As a sustainable farm, we focus on growing healthy food without the use of pesticides.
We aim to use natural methods, rather than chemicals, to keep unwanted pests from gobbling up our garden.
This also means that we avoid using chemical killers to keep weeds in check.
One of the ways we control weeds is through the use of ground cover plants. Examples of ground cover plants include crimson clover, periwinkle, and hairy vetch.
But before the thought of easier weed control (and less manual weed-pulling) sends you searching the shelves of your nearest nursery for ground cover plants, there are both pros and cons to using ground cover plants as a weed deterrent.
Keep reading to learn these pros and cons + 3 great ground cover options to consider.
Pros of Using Ground Cover as a Weed Deterrent
Ground cover plants compete with weed seedlings for light, nutrients, and moisture — all to your landscape’s benefit. Weeds that do survive remain small and easy to remove.
Additionally, ground cover beautifies your landscape, with many ground cover varieties offering pretty blooms through the year.
Your ground cover plants can also be multi-functional, serving as a temporary cover crop. For example, we plant crimson clover over winter. While the crimson clover is growing, it keeps weeds from taking over the soil. Once spring arrives, we till the crimson clover, which puts nutrient-rich organic matter — called “green manure” — back into the soil.
Cons of Using Ground Cover as a Weed Deterrent
Some ground cover plants grow very quickly — and can hog garden space intended for other plants and produce you’d like to grow. When choosing your ground cover option, educate yourself on its growth rate so you’re not surprised when your ground cover suddenly sprawls out into your entire garden!
While these types of ground cover plants will help keep weeds in check, this is only after they have established themselves. Until your cover crop is fully (established), you’ll need to keep an eye on weeds.
Weeds may not do well with ground cover, but some pests, like snugs, snakes, and snails can find them particularly homey.
3 Ground Cover Plant Options
While ground cover plants offer great weed prevention, it does involve some pre-planning. Choosing your ground cover option will depend on which weed species you’re trying to control. This article offers helpful guidance on choosing your cover crops.
As I mentioned, we use crimson clover as a cover crop, which also plays double-duty in suppressing weeds over the winter. It grows quickly and forms a dense layer, offering a great choice of ground cover throughout the southeast.
If using crimson clover as a cover crop, till back into the soil early after it buds. If you use crimson clover strictly as ground cover, you’ll enjoy its beautiful red blossoms. Bonus: these flowers attract several beneficial insects, including bees and pirate bugs.
Periwinkle is a great option for ground cover in shady areas, as these pretty flowering plants grow best when protected from direct sunlight.
Additionally, periwinkle plants are drought-tolerant once established. Because of its drought tolerance, you can plant periwinkle beneath trees without worrying that they will compete with tree roots for moisture.
Hairy Vetch is a popular choice in temperate and subtropical regions. And though its name might suggest something a bit more hairy, this cover crop blossoms into lovely purple and white blooms in the summer!
LOCAL TO MIDDLE TENNESSEE?
Join us for our “How to Grow Blackberries in Your Own Backyard” Class
We’ve been successfully growing thornless blackberries for 12 years right year at Stoney Creek Farm — and we want to show you how you can do it, too!
Join us at the farm in Franklin, TN on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at 10am to learn how to grow blackberries in your own backyard.
In this class, Olin Funderburk shows you just how easy it is to plant, cultivate, and prune your own blackberry vines. You will leave class with two blackberry vines of your own from our proven stock.
Taylor Reeder, our local Agricultural Extension agent and a berry-growing expert, will also be attending the class and will be available to share her expertise with class attendees.