Tag Archive: ground cover


The+joy+of+weeding_Weeding-

Tackle weeds early so they don’t have a chance to flower and then set seed- dig out perennial weeds and hoe out annual weeds on a dry day. Then cover any bare soil with a layer of mulch or ground-covering plants to smother new weeds before they get established. Control problem weeds with a weedkiller containing glyphosate.

Further information:

Weeds: non-chemical control-RHS

Dealing with weeds- BBC

Source: ‘Short Cuts to Great Gardens’ (Reader’s Digest 1999)

Old School Gardener

 

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clematis ground coverAn interesting question this week, from a Trevor Arzan of Nether Wallop:

‘Some of the stems on my Clematis have fallen down and are growing along the ground, where they seem to be doing quite well. Can this or any other climber be used as ground cover?’

Clematis make very good ground cover plants as do the yellow-veined honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Aureo -reticulata’) and the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris). Many roses, especially ramblers, can also be used in this way.

So turn what you might use as climbers into creepers!

And climbers are also useful for covering ugly tree stumps. The less vigourous ivies are ideal for this job. Choose one of the varieties of common ivy (Hedera helix) with prettily marked leaves, such as ‘Glacier’ in grey and white, ‘Buttercup’ with young leaves entirely yellow, or ‘Adam’ with white-margined green leaves. I’ve used this approach ona tallish Cherry Tree stump in Old School Garden and the ivies can even look attractive climbing up living tree trunks. And I’ve also used ivy as ground cover with mixed results- if ground elder is present it’s a devil to get this out without completely destroying the ivy, still Ivy is pretty tough and will re-establish.

It’s also worth trying ‘Dutchman’s Pipe’ (Aristolochia macrophylla), with enormous leaves and yellow and purple pipe-shaped flowers. Schizophragma hydrangeoides, with it hydrangea-like  flowers in creamy white, does very well on old stumps and is self clinging.

ivy cherry tree

Ivy growing up from ground cover to girdle the trunk of a cherry tree in Old School Garden

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Trefoil - good for under sowing sweet corn and will fix nitrogen in the soil

Trefoil – good for under sowing sweet corn and will fix nitrogen in the soil

My first article in this series covered the 7 reasons to use green manures – any plants that are grown to benefit the soil. Today I’ll cover where and when to use them.

Vegetable Garden

Green manures can be grown as a ‘catch crop’ – something to fill a gap in the growing plan for any particular border, bed or growing area. For example, after lifting potatoes don’t leave the soil bare but pop in something like Grazing Rye or Winter Tares which can be sown quite late and will keep the soil covered in the winter months.

You can also sow fast growing green manures in areas where you plan to plant frost tender crops such as courgettes or runner beans, while you’re waiting for the weather to warm up. Some green manures will germinate in early spring and will keep the ground free of weeds. A few weeks before you’re ready to put in your frost tender plants dig in the green manure (leaves and roots) and this will be a good source of organic matter for greedy, moisture-loving crops like runner beans. However, don’t do this if you’re planning to sow any small seeded crops like carrots or parsnips as the green manure will inhibit seed germination.

Where you have a tall growing crop such as sweetcorn, you can sow a green manure between the plants to help reduce weed problems. A low growing plant such as Trefoil will keep the ground covered and this can be left to grow over winter once the sweetcorn has been harvested.

If you know your soil has been ‘over worked’ by previous gardeners (say in an allotment) and little bulky organic material has been added, it’s a good idea to grow a green manure in the first season.

Tares

Tares – great for releasing nitrogen quickly in the spring after digging in

Ornamental Garden

A fast maturing green manure can be used to fill bare patches as spring flowers die down but before summer bedding can be planted. Green manures can also be used to revitalise tired soils where old shrubs or roses have been removed and a new planting scheme is planned. The area can be left to recuperate under a green manure for a few months or a year. Attractive green manures can be used to fill gaps around summer bedding or other plants – a low growing variety will help to smother weeds and retain moisture.

Fruit garden

Blackcurrants are ‘greedy feeders’ and can benefit from a green manure which helps to take nitrogen from the air and fixes this in the soil for plants to use. A green manure such as Tares can be grown around the fruit bushes after fruiting and then incorporated into the soil just before the next growing season – just hoeing off the tops in the spring and leaving these to decompose on the surface should do the job.

Winter – hardy green manures can be grown around the bases of fruit trees in the autumn. Helping to keep down weeds these can be cut down and left to decompose in the spring which will once again provide a valuable source of organic material for the tree. A long-term green manure, such as Clover, could also be grown around the tree – this will provide weed cover and also be a rich haven for pest – eating wildlife.

