Looking for ideas to make garden maintenance a whole lot easier? I’ll wager that the first thing that popped into your head was either hard landscaping (paving, decking etc) or some sort of aggregate (slate, gravel, pebbles etc)
Plants v paving? which is best for a low maintenance garden?
What about if there was a way to cover the soil, keep mud at bay and impress the neighbours without having to spend hours and hours every year on weeding, mowing, deadheading and pruning?
Three reasons why ground cover plants are better than paving
Allow for natural drainage.
Most of us need to park the car somewhere and most of us want to be able to eat outside when the weather is fit. Not many of us want to wade through mud to get to the back door either so some hard landscaping is excusable. But to concrete over the soil just to save work is a bit naughty in this day and age. Some sort of soft landscaping using weed control membrane to save work is so much more sustainable.
Prevent soil erosion
I have a problem in my farmyard where every time it rains hard, the gravel and some of the soil beneath it washes out of the gate and down the hill. This is soil erosion and it can be a downright nuisance.
Mother Nature has a cure for soil erosion. Plants. Plant roots work their way in between soil particles in the search for water and nutrients. As they do so, they create a web or a net of fibrous roots that fixes the soil where it is and helps to stop it being washed away.
Leaves and stems also help prevent soil erosion. Picture yourself pouring water out of the spout of your watering can into a pot of soil. The water will displace the soil, moving it around and maybe creating a sizeable hole. Now picture yourself pouring water out of the same watering can but this time with a rose (sieve-like thing) on the end of it. It makes lots of little dents in the surface of the soil but is much less likely to wash it away. That’s because the water is broken up into smaller droplets.
When rainwater falls on the soil it can displace it. But, when rainwater falls onto a leaf or a stem, it bounces slightly and breaks into smaller droplets. The smaller droplets bounce too and so they become even smaller. By the time they filter down to the soil they’re too teeny weeny to do a lot of damage so the soil stays put.
A paving stone has very little attraction for an insect…apart from it being a nice place for sunbathing and drying out newly hatched wings.
A plant on the other hand is likely to have flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar for food. It provides shade from the sun and shelter from the wind. There’s a good chance it’ll have nooks and crannies for nesting and/or laying eggs and the leaves may well be an important food source for your babies.
Plants support insects and insect lavae that happen to be tasty treats for songbirds and small mammals.
More topical though, some ground cover plants such as sedums, thyme or bugle produce large numbers of nectar rich flowers that are invaluable to our honey bees, bumble bees, moths and butterflies.
Oh – and here’s a fourth reason for having ground cover plants instead of paving…they look lovely!
Favourite ground cover plants
My own favourite ground cover plants are the ones that spread quickly, flower profusely and need very little attention.
Thyme is available in most garden centres and the little plants are usually quite affordable. The ones with variegated leaves are particularly pretty.
Some varieties of cotoneaster have a low, spreading growth habit and are just perfect for ground cover when they’re planted through a weed membrane. I have a couple of these plants in my garden and they never fail to delight with beautiful autumn colour, vibrant berries for the birds to eat and tiny flowers in the spring that are pretty unspectacular to look at but attract bees from miles around
Ooooooh I just love the flowers on this plant. It’s an evergreen, so keeps its leaves all winter round. It spreads quickly, doesn’t seem to be affected by any pests or diseases and the late summer flowers are a magnet to butterflies. So easy and so beautiful.
Sedum album is a drought tolerant beauty that flowers early in the season with a mass of tiny pinky-white flowers. When it’s in full bloom it looks as though the leaves have been covered in candy floss. I love it.
One of my favourite sedums because it’s a little bit quirky. The flowers are a pretty pale pink and appear in late spring and again in early autumn – already I’m seeing plenty of value in this plant. But what I love most of all is the shape of the flower spike. It kind of comes up from the leaves in a single stem that then divides into four fronds all of them covered in tiny star shaped flowers. It looks just like an exploding firework and like all sedums is very easy to care for.
How to get quick results from ground cover plants
Waiting for tiny plug plants to spread out and give complete coverage of an area can take quite a bit of time…unless you can afford to buy lots and lots of plants and the time to put them all into the ground one buy one.
A good way to establish ground cover easily is to use sedum matting. Sedum matting is often thought of as being a green roofing material but it actually adapts really well to ground use. Provided that it’s placed in a sunny spot with good drainage, sedum matting will delight you all year round.
To find out more, request your free guide on using sedum matting as ground cover by contacting us today.