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Mela
07-10-2008, 05:25 PM
Weekend, amateur, or professional. I need advice.
We have a big area of land - it's actually a small hill that stretches for about 50 feet and is about 10 feet deep - in front of the house. It's a real pain to mow because of the angle. My idea: Plant Boston Ivy there. I understand it grows fast and can cover a good amount of ground in one season.

My question: do we kill the grass/weeds first (a lot of crab grass and clover) by putting one of those black plastic landscape sheets over it? Or rely on the ivy to spread, thereby cutting off sunlight to the grass underneath it and killing it?

Or ... anyone have a better idea? I'd thought of mulch but that would be tough, too, because it seems we'd still have to kill the grass. At least with the ivy, it might overtake the grass.

Any tidbit of advice would be appreciated. The idea is to mow as little as possible.

Melenka
07-10-2008, 05:55 PM
I have done this! The best thing to do is rip up everything that is growing in that spot. If you have or can rent or borrow a rototiller, I strongly suggest that. I did it with a Garden Claw. Great for the upper body workout, but time consuming. Once you have turned everything over, I suggest adding in lots of peat moss. It holds moisture well but doesn't prevent drainage. It also makes it very easy to pull out the weeds that do come in. Mix that in well with the dirt and you are ready to plant! If you want to get obsessive about it, you can test the soil ph and get the right chemical makeup. I've never bothered.

One thing you should check is whether or not Boston Ivy is considered an invasive plant in your area. Many big universities have Extension programs that give you access to master gardeners who will offer great advice and tell you what should not be grown in the area in order to keep the native plants from being overwhelmed.

If that was too much, I apologize. You hit one of my hobby buttons. :)

MoonWriter
07-10-2008, 06:24 PM
What Melenka said, and: I'd avoid the landscape fabric at all costs. If you currently have weeds, remember the saying: A year of seeds, seven years of weeds. To deal with weed seeds currently in the soil, you could lay clear sheet plastic over the area to be planted. Lay pipes of 2x4's along the edges. This acts as a mini hot house, trapping the heat and raising the soil temperature, thereby killing the weed seeds. Leave in place for a few weeks. A simpler approach is to spray the existing weeds with a non-selective, systemic herbicide like Round-Up or anything with glyphosate acid. Once the existing weeds have been killed, till the area, incorporating 2-3" of composted organic matter. If you don't want to lower the ph with peat, use your own composted material or composted manure. Spread a pre-emergence herbicide (Eptam) as per directions and incorporate into the top 2-3 inches of the soil. Finally, keep a three inch layer of mulch over the planted area. I use chopped pine straw because, as it breaks down, it helps acidify the alkaline soils where I work. Mulch does so much more. It helps to stabilize soil temperature, conserve moisture, reduce weed problems, and provides a yummy snack for the micro-organisms that make a healthy topsoil.

Mela
07-10-2008, 06:31 PM
Wow, you guys are great!
There's a bit more involved than I thought but it will be worth it in the long run, I'm sure.
Thanks loads!
And yes, ivy is considered invasive but where it's being planted there's nothing else growing except for a row of very tall maple trees.

Angelinity
07-10-2008, 06:36 PM
have you considered herbs? they give back so much... for only a little extra care.

http://www.lavenderfieldsfarm.com/default.asp?Parent=87&Child=87

just a thought...

Rolling Thunder
07-10-2008, 06:40 PM
I'd also suggest not to use a bark mulch too close to a house. I've seen too many termite/carpenter ant colonies form this way. If you do prefer the look of wood mulch place a band of decorative crushed stone about 8-12" wide between the foundation and mulch. Termites have a difficult time building tubes from the ground to the sill plate. It also makes it easier to treat the ground for ants.

brianm
07-10-2008, 06:45 PM
I own a landscaping company, although I am rarely in the field anymore. My partner runs the company and I just review the books and cash my checks each month. :D

What zone you are in will determine the type of ground cover you can use. I'm guessing you're in a four season or cooler climate zone than I am here in the desert of southern California?

If you like the look of English Ivy (Boston Ivy is used more as a vine), it is a wonderful ground cover but it can become intrusive in certain zones. You can help control the ivy by the use of plastic edging, which you can purchase at Loweís or Home Depot. Buy the commercial grade quality.

Another idea would be Creeping Phlox that has the additional bonus of producing beautiful flowers in the spring and it does very well on slopes. You can get ideas for other ground covers by looking at what other homeowners are using on their properties in your area or by googling ground covers for your climate zone.

Your idea of covering with a plastic tarp is a good idea, as you do want to kill off as much of the grass as possible before planting your ground cover. Once the grass has 'died' back, I recommend you till the area either by hand using pitch forks and shovels or by renting a small rotary tiller from your local hardware supplier/equipment rental store. (They rent for approximately $50.00 per day in my area.) Removing as much of the root systems as possible before planting your ground cover will provide for a more pleasing look and less maintenance in the future.

MoonWriter
07-10-2008, 06:47 PM
Wow, you guys are great!
There's a bit more involved than I thought but it will be worth it in the long run, I'm sure.
Thanks loads!
And yes, ivy is considered invasive but where it's being planted there's nothing else growing except for a row of very tall maple trees.

