Cover your Bases this Growing Season: A Guide to Ground Cover
What do you think of when you hear ground cover? It is really a “blanket” term, covering everything from decorative plants, to frost protection to erosion control products. We like to think of it as any material that can be used to protect crops against predators such as frost, weeds and insects. Ground cover can also be used to control temperature, moisture and sunlight levels and even for landscaping applications. Ground cover of all types can help your plants grow and thrive, making them healthier and more marketable.
The more protected your plants are from frost, the later into the fall you can continue to grow. Extending your growing season means more harvests and more produce that you can take to market or enjoy with your family and friends. Frost protection can be accomplished with ground cover by using frost blankets or row cover.
Frost blankets are like a large fabric sheet that you simply place directly over your shrubs and plants. This creates a layer under the blanket to trap heat from the ground, while keeping frost out. In order to keep freezing temperatures away from your crops, all sides of the frost blanket should be sealed.
Row covers are meant to increase the temperature of the area below them, which will keep the plants underneath from freezing. There are a couple different ways you can place your row covers over your crops. They can be placed directly on top of crops or draped over hoops, creating mini hoop houses.
WEED AND INSECT PROTECTION
Weeds and insects are well-known crop predators that won’t give up without a fight. As a grower, it is important to do whatever you can to keep these pests away from your crops so an outbreak won’t occur. Insects carry diseases that can infect plants, often killing your crops before you get a chance to eat them or bring them to market. Weeds can steal essential nutrients from your plants, not giving them a chance to grow to maturity. There are many types of ground cover available that will work to keep one or both of these issues out of your garden or greenhouse.
Plastic ground cover materials suppress weed growth, while still letting air, water and nutrients pass through to the plants. It should be placed directly over your soil once, and will protect plants until they are fully grown, saving on time and labor.
Weed control fabric serves the same purpose as ground cover. It is meant to keep weeds out, while still letting growing essentials in. The difference between the two is that weed control fabric is the better choice for under organic materials such as bark and rock. It will separate these materials from the soil beneath and allow drainage, while still providing weed control.
CONTROLLING GROWING CONDITIONS
Ground cover can be a grower’s best friend when it comes to controlling temperatures and moisture levels, as well as how much light reaches your crops. Fabric, ground cover and row cover can help to accomplish some or all of these tasks.
To control your growing conditions, you can use row cover or plastic mulch. Plastic mulch can improve your crop yield and soil moisture retention. Plastic mulch will reduce water loss due to evaporation and help make sure moisture is distributed evenly, which decreases the stress on your plants.
LANDSCAPING GROUND COVER
As many of us know, landscaping can be time consuming and expensive, so finding ways to minimize labor can make your life much easier. Fabrics and other ground cover materials are a great way to keep your yard looking neat all season long. Landscaping materials should always be able to let moisture through to the soil, while preventing weeds and enhancing plant growth. They can also help with soil separation, filtration and reinforcement.
Fabric ground cover is not only a great weed barrier, but it is the perfect landscaping material for short or long-term landscapes but can also be used under paver stones to prevent weed infiltration. It works under a variety of landscaping materials and lets water flow through easily. You can use this ground cover season after season if you care for it properly.
Standard ground cover can be placed under mulch or other landscaping materials and will suppress weed growth, while allowing a proper balance of air, water and nutrient exchange. This material is easy to measure and cut to fit the exact space you need to fill.
Ground cover, with its many uses, is a truly great investment for anyone who is looking to grow healthy, plentiful crops, or even just to keep landscaping looking fresh all season long. If you are unsure which form of ground cover will work for your needs, feel free to contact us for some advice.
Do you use ground cover each year? What do you like most about it?