Thursday, July 22, 2010

FAQ: How far apart should ground cover junipers be planted?

Q.  We have a part of a lawn with about a 30 degree slope (approximately 420 sq ft) that we are considering putting juniper ground cover on. How far apart should the junipers be planted to ultimately cover completely? And can we put down a garden cloth to  keep weeds at a minimum?  We are looking for maintenance free as  much as possible.

A. Planting distance is relative. Depends upon the habit of the species, how soon you want them to completely cover, how much you wish to spend and/or your level of patience. Species with slower growth rates and compact habits such as J. procumbens 'Nana' may be planted 36" apart. J. horizontalis may be planted 48" apart or more. If you're in a big hurry, plant closer.

You asked about ground cover fabric.  I'm not a fan of it for various reasons.  During hard rain, the water can't perk through quickly enough, so the water tends to flow off in sheets carrying mulch, etc. with it.  Ground cover fabrics usually don't bio-degrade.  The edges of fabrics tend to become exposed, look sloppy, and often end up wrapped in your mower blades.  Ground cover fabrics (weed barriers) may prevent weeds from coming up through them, but often do not prevent weed seeds from germinating and sending their
roots downward.

Bark and wood mulches on slopes tend to wash away with heavy rains.  I recommend 3" or more of straw mulch rather than bark/wood mulch and ground cover fabric.  Water perks downward through it quickly.  (Burlap spread atop straw mulch may help to stabilize it.  I realize that burlap may not be aesthetically pleasing.) The straw will need to be replenished occasionally, but it's cheap.  When your junipers mature and cover the slope, you can dispense with the straw mulch and burlap.

Maintenance free is good!

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