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Cannon: Ground covers fill in what grass won't
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When growing grass is difficult, what is a good alternative that can add beauty and interest to my landscape?

Groundcovers - low-growing plants - are a popular choice to cover large areas. They are an effective lawn substitute in areas where grass is difficult to grow, and they also control erosion when planted on a bank or slope.

These low-growing plants can cover large areas in carpets of attractive foliage.

They can also be used as accents along areas that are too narrow for shrubs and larger plants.

Most groundcovers are low maintenance and drought tolerant. And they eliminate the need to mow, edge or trim.

They soften hardscapes along homes and buildings. When they are used skillfully with trees and shrubs, these plants can create an eye pleasing contrast with foliage, form and flowers, adding uniformity to a garden.

When planting groundcovers, timing is important. One of the best times to plant is late winter and early spring, although fall is another good time.

Treat the soil before you plant to eliminate the weeds. If there are plants already in the area, treat the soil with a good pre-emergent herbicide after you plant.

Mulching also will help control many weeds and grasses. Use a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 immediately after planting and reapply again in four to six weeks.

There are a variety of attractive groundcovers, but it is important to distinguish between sun- or shade-loving options.

There are some that will survive no matter where they are planted. Sun-loving groundcovers include all types of junipers, liriope, vinca major and purple wintercreeper. Shade-loving varieties include periwinkle, Lenten rose and holly fern.

Once established, most ivys and mondo grasses will survive wherever they are planted - but remember, they can become invasive.

Groundcovers come in a wide range of sizes, colors and textures, adding interest and beauty to a landscape.

In a drought-stricken area such as ours, they eliminate the need to water constantly and are a great alternative to a scorched lawn.

Groundcovers can be among the most attractive and useful plant groupings in your home landscape.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.

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