Hungarian Grazing Rye - the best gareen manure for soil improvement, especially on clay soils

Hungarian Grazing Rye – the best green manure for soil improvement, especially on clay soils

My next ‘Green Gold’ article will give some examples of different green manures and their strengths and weaknesses.

Source: ‘Green Manures’- Garden Organic Guide. September 2010

Other articles in this series: Green Gold- 7 reasons to use green manures

Old School Gardener

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Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'

Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’

Geraniums comprise over 400 species of annual, biennial and perennial plants commonly known as ‘Cranesbills’. They originate from around the globe.The perennials are very useful as border plants, with beautiful flowers. They are easy to grow, long lasting and are useful ground cover. Underplanted with spring bulbs, their leaves are good at hiding untidy bulb foliage after flowering. They also give new life to a border otherwise left bare when the spring bulbs are over.

They don’t like waterlogged soil and so in the wild you find them all habitats except boggy ones. They are a diverse group, varying in both hardiness and their growing needs. G. malviflorum is unusual in that it makes top -growth through the winter, flowers in spring and disappears until winter!

Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill)

Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill)

Geranium platypetalum

Geranium platypetalum

Geranium dissectum

Geranium dissectum

Most Geranium flowers are saucer-shaped, but can be flat or star like. They can come in umbels, panicles or cymes. They range in colour from white to dark plum through an array of pinks, blues and purples. Leaves are grouped around the base and the stem and are often deeply divided and toothed, and some are evergreen.

Many species are floppy or scramble and most need some sort of support to make them look reasonable. They all need shearing over the autumn/winter to encourage new basal growth, and some species, if sheared immediately after flowering will put on a second flush of leaves and flowers. Propagate by taking semi-ripe cuttings in summer, by seed, or by division in autumn or spring.

Geranium sanguineum showing 'bill' which aids seed dispersal

Geranium sanguineum showing ‘bill’ which aids seed dispersal

Most are drought tolerant and all are low in allergens. Some, such as G. nodosum and G. procurrens root when their stems touch the soil and G. thunbergii self seeds to a considerable extent, so should be deadheaded before the seeds form, if you want to restrict its spread.

Pelargoniums are often given the common name ‘Geranium’- both genuses are members of the Geraniaceae family. both were originally part of one family as defined by the botanist Linnaeus.

Geranium maculatum

Geranium maculatum

Geranium maderense

Geranium maderense

Further information:

10 AGM Hardy Geraniums for the garden- RHS

‘Geraniums- my hardy heroes’ – article by Bunny Guinness

Geraniums for shady places

National Collection of Geraniums- Cambridge Botanic Garden

Geranium phaeum - from Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885

Geranium phaeum – from Thomé ‘Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz’ 1885

Old School Gardener

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Bergenia cordifolia

Bergenia cordifolia

This is a genus of only half a dozen species, but many hybrids. Originally from the moorlands,woodlands and meadows of central and eastern Asia, these evergreen perennials – otherwise known as ‘Elephant’s Ears’ because of their large rounded leaves – are extremely useful as they grow in shade or sun and wet or dry soil.

The leaves are glossy and leathery and colour well in the winter, especially in poor soil. They are excellent ground cover plants, especially in or on the edge of a woodland garden.

The flowers are handsome and are especially welcome in winter and early spring. They also last well in water, and the leaves are also long lasting, making them good flowers for arranging.

Bergenia leaves

Bergenia leaves

They benefit from regular lifting and dividing and this is the best way to propagate them, as gardens with more than one variety can hybridise and produce seed that is not true to the original types. Slugs can be a problem.

Bergenia 'Simply Sweet' in mass planting

Bergenia ‘Simply Sweet’ in mass planting

The Royal Horticultural Society has given its Award of Garden Merit (AGM) to some of the cultivars, including ‘Bressingham White’ and Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’.

Early spring bulbs (Snowdrops, Crocus, Scilla, Wood Anemones) are perfect partners for Bergenia- it’s best to plant both at the same time, ideally in autumn. Alternatively, using a narrow trowel, bulbs can be slipped in between established plants.

Further information:

How to grow Bergenias

BBC Plant finder

Cambridge Botanic Garden (national collection)

Quizzicals: two more cryptic clues to the names of plants, veg or fruit –

  • Helen drives a French car
  • The era of the taxi

Old School Gardener

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