Monday, October 11, 2010

FAQ: Can you suggest a juniper ground cover that will not be overcome by grasses and weeds? When should we plant?

Q.  We have a large (approximately 100 ft x 40 ft) sunny hillside  of red clay in north Georgia and would like to plant an economical, fast-spreading juniper as a ground cover that will not be overcome by wild grasses and weeds.  What would you suggest?  Should we plant now or next spring?

A.  In all honesty, there is not a ground cover juniper that can not be overcome by wild grasses and weeds.  Ground covers suppress weeds but don't eliminate them entirely. The best you can do is to kill weeds and grasses when planting, plant your ground covers in clean soil, apply 3" or 4" of mulch (measure the depth after the mulch has settled) or a pre-emergent herbicide, and maintain a weed-free environment until the junipers have matured.  If you apply a pre-emergent herbicide, it will have to be re-applied every few weeks to maintain an effective barrier.  Make sure the chemical is labeled for use with junipers.  Follow all label directions.  You must also prevent weeds from encroaching from outside the planting bed. Since you are planting on a hillside, you should use a straw mulch.  Bark or wood chips will wash down the slope.

Fall is an excellent time for planting.  Though you won't see much top-growth over winter, the roots will be establishing themselves.  This will give you a jump on spring.

Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific' and J. horizontalis 'Wiltonii' (also known as 'Blue Rug') are fast-growing, economical ground cover junipers.

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