The best friend on earth of man is the tree: when we use the tree respectfully and economically we have one of the greatest resources of the earth.
Ground Cover: Low-Maintenance Alternative to Traditional Turf
A lush, well-manicured lawn is a thing of beauty. But it’s also high maintenance. Mowing, weeding, fertilizing, aerating, dethatching.
If you’re looking for an alternative to a traditional lawn, why not consider replacing some or all of your high-maintenance turf with a walkable carpet of ground cover?
Here are just a few of the benefits you’ll reap:
• Reduced need for irrigation.
• No harmful chemicals washed into the watershed.
• More depth and texture in your landscape.
• Increased time enjoying your yard instead of tending to it.
The Many Ways to Cover Ground
There’s a ground cover to meet most needs, whether you’re planting a pathway, a border, or a broad swath of green. Many have wonderful flowers and run the gamut of textures and colors. Some varieties hug the ground and feel wonderful under bare feet.
Technically, “ground cover” is any plant that grows over an area of ground. It’s not a type of plant, but rather a way of using plants. Which means no one can provide a list of all potential ground-covering plants.
However, the five general types of plants commonly used as ground cover in gardening are:
- Vines (woody plants with slender, spreading stems)
- Herbaceous (non-woody) plants
- Shrubs of low-growing, spreading species
- Moss of larger, coarser species
- Ornamental grasses, especially low-growing varieties
Of these types, several species are naturally occurring in Wyoming, and therefore thrive in Plant Hardiness Zones 3 and 4. (Although a few areas of the state are rated Zone 5, it’s safer to look for hardier varieties rated for Zones 3 and 4.)
Here are some of Wyoming’s hardiest varieties of flowering ground cover:
Looking Over Clover
If you want to replace a large section of your traditional lawn with something very low-growing, don’t overlook clover. In recent years, clover lawns have become increasingly popular because of their many advantages.
Here’s our list of Top 10 Reasons to Consider a Clover Lawn:
- It can stay green all summer, with little or no watering.
- It requires little or no mowing. (Some homeowners may prefer to mow in midsummer in order to deadhead old blooms or neaten the appearance of the lawn.)
- It attracts beneficial pollinators, as well as harmless insects that prey on garden pests.
- As a nitrogen-fixing legume, clover essentially creates its own fertilizer... and fertilizes nearby plants, as well! (Farmers routinely plant clover to nourish nutrient-depleted soil.)
- It out-competes other weeds and never needs herbicides.
- Clover thrives in poor soil. It tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions, including the poor-quality subsoil.
- It feels great on bare feet, and the leaves and blossoms provide a mild, pleasant aroma.
- It’s immune to “dog patches” — discolorations caused by dog urine.
- It’s extremely inexpensive — about $4 per 4,000 square feet of seed. (And if you’ve been fighting it as a weed, you’ll get it for free by simply letting it grow.)
- It’s nostalgic. Up until the 1950’s, a healthy patch of white clover was considered a standard of excellence in lawn care.
Mix It Up
Another option is to mix it up a bit with a “flowering lawn” or “mowable meadow.” For instance, a few years ago, researchers at Oregon State University prepared a special seed blend of grasses, clovers and flowering ground covers which is self-feeding and drought tolerant. Take a look:
No-Mow or Low-Mow Grasses
If your heart is still set on a more traditional grass lawn, consider the new low-maintenance turf grasses.
For example, UC Verde Buffalo Grass provides the lush, silky feel of Kentucky bluegrass, but requires virtually no watering once it’s established. It also rarely needs mowing, and requires no fertilizer or pesticides. There are a variety of blends available, depending on your soil type.
Recent years have also seen the development of sedge lawns as a sustainable, low-maintenance alternative. Sedge grasses strongly resemble conventional turf, but they actually have more in common with the native grasses from America’s yesteryear. Like buffalo grass, they require little or no mowing, fertilizing or chemicals. And while some require less water than conventional turf, others tolerate very moist areas. In addition, many sedge varieties thrive in shade.