Ground covers serve a useful purpose in the home landscape. These versatile plants help dress up ugly areas of the landscape and limit the incidence of soil erosion on slopes. Gardeners use ground covers to protect areas under larger trees or as low-growing foliage to provide dense growth in a difficult area of the landscape. Ground covers require the same care as other plants during initial planting. Despite their generally tough nature, proper preparation and care will produce healthy plants that perform well far into the future.
Select the area that will benefit the most from the ground cover. Analyze the sunlight and soil conditions. Always pair full sun, partial sun, partial shade or full shade plants with the correct light conditions to provide the best growing environment for the plant.
Weed the area using a hoe or trowel to eliminate competition in the garden bed. Ground covers will concede space and soil nutrients to weeds. Provide the best planting environment by eliminating these competitors from the planned ground cover garden.
Turn over the soil using a shovel. This process involves digging at least 6 inches deep into the soil, lifting a shovel full of dirt and flipping it over to break up the clumps. Cultivation in this manner loosens the soil and eliminates soil compaction, which interfere with the easy spread of plant roots and the absorption of water into the soil.
Smooth the garden surface using a rake. Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of peat moss onto the top of the soil surface and mix in thoroughly. Cultivate the garden to evenly distribute the organic material. Compost, peat moss or humus all provide nutrients for future plants and increase the water-holding capability of the soil.
Dig individual holes for each ground cover plant based on recommendations provided on the growing label. Never plant shallow-rooted ground covers deeply into the soil. The planting depth in the garden should never exceed the depth the plant experienced in the plastic transplant container from the nursery.
Fill in around each ground cover plant. Water each plant individually at the soil level. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch to the garden surface to discourage weeds.
Monitor the condition of the ground cover over the course of the first growing season. Water regularly if soil feels dry to the touch. Pay particular attention to failing or successful plants. Plants that grow readily can be used in future years to fill in the blank spots and provide a dense mat to limit weed growth.
Fertilize the ground cover in the spring. Remember to water the garden thoroughly after fertilizer application to evenly distribute nutrients through the garden.