Landscaping an impossible slope with herbal ground covers

Monek Marie
Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited June 2021 in Garden Design

I was mowing my front yard and thinking again, its beautiful but hard to mow. I thought about using plants or shrubs to fix the issue or fencing it for my goats. That would make my neighbors happy - not!

Then I thought, - Herbal ground covers: beauty, great for pollination and edible uses.

My yard is sloped so its difficult to mow and impossible when its wet. It makes sense to remove grass and experiment.

So I found a few herbal ground covers. Id you all have any ideas let me know.

https://theherbalacademy.com/herbal-ground-cover/

https://www.motherearthliving.com/gardening/scented-herbal-groundcovers

Comments

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,632 admin

    Is the lawn in full sun, shade or partial shade? Does it hold moisture even though it is on a slope? How big of an area?

    Of the plants listed in the article I am familiar with Mother of Thyme, Doone Valley Thyme, Woolly Thyme, Creeping Rosemary and Corsican Mint. Mother of Thyme and Woolly Thyme are very hardy. The MOT spreads better than WT. Doone Valley wasn't as hardy in my garden and only lasted a few seasons. Similarly for Corsican Mint. Not quite as hardy as all my other mints. Creeping Rosemary isn't very "creepy". I was disappointed in that. As the article says it can get to 24".

    I'd like to try a creeping oregano.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    I have a hot, dry, full sun spot at the end of the front walk where nothing useful ever wanted to grow. I came across a 4" pot of Mother of Thyme at an end-of-the-season sale at the local nursery five years ago. It wasn't looking great, but was only 25 cents, so I gave it a try. Since then it has spread to about 4 feet by 2 feet. The bees love it when it blooms. It turns brown in winter and looks dead, but always comes back in the spring.

    Last year some creeping oregano went in next to it. I wasn't able to take care of it then, and thought it had died. But it is back and looking healthy now, and looking like it might spread faster than the MOT. I think it must be very hardy too. This is zone 6, miserable clay soil, so any useful plant willing to grow here is a champion to me.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    Oh--and I forgot my ground cover experiments this spring. Jung's Seeds, and probably other nurseries too, offers a low-growing aronia, which likes sun and is supposed to make edible berries just like the full-size aronia, while making a foot-high ground cover.

    I also got a couple of bunchberry plants from them, cornus canadensis, but can't find that page at the moment. It's also supposed to give edible berries. I planted it in a shady spot, but it is not looking too happy. The aronia seems to be doing well though.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,632 admin

    @MaryRowe You will probably find that the Bunchberry berries are not the best for eating. Kind of mealy and not very tasty. They are OK for survival or to add to other wild berries. I have found that, in the wild, they are a forest understory plant so they like shade. And they seem to prefer the same acidic soil that blueberries and Uva ursi like.

    Its a good ground cover as it spreads well once it gets going and has attractive white flowers.

    Bunchberry is actually a Dogwood. If you have a close look at the leaves they have the same parallel veins and the flowers are mini dogwood blooms.

    These are wild ones in my area.


  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    @torey The photos are even prettier than the one in the Jung's catalog...now I really wish my plants would grow. I read that the berries were high in pectin, so that was what I was interested in, besides the ground cover. But I didn't know the part about the acidic soil. That is probably why mine are looking so yellow and unhappy, even in a shady, cool spot. I'll try to help them out with that, but it's probably a loosing battle. I have never had any luck getting blueberries to grow here either.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,632 admin

    @MaryRowe Peat would be a good thing to add to supplement your soil.

    Yes, these berries are high in pectin so they can be added to berries with less pectin but more flavour.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey

    The area is probably 1/3 of an acre.

    Being on slope with wooded area across the road it gets morning to afternoon sun and depending on which area more afternoon and evening sun. Overall it get 6 to 8 hours of sun except by the tree which gets 4 or 5 hours and a some of that is dappled lighting - good for shade plants.

    The top of the slope is more dry, sometimes too dry when we have a hot summer. By the bottom is moist but not too moist. The soil is actually good - but compacted.

    My first thought was all low growing ground covers but I think different level of plants with pathways.

    What I want overall is very low maintenance. I also decided to add a few small shurbs

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MaryRowe Nice selection of plants you suggested. I really like the aronia!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,632 admin

    @Monek Marie I don't think your neighbours will complain about a lovely garden like you have described. It sounds as though terracing might be a good idea.

    So many herbs have beautiful flowers (and leaves) so it doesn't need to look like anything but a regular flower garden regardless of how productive you make it. Garden Sages and Fruit Sages have lovely long stems of flowers. Rosemary and Hyssop as well. Chive flowers are pretty. Bergamot and Agastache both make a nice tea and the flowers can be found in a variety of shades. Red-veined Sorrel and Rainbow Swiss Chard give nice colour as will Orach or Red Amaranth. Mullein is considered a landscape plant in many areas. Marshmallow is tall and bushy. Cardoon has quite dramatic leaf structure.

    For shrubs Oregon Grape is also sold as a landscape plant and will give you medicine as well as fruit. Red Osier Dogwood is another Dogwood that has beautiful red stems for winter colour and texture. The bark is used for "barking" coughs.

    With pathways wandering through it will be like an English country garden.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,483 admin

    @Monek Marie I have a sloping vegetable garden. The beds are stepped into the slope and level but there is an area at the sides and bottom that has a decent slope. I have planted oregano, lemon balm, thyme and strawberries in those areas and having great results. Gotu Kola would also do well but tends to take over. Sweet potato would be another option. Also nasturtiums like that space.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JodieDownUnder

    I have thought of garden beds too and too build them in. The advantage of a sloping garden bed is you can use lighting differently. The slope would work well for sun loving on top and plants that want a bit more shade on the bottom of the slope.

    I would imagine I would have a small micro climate here too. ( I have micro climates all over my property. I know where to head if its cool and I want a but more heat or if its hot and I want to cool down.)

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Since my area I want to do is quite large and time is always an issue I have divided my slope into three sections. The top part that is the worst to mow is covered with cardboard and wood chips. (my nephew did that for me). I will let it set until fall unless time suddenly reappears in late summer ;). It does not look bad as it is. I go over and look at it once a day to get an idea what plants I want and how to divide it and make it look interesting and fun. I have unlimited rocks so rockery will be a big part of the design.

This Week's Leaders