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Anna, Teacher, writer, biologist
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Hi This is a gardening/landscaping question: Last summer

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Hi This is a gardening/landscaping question:

Last summer I installed a new septic bed at my cottage in Timmins Northern Ontario. It is an elevated bed approximately 30 by 40 ft, and is topped with Black Muck Top Soil. South facing, sun most of the day. Northern Climate growing district 1 B or 2A depending on the map you read. I am looking for a low maintenance ground cover that will not require regular mowing. I am considering bugle week, Argula? thyme and grout weed or white clover. Can you make a recommendation?

Some additional information will help me to answer your question.

How moist is the soil most of the time?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Well, I am not sure because it is a new install. Usually the soil over a septic bed is moist, and the black muck should retain water. But the sub soil is 30 inches of filtersand and that is supposed to allow fast percolation. The natural soil is sand. No clay. There is little shade.

We generally have ample rainfall, but if we have a dry spell it is possible for me to water it until it gets established. So your guess is as good as mine.

Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX forward to your reply.

Thank you for getting back to me, Sharon. I’m working on your answer and will post it as soon as I have it typed up. Please don’t respond to this post as that can lock me out of the question. I’ll be back shortly.

Thank you for waiting. All of the plants you mentioned would be suitable choices. The grout weed (Aegopodium podagraria) does get taller than the others you mentioned, so if you want something shorter, I'd avoid it. Mine reaches about 18 inches in height, and spreads aggressively. The others you mentioned are all low-growing and wouldn't require mowing at all. They will thrive in full sun, and like soil that is not soggy. Since your soil will be well-drained (because it is elevated and with a sand under layer), any of them will thrive.

There are some others you may want to consider. Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) has beautiful flowers in the spring. However, winter winds can damage it, so if your area is windy, you may want to avoid it. Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentarum) thrives in full sun and likes soil that is moist but well-drained. Woolly yarrow (Achillea tomentosa) and rock cress (Arabis species) would be other good choices. If you'd like to see photos of any of those, let me know and I'll post some.

There are a number of good choices, so it will come down to what you like the looks of. If you have more questions, or would like plant photos, let me know by clicking on REPLY.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you very muck for the complete answer! I would appreciate the photos, thank you very much. I would like to choose the hardiest one, and the one that will establish most easily in this northern region. Snow may be on the area until the end of May. With a renovation going on I will have no time to tend anything. But I want to get something down before the weeds take over. Yes again, I would love the photos, and your recommendation on the hardiest and the most invasive, as i want it to propagate everywhere. I like grout weed very much. Can you get seeds for it?
I'll get the photos and upload them, and will also see if I can find a source for the grout weed seeds. I'll be back shortly.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Anna: I must run away for a few hours. Please take your time. I will check my email again tonight at about 11 pm. Thank you. Sharon.
For what you are looking for, the grout weed would be an excellent choice. It is known by other names, including bishop's weed and goatweed. In the United States, it is illegal to plant it in some states. because it is so invasive. Mine patch of it started out with approximately 15 plants dug from a friend's garden. Within two years, it had completely filled in a 30 foot wide circle. I couldn't find a commercial source for seeds. There is a garden forum where people offer plants and seeds for trade, etc., and it does have a section for this plant. Some of the listings are old, but you may want to email the people involved anyway to see if they still have some. Here's a link:

Now for the photos:



Woolly yarrow:


Creeping phlox (comes in different colors):


Rock cress (also available in different colors):


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