Sunday, 5 June 2016

First Strawberry and ground cover

First Strawberry and ground cover

It'll be interesting to see just how many days the poly-tunnel brings on Strawberries before the outside ones. 
The 28th May saw the first one. I'd had my eye on it for a few days, but I hadn't reckoned on one of the kids being quite so eagle eyed as well! There are now a few more ready.

For the last couple of years I have been using strawberry plants as ground cover, and although they worked well for a year or so, ultimately they have been beaten by grass.

I'd love to find something that can act as a ground cover, suppress specifically grass, and also be a crop. Up until now I've always thought that cover needed to block light but not take too many nutrients or water from the soil so that the main plants could still grow well but I managed to catch the last minute or 2 of Gardeners Question Time the other day and heard that it has been discovered that some plants don't block others in this way but instead they release chemicals into the soil that actively stop other plants from growing and even stop their seeds from germinating. The other way plants reduce competition is by being parasitic or semi-parasitic as in the case of Yellow Rattle. Yellow Rattle feeds on the roots of grasses, but my search is still on to find a plant that provides food and that will have shallow roots so as not to impede fruit bushes for example but at the same time suppress weeds and grass by blocking light. 

There are many examples of other plants doing this, and a few of them are evident just by walking around the garden. Hedge Wound Wort seems to block out competition well,it grows like a Nettle and there are very few other things around it. Even my Fritilary flowers, which are bulbs, grow in the grass but immediately around them the grass is pretty much bare. Garlic Mustard seems to be on it's own as well and although on the edge next to a hedge in semi shade grass is either side of it but not growing through it although I think this is a combination of lack of water, with lack of light making the grass very week, stick a shade loving plant next to it and the grass has no chance. The problem with the examples I can find are that they don't provide food or are too big and spread like a weed and so would just swap one problem for another.

The next thing I'll try is a combination of Lamb's Lettuce and Strawberries, both can be harvested and both spread well. Both will fit under Gooseberry and Currant bushes as well.

1 comment:

  1. I find that not much can beat grass completely apart from weeding it out regularly, if a permitted grass patch is nearby. It grows through any and all groundcovers and dense shading from medium-height shrubs (e.g. through the raspberry patch). If you want a tall perennial that will outcompete almost anything if left alone for a while I could recommend Jerusalem Artichokes - these even managed to thin out the ground-elder in one corner of my garden.

    Shallow rooted ground-covers might also be bad under currants, since the ribes family are generally shallow rooted plants as well. Having said that, I grow wild marjoram and strawberries under currants and so far all the plants seem happy.

    Low growing, dense, heavily cropping ground-covers are tricky. Apart from strawberries, there's not that much that is perennial, nice and high yielding - creeping raspberries are not that productive, and many perennial low growing plants, while technically edible, are not going to make the top 10. For example, bellflower leaves and flowers are edible and some of them are very dense growing, but the leaves are quite tough in most species. Siberian purslane will self seed to force a dense cover if it's happy, and tastes earthy like beetroot. Various mid-height herbs work well, but you can't eat most of them in bulk. Yarrow is edible and commonly grows through grass...