Caring for Groundcover
Most people think of turf grass when groundcover is mentioned. Turf grass does fulfill all the requirements for a good groundcover. The problem with turf grass is the amount of water, chemicals and time required to maintain a traditional turf grass. In this web site, turf grass is covered in the grass section instead of the groundcover section.
Groundcovers have several benefits associated with their use. They minimize erosion, dust and mud around your house. They provide a cooling effect during hot summers. Some are very drought tolerant (frog fruit will thrive during the hottest, driest North Texas summers, without any additional water). Some make excellent choices for narrow or isolated areas that are difficult to maintain. Others are well suited for those shady areas that don't support the growth of many plants.
When designing your SmartScape®, plan to reduce turf areas by adding groundcovers/vines (and shrubs) wherever possible.
Your best choice is to feed plants while also improving the soil by adding natural organic fertilizer. An alternative choice is the use of time-released fertilizer, which has been worked into the soil or mulch (less likely to have storm water runoff remove a significant amount of your fertilizer or pesticide and deposit it in the nearest neighborhood creek). Generally, fertilizing should take place during March through September.
For information about your specific groundcover, please consult with a knowledgeable nursery, landscaper or county agricultural extension agent about the needs of your plant. You can also obtain specific information from gardening books listed in this web site or in many of the books by local authors, which are found at found at nurseries and bookstores.
If the correct native or adapted plant is selected, appropriately planted and properly maintained, insects and diseases are usually not a problem. In the event that your groundcovers are subjected to excessive stresses (improper watering methods, hail, etc.) problems can occur.
Monthly inspections for insects, diseases and over/under watering will keep you aware of potential problems. Just seeing several insects on a plant does not mean you have a problem; they may be beneficial insects. Observe the details of their appearance and make written notes. Next use an expert or a reference (county extension agent, nursery, gardening book, etc.) to identify the insect and determine if treatment is necessary.
Even the presence of a number of harmful insects won't cause significant, lasting damage, if a sufficient number of predators are present to consume them. If treatment is required, apply least toxic materials (including the use of bacterial sprays and organic methods).
Prepare the soil by adding 4 inches of organic matter or compost to the soil in the area that is to be planted. Mix the soil and compost or organic matter together. Install a drip or low volume irrigation system, if needed. Plant the groundcover to the depth indicated on the label. After planting, add at least 1 to 2 inches of mulch. Add additional mulch, as needed (2 to 3 times per year), since it breaks down over time and is incorporated into the soil.
Water the groundcover when it needs it. An easy test is to use a piece of metal rebar about 12 inches long to probe the soil. If the rebar comes out muddy or wet, don't water. If it comes out dry in the top 4 to 5 inches of soil, it's time to water. Groundcover should be watered separately from lawns if you are using an automatic watering system.
For additional information, go to the watering and conservation section.
Trimming and Mowing
If necessary, you can trim or mow Asiatic jasmine one to two times a year to keep it compact. Mondo grass and liriope can be mowed once a year in February to remove damaged foliage.
West Tx: If necessary, you can trim or mow Periwinkle and Dwarf Periwinkle once a year to keep it compact. Mondo grass and liriope can be mowed once a year in February to remove damaged foliage.