Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Perennial Ground-Cover for Garden Aisles

School started a couple of days ago. That means many things for me. It means I can get back to blogging with regularity. It means Pandora doesn’t have to be perpetually set at the Alvin & The Chipmunks channel. It means I can walk through the glass section of Hobby Lobby without worrying that a precious but energy-filled person half my size will topple an entire display with one curious, clumsy touch. And it also means that I have time to do some maintenance projects in the garden which are long overdue.

Any guesses as to what facet of my garden needs the most attention? If you guessed aisle space, then you’d be right! This year my aisles are especially overgrown with weeds (crabgrass, blackberry vines, clover, tall things that look like saplings, etc.). One reason is that last year’s mulch has deteriorated – decomposed, blown away, washed away, carried away – who knows exactly where it went. Despite having black landscaping fabric down in 50% of the aisle space, weeds are still growing through overlapped sections, on top of and sometimes through the fabric. And honestly, I’m just not interested in using wood mulch. The cost to purchase enough to cover my large garden effectively (several inches deep) and then to continue to replenish it every year or two is more than I want to spend.

On the other side of the garden, I have hardly anything in place to control weeds (and you can tell!). This 50% is comprised of the hugelkultur beds we put in last December. Some (maybe half) of these aisles are defended by a layer of cardboard which works reasonably well despite looking very tacky. The others look like… well… this…

weed control garden aisle weed control garden aisle weed control garden aisle weed control garden aisle

I spent a couple of hours today clearing away weeds from one of the beds most aggressively surrounded by tall weeds. The process got me thinking again about something I had considered last year: Intentionally covering my aisles with perennial ground cover. Something that stays green all season long, keeps other weeds at bay, will be pleasant to walk and kneel on, won’t be completely crushed by foot traffic, and won’t grow tall enough to overcrowd (or send seeds into) my raised beds. I’m also looking for something I don’t need to mow, which takes grass out of the equation. I’m not sure if its possible to find a ground cover aggressive enough to be the blanket I need without being so aggressive that it weasels in under the raised sides and takes over my beds from the ground up. (I have determined that I absolutely want to add sides to my hugelkultur beds to help keep the weeds away.)

So…

Who has ideas?

DSC04039I’m currently thinking about violets. We have gobs of them in the wooded section of the property so I think I could transplant and propagate them for free. They don’t get very tall at all, they certainly spread, and in the spring I can actually harvest food from aisle space. The violets currently found on our property are very small and low – likely because they grow in shade and only receive water when it rains. I do worry a smidge about how tall they will get in full sun and with consistent watering. (I irrigate with an oscillating sprinkler.)

What do you think? Would violets work or am I crazy? Any other plant you think I should look into?

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