How to Use Ground Cover

Overview

The Macmillan Dictionary defines ground cover as plants "used for covering a large area of ground because they spread easily and do not need a lot of care." Many different types of plants are ground covers---some are evergreen while others are annuals. Before you select a ground cover, evaluate your yard's setting and environmental factors, such as the amount of sun the area receives and whether it is located on flat ground or a hillside. Then decide whether you prefer a flowering ground cover or an herb, such as creeping mint, that releases a fragrance when you walk on it.

Step 1

Plant a ground cover in place of lawn if you don't enjoy mowing, weeding and fertilizing. Many ground covers serve a similar purpose to grass, but are far easier to maintain, according to EarthEasy.com. Ground covers are good alternatives to a lawn in places where grass has a problem growing or in areas that are too small for grass to be practical.

Step 2

Introduce a shade-loving, evergreen ground cover such as vinca, campanula, liriope or English ivy under large trees to provide softness and greenery and also to help prevent weeds from taking over the area.

Step 3

Plant a low maintenance ground cover, such as clover, in areas of your yard that have problems with drainage, too much shade, excessive sun or compacted clay soil. Eartheasy.com recommends clover because it is fast growing, inexpensive and helps to introduce nitrogen to the soil. They go on to suggest the varieties Red Clover, Dutch White and Yellow Blossom Clover.

Step 4

Use ground cover plants to provide a transitional area between your lawn and larger plants that live beyond it. A medium-height ground cover, such as yarrow, which is a tough perennial, evergreen and has attractive flowers in summer, is a nice option. This plant is also resistant to fire, so it might be good to plant near your house.

Step 5

Select low-growing herbs such as Corsican mint, creeping thyme or Roman chamomile for areas where people walk and play. These herbs are evergreen and release their scent when walked upon, adding to enjoyment of the outdoors.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not allow people or animals to walk on newly planted areas of ground covers to ensure that these plants take root thoroughly.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil and paper
  • Measuring tape
  • Compost (any type)
  • Shovel
  • Trowel

References

  • University of Illinois Extension: Groundcovers to Know and Use
  • Grounds Maintenance magazine: Ground Covers for Shade
  • EarthEasy.com: Lawn Alterrnatives
  • PlantSafari.com: Ground covers

Who Can Help

  • Macmillan Dictionary: Definition of Ground Cover
  • The Thyme Garden: Creeping Thyme and Corsican mint
Keywords: ground cover, lawn alternatives, vinca clover

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.