If you have had success with a shady area ground cover that is:
- Non-invasive (e.g., not english ivy or virginia creeper)
- Allows for easy leaf clean up in the fall/spring
- Grows thick enough in the shade to not require mulching
- Can be trimmed easily if needed
I'd love to hear your suggestions. If you're bored and want more details, read on.
I have a partially wooded lot - many large oak trees. Because of the way the house was situated, there are more trees in the front yard than in the back. The yard slopes down from the back towards the front. About 15 years ago, we constructed a large retaining along the front of the house which basically destroyed most of the front lawn. In general, the front lawn had been doing well in spite of the shade and I decided to reseed. I rented a rockhound for the bobcat and when I was done, the dirt was fine, smooth and free of rocks to about 2" down. Since it was July, I seeded with annual rye and watered it. Two weeks later it was like a carpet. In the fall I overseeded with a quality seed and everything was going well for a few years. It would go dormant during late July and August but would always come back in Sept/Oct and the next spring. Regular feeding with quality fertilizer was applied fall and spring.
Over the past five or so years I've had trouble with the grass. It started during particularly dry summer. And, we now have less trees. The oaks suffer from brown oak leaf wilt; about ⅓ have been removed. The grass now seems to go dormant in the summer and in the fall it is mostly gone in the shady areas. The roots are shallow. I've aerated, raked in compost and overseeded every year. It doesn't matter if we water or not The sections that get about 50%+ sun are doing okay but the rest is basically dead and the weeds are thriving.
For example, last fall, I once again cleaned up the yard, aerated and raked in yards of compost in the bare shady areas. I had a soil test done by a lab and took the results to my local "Master gardner." They recommended an expensive seed for the shady area, some expensive amendments for the soil and expensive starter fertilizer. I seeded and fertilized. I watered daily. The grass came up and promptly died as soon as the leaves came off the trees. I contacted the seed vendor and they said "you can grow grass in the shade even though we advertise our product for dense shade." Okay, the said the first half of that sentence; the latter part is from their website. Of course the garden supply won't refund the money because the product was used.
But wait, there's more. The snow has melted and the leaves are not out, the grass isn't growing and the weeds are exploding. Those weeds are really benefiting from the improved soil and fertilizer.
My wife and I have decided to end our frustration and start filling in the yard - especially the shady areas - with ground cover. And I'm going to start replacing the trees that have been removed with white oak so there well trees long after we're gone. So, if there are plants that meet the about criteria that you've had success with, I'd love to hear about them. I've been doing some searching so we have a few ideas and want a wide variety.