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Ground Cover question

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by MRyan, May 20, 2008.

  1. MRyan

    MRyan LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    This is my first post and I'm hoping you guys can help me out. I have a customer (very eccentric couple) that wants ground cover in place of grass on approximately 2 acres, currently covered in grass. They asked for 2 estimates - one quote for all pachysandra and another quote for something less expensive (like wild flower). So my question is what other type of ground cover do you suggest? We are in zone 6. Thanks a lot.
  2. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    2 acres of pachysandra ?!?

    Cha- ching !

    :) $$ :)

    Pach normally does alot better in our zone with a little bit of shade cover during the day.
    Is this the situation there?

    Is it flat, hilly, what? :confused:

    If they did do wildflowers on these two acres...do you think they understand what it takes to establish and maintain a true stand of wildflowers and / or prairie grasses ?

    Wildflowers do include SOME mowing and /or occasional burning of the wildflowers to maintain their vibrancy over time.
    ( Hit the "search" button on this site..and enter 'wildflowers'...for bucco info on it !)

    If you've got a bright SUNNY 2 acres to work with...you may want to consider crown vetch.

    You've probably seen 'vetch' blooming along the interstate highways...in places that PDOT crews planted it to stem any future erosion problems on hillsides, etc.

    Take a look at this site for some pics...ignore the "invasive species" stuff for crown vetch, because that really applies to folks in much warmer climates than ours in PA & Ohio, THANKFULLY !!
    I've never seen any vetch jobs really 'get away' from the original planting sites in Ohio...like they do down south and out west because of warmer climes.


    You have to understand that the crown vetch "seed" is only the "female" half of the equation; because vetch is a legume that needs to be inoculated before it can grow.
    So you have to purchase an adequate amount of the proper "inoculant" (MALE component) to mix into a SLURRY with the actual vetch seed...and let 'DRY' (on burlap or whatever, in the shade) before spreading it.

    Other people hydroseed with it too...and this works well when the timing's "right"...but they have to use MUCH higher levels of inoculant for it to eventually 'take' well !

    Also....you'll need a temporary "nurse grass" such as annual rye, at a very modest rate of maybe only 75-100 lb / acre, to "hold the ground" from sliding away (especially if it's hilly) while / until the vetch matures...which takes a little while.

    It's OK to seed crown vetch coated w/ inoculant in hot summer temps up until about the end of August in this zone 6, ideally.
    Vetch will not germinate well in cooler temps.

    Seeding with vetch, all-in-all, is pretty easy work. It just takes a little 'education time' before one gets started.
    And the best part is that...once it "takes hold"...it never needs to be mowed again.
    You may have to go in the 1st year or two clip a renegade tree that might pop up through the middle of it.
    But once it gains a 'foothold', it'll truly dominate.

    Shop around for the best pricing on seed ! (Obviously...don't buy individual vetch 'plants' for a job this big!)

    You may want to call these people...Ernst Seeds.
    They're real good people.

  3. MRyan

    MRyan LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    Thank you for all the info Marcos. I'm going to mention vetch to the customer. I think their head might explode when I give them the price for the pachysandra. And yes, it's on a partially shaded hill.
  4. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    What % of the daytime hours, would your customer say from their past knowledge, that this 2 acre hillside gets pretty much full sunshine ?

    What type of trees are the ones that are providing the partial shade; and would the leaves from these trees accumulating in the fall, on the vetch / wildflowers / (or whatever) pose yet another problem to solve... down the road.
    Or could they just be 'blown' out with a good backpack blower?

    Other partial shade loving groundcover ideas :

    Canadian wild ginger (aka Asarum canadense)

    There's a pic of the wild ginger foliage on this site, plus tons of other ideas for zone 6:


    An old 1st generation American-German couple who lived near us as I grew up had a beautiful hillside near their house filled with wild ginger.

    The wife occasionally divided the roots up with a spade, and replanted the new roots in different areas of the hillside as time went by...somewhat apart from each other; the same way you'd do to hostas and daylillies to multiply their numbers.

    And this hillside definitely was in a relatively decent amount of shade.

    The trick for you is to find an existing 'mother lode' of perennial groundcover like this somewhere... maybe an abandoned homestead somewhere nearby...so that you can take root stock out and begin this type of process.
    And if you've got any type of crude greenhouse you can put together...you could even grow a number of "flats" of this on your own by using 'cuttings' taken from such a site, along with a rooting hormone like Rootone, which anyone can buy at places like Walmart.

    If your customers are half as eccentric as you say they are...they'd very likely be "in to" the idea of "helping" their investment along over time, by maybe doing some of their own root dividing, right ?!? :)
  5. americanlawn

    americanlawn LawnSite Fanatic
    from midwest
    Posts: 5,852

    Only prob w/crown vetch is WEEDS! Thistles, etc........how do you spray the weeds without harming the crown vetch??

    Pachysandra = too many disease probs + sunscald.

    Vina minor is great -- it has a waxy leaf so you can spray amine herbicides if weeds are present without harming the ground cover.

    Tall fescue might be the best alternative. My 2 cents worth.
  6. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    If you go in at the generally recommended rate of 20-25 pounds / acre for crown vetch, and do the preparation work correctly with coating the inoculant onto the vetch seed, as well as use the right amount of needed cover crop (usually ryegrass) for the given conditions, there's no reason why any given patch of ground would ever come in 'thin' with crown vetch.

    The only vetch jobs I've ever seen come in 'thin' or otherwise poorly were those that were started too late in the fall, like late September, October, or even later here in Ohio !
    Crown vetch needs plenty of warm weather in the long-term forecast to give it plenty of time to "pop" and take hold !!
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Too many 'ifs' to be putting all your eggs in one basket. I would talk them into a gradual change over one patch at a time. If your selection thrives and spreads quickly enough to out perform the weeds go for it.

    Personally over the years I have seen people try such a project only to have the natural weeds make a mess. What they envision is probably very high maintenance. Chance are they will be disappointed with the reality, so be careful.

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