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Get soil tested before buying ground cover

By Joe Beck - jbeck@nvdaily.com

Fans of ground cover tout it as an attractive, environmentally friendly alternative to the quest for a perfect lawn and assaults on air and water quality that come from fertilizer chemicals and gas-powered mowers.

Marsha Burd, a Master Gardener in Front Royal, has a few do's and don'ts for those who are considering ground cover as an option.

"The first thing you need to know about ground cover is that you need to have the right temperature, soil and water conditions," Burd said. "What I would suggest for anybody who wants to do a big amount of ground cover is that they first get a soil test."

She added that directions on how to test soil are available at local Virginia Cooperative Extension offices.

"They can go to the local extension office and get directions about how to take one in a box and then mail it into Virginia Tech, and Tech will tell them if they need anything special to get soil ready for whatever they want to plant," Burd said.

Burd warned against planting ivy and periwinkle. Both have come to be considered invasive plants, she said.

She recommended shrubs such as blue rug juniper and cotoneaster as good options for those looking for excellent ground cover. The Web site www.stepables.com describes blue rug juniper as "one of the finest trailing junipers having a uniform, full centered growth habit with intense silver-blue evergreen foliage." Blue rug juniper and cotoneaster are both recommended for use on walls where they have a pleasing cascading effect, according to gardening pros.

Burd also spoke highly of "creepy things" like ajuga bugleweed and candytufts as good ground cover choices.

The website for Dayton Nurseries in Norton, Ohio describes ajuga bugleweed as rapid blooming in April and May and suitable for large areas such as hillsides and banks.

The Better Homes and Gardens website touts candytuft for "cool evergreen foliage" that "brightens any rock garden or wall for several weeks in spring."

Burd is also a fan of grasses such blue festuca, described at the Direct Gardening website as having "spectacular, non-fading blue foliage and unique growing habits" that "make this ideal for borders."


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