpg

I'd love to see pics!
Newt
 
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Old 07-29-08, 06:12 PM
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Here's what it looks like right now. I didn't have much time to work on it this past weekend, and digging in the brick edging took a little longer than I thought.

http://i237.photobucket.com/albums/f...n/DSC02607.jpg

Anyway, if I can I will see if I can take some dirt and mulch off of the root flare. I am nervous about the root flare being lower than the rest of the yard and that I might create a drainage problem by creating sumps around the trees. I'll have to look into it more closely, hopefully this weekend.

Thanks,
Neil
 
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Old 07-29-08, 06:16 PM
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Wow, that looks fantastic!!! What a great job. Pat yourself on the back for that one!

Thank you so much for posting the picture. It's not often that we get to see the results of the advice we give.

Newt
 
  #23  
Old 07-30-08, 11:29 AM
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Thanks Newt. Getting the bricks in, straight, etc. turned out to be a little harder than I thought! I may plant some periwinkle or something in there for some color. Iwas on one of the websites listed above (steppables.com), and did their plant chooser. It only came up with Lotus Plenus as an option (based on the parameters I put in). At least it looks better now. Groundcover can come later if I choose to do it.

-Neil
 
  #24  
Old 07-30-08, 12:18 PM
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Neil, try using less attributes when you search. Use your hardiness zone and sun conditions to see what you get. Consider something that doesn't spread quite so much with runners since it's a small space and you don't want to have to keep trimming the runners. Maybe something clump forming?

Newt
 
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Old 07-30-08, 12:38 PM
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Newt,
Trimmed down the attributes. Basically full shade, drought tolerant, Zone 7. Comes up with some more choices, a lot of liriopes, some dwarf mondo grasses, alot of ivies (which I think I will avoid), etc. Some of the plants were noted as invasive, so I will probably avoid those also so they don't take over the lawn. I wouldn't consider the area "contained" since it is just a brick edging and I think the plants could spread their roots underground and under the brick. I am almost thinking of about 5 good size Liriopes (maybe the Silver Dragon) in between the two trees for a nice accent, and the rest either leave as mulch or maybe fill in around the trees with some dwarf mondo grass. The dwarf mondo grass may blend in too much with the adjacent lawn though when it has no blooms or berries.

-Neil
 
  #26  
Old 07-30-08, 01:48 PM
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Neil, try searching and leave out the drought tolerant. You should also get hosta and astilbe. I used the Classygroundcovers.com site just to see if I'd get anything different.

Newt
 
  #27  
Old 07-31-08, 06:50 AM
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Newt,
The reasons I was going for drought tolerant were:

1) They would be under the trees, so the trees would probably soak up most of the available water,
2) reduce my watering needs for them, and
3)xeriscaping!

Like I said, I think the wife has had enough, but if I find a plant that works and isn't too expensive during some of my weekend travels, I may just buy a few and plant them for some more interest in the landscape.

-Neil
 
  #28  
Old 07-31-08, 07:06 AM
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Neil, sounds like a good plan.

Newt
 
 

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