If you're planting under mature trees, I wouldn't till - you will damage too many of the shallow roots used for water/oxygen/nutrient uptake. Instead, I'd amend the soil from each hole with composted organic matter. And, because you shouldn't till under mature trees, you won't be able to incorporate the pre-emergence herbicide. But there is another one available for over-the-top applications, called Preen. It's better than nothing. I'd hold off on fertilizing until the second year. Remember to water well when the soil is dry to a depth of 1". And be patient. Vines, like perennials take time to establish. The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap.

Mela
07-10-2008, 06:51 PM
If you're planting under mature trees, I wouldn't till - you will damage too many of the shallow roots used for water/oxygen/nutrient uptake. Instead, I'd amend the soil from each hole with composted organic matter. And, because you shouldn't till under mature trees, you won't be able to incorporate the pre-emergence herbicide. But there is another one available for over-the-top applications, called Preen. It's better than nothing. I'd hold off on fertilizing until the second year. Remember to water well when the soil is dry to a depth of 1". And be patient. Vines, like perennials take time to establish. The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap.
Moonwriter, what do you mean by 'amend the soil?'

Mela
07-10-2008, 06:54 PM
Thanks brianm. What kind of landscape tarp would you recommend, black or clear or does it matter?
I'm in New Jersey, buy the way.
I have planted creeping phlox - just 3 plants - in a little landscaped portion of the area. But this is such a wide area to cover and creeping phlox wouldn't grow as quickly as the ivy, would it?

MoonWriter
07-10-2008, 06:59 PM
Amend simply means to improve the existing soil by incorporating composted organic matter. As far as the tarp or landscape fabric, I'd recommend against it. It will prevent the vine from rooting as it spreads. A 3" layer of mulch will accompolish the same thing and provide additional benefits. In my post above, I suggested you use a clear plastic to kill weed seeds. After two weeks, the plastic should be taken up before planting.

Mela
07-10-2008, 07:09 PM
Oh, I was thinking I would put the plastic down first, kill as much as I could with that, till, and then plant the ivy.
But you're right about the mulch. And I've also seen dark plastic but I guess that's not as effective?
You've been very helpful.

brianm
07-10-2008, 07:39 PM
My understanding is that this is an existing lawn area? If so, you need to get rid of the root systems. Grass never grows better than in an area it is not wanted in. ;)

As far as a tarp, you can use anything that inhibits water, air, and sunlight from getting to the grass. Black Hefty garbage bags, plastic painter's sheeting, etc. You needn't spend a great deal of money. Just make sure it is secured around the edges and doesn't blow away in the wind. Leave it down until it is obvious the grass has 'died' back. It's summer now and it gets hot in your area, so it shouldn't take long.

That said, you might want to plant the ground cover in the spring to avoid plant loss from summer heat and winter cold. A good rule of thumb for determining when to plant is if itís not available at your local nursery, itís probably not the time to plant. Donít judge plants that are available at Home Depot and similar stores as many of their plants are hot house grown and not acclimatized to your area. Itís stunning what Home Depot currently has available here in the desert that hasnít a chance of growing as are temperatures are hovering around 110-115F.

Removing the root systems by hand or with a small rotary tiller won't damage your mature trees. Just be careful as you get closer to their trunks that you aren't ripping out the treesí root systems.

Creeping Phlox will take a great deal longer to fill in than ivy and it will cost more initially as you will need more plants. It sounds like you know what you want. Now you just need to get rid of the grass. Bit of labor involved but it beats pushing a lawn mower up a hill.:D

Mela
07-10-2008, 08:07 PM
You said it, brianm - no more lawnmowing!

Yes, this is an established lawn - grass mixed with weeds at this point - a ton of clover and crab grass in one of the sections I want to fill in.

I'm constantly amazed at what Home Depot is selling. I've never seen plants that aren't indigenous to the Northeast at Home Depot but I have seen plants for sale, fully flowered, way before their time to bloom, forced into a bloom to get people to buy!
I bought a hydrangea years ago that was forced into an Easter bloom. I planted it and it never bloomed again. Someone told me that because it was forced into blooming too early it probably wouldn't bloom again.
I don't know if there's any truth to that but, well, that little plant never did bloom!

CatSlave
07-11-2008, 07:22 PM
Thanks brianm. What kind of landscape tarp would you recommend, black or clear or does it matter?
I'm in New Jersey, buy the way.
I have planted creeping phlox - just 3 plants - in a little landscaped portion of the area. But this is such a wide area to cover and creeping phlox wouldn't grow as quickly as the ivy, would it?
Posting from Maryland: Creeping phlox makes a stunning display in the spring, especially if you vary the colors. You want to make a solid block of one color, bordered by another solid block. Don't plant single plants of varying colors next to one another. With some attention and patience, your efforts will be rewarded. Prepare the ground beforehand as recommended by brianm. Your right efforts will result in a beautiful landscape.

ETA: Also, in this area ivy is discouraged in the city. My sister found out the hard way that rats thrive and multiply in an ivy-covered garden. If you have an outdoor cat or dog, you may be able to avoid the problem, but I shudder to think what the ivy may be concealing,