Past Articles Library | Got Deer? If So Consider Planting one of These Ground Covers
All gardeners have had this problem. They spend the day in the beautiful sunshine planting ground covers that will add texture to their landscape design, help conserve soil moisture, and be a decorative element that also helps control weeds. You get up the next day expecting to see your efforts in the morning sun but……..you see bare soil where your plants had been. No, it was not the garden fairies that had decided to move your plants to a locale that was more to their liking. Instead, it was deer with an appetite. As steam rolls out of your ears so hot that you could cook your breakfast with the heat, you begin to think about the time and money you wasted during your adventure in your garden space but what is one to do? Eliminate the deer permanently? Give up on planting any groundcover in your garden? Well, the answer is no to both. The best approach is to plant ground covers that the deer find distasteful, which means they will move on to more delectable foliage. But what are they? Take a look at the plants below to learn what they are and how to grow them.
Japanese Sedge (Carex morrowii)
To clarify, sedge is clump-forming grass like plant. The Japanese sedge is one that likes shade and moist soil in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones five through nine. This particular sedge spreads by rhizomes but is not invasive. In warmer areas of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones noted previously, it can remain green year round.
Once you have found the best location in your garden space, the next step is to simply dig a hole that is twice the width of the container but no deeper. After the hole has been dug, turn the container upside down, squeeze the sides of the container, and tap the bottom. If the plant does not come out repeat the process or just cut the container away.
At this point, you will need to run your fingers through the roots to loosen them up. This will allow the roots to grow outward in the hole. Place the sedge in the hole and fill in with soil. Water the plant in until the soil is evenly moist. If the soil level dips, add more soil.
Now, simply let your Japanese sedge grow. After two to three years, you will need to dig up the plant and divide. Another indication that the plant needs to be divided is if you notice the center of the clumps turning brown and dying off.
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
The Lily of the Valley is legendary for its aroma and bell-shaped flowers. The spear-shaped emerald green leaves appear in the spring then is quickly followed by stems that hold a row of little, white bell-shaped flowers. As the flowers dieback, red berries appear. In a nutshell, this groundcover provides foliage texture, flowers, and red berries from spring until a killing frost.
This ground cover thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones two through nine. When shopping for this ground cover, you will find it as rhizomes or pips that will need to be planted in the fall. To get the most from this groundcover make sure to plant them in a clump that is spaced so that there is two feet between clumps and at a depth of 1 ½ inches. Beyond this spacing, make sure that you plant them in a moist soil that is located in full shade.
To aid in keeping the soil moist, top the planted area with one inch of organic mulch and repeat every season there after the initial planting. Beyond this, the Lily of the Valley can take care of itself.
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
Where does the name Lady’s Mantle come from? Well, it describes the rippling edge of the leaves, which to some looks like the curvy seam of a woman’s cloak. Beyond the fancy edge, the leaves also have little hairs that provide a bit of texture to the green mass when the flowers are done.
In the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones three through nine, the Lady’s mantle breaks ground in the late spring and produces a flourishing display of yellow blooms, which lasts several weeks. Once the blooms have been spent, this plant tends to fall into the background of green.
When planning on using this plant, you can propagate it through division or seeds. The environmental requirements of this plant include a well-draining soil that is located in full sun to light shade. To maximize the use of this perennial plant, either use it as a border plant or a tall ground cover since this plant can reach heights between 18 to 24 inches.
Once you have the proper location selected, plant the Lady’s mantle in clumps to really showcase the small, yellow blooms. Now the question as far as propagation needs to be answered. Yes, this groundcover is easily found for direct planting but you can also plant seed. This can be done directly after your last frost or indoors, which will need to happen several months before you plan on planting in your garden. But when it comes to the seed in either situation, just sprinkle the seeds on the soil surface. Next, while you keep the soil evenly moist you will need to wait three to four weeks before you see signs of germination. While it is fun to see if you can grow this flowering plant from seed, it is easier to purchase a plant or find a friend for a division and/or a seedling that has popped up since this perennial reseeds easily.
What Not To Plant
Yes, one approach to keep deer from eating your plants is to add those that the deer do not like but another technique is not to plant those that they do like. In other words, if they continue to visit your garden and there is nothing that tastes good then they will eventually stop showing up. If you want to explore this method do not plant English ivy (Hedera helix), Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) or Lilyturf (Liriope).
If you feel that your garden just cannot be complete without one of these groundcovers that deer like then incorporate strong smelling herbs like mint to the mix. While the minty-freshness of this herb may put a smile on your face, it will send the deer running.