The Q&A Archives: Planting Ground Cover in July

Question: I've got several 75' pines in the front yard which severely limit grass growing. When's the best time to plant ground cover such as pachysandra, hosta, and fern. What could I do now, in mid-July?

Answer: Mid July is generally not the best time to try to start new plants, but it can be done using container grown plants. In my experience it is better to wait until the end of August when temperatures are cooling down a bit and drought is less likely. In the meantime you can work on preparing the soil. Pine roots can be very serious competition for newly planted plants, so the better the soil the better their chances. You might try working in generous amounts of organic matter such as compost, rotted leaves, aged manure and bedding, or similar materials. Follow this preparation work with a few inches of organic mulch to keep down weeds. Then simply pull this aside when you plant.

You might also run some soil tests to see if you need to add any other amendments. Your County Extension should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results. From your list, I would caution that the location may be a bit dry for most ferns. Also, be careful to water the plants so that the soil stays moist up until it freezes, and continue to watch the water next year until they are well established.